RASHOMON: the opera

Music: Alejandro Viñao
Libretto: Craig Raine

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The characters:
THE MEDIUM: countertenor
THE BANDIT: baritone

scene 1:

Dark Wind


"dark wind
dark mind

Wild wind
mad mind

Lost love
wild words;
cry out

scene 2:

Before the Blood
(the title of the scene is projected on stage for a few seconds)

"A woman is the silken scabbard,
the samurai a curving blade,
My lord, I am yours forever,
the sword, the sheath, the perfect fit.

Love parts my lips, and lifts my hands up
to trace the features of your face.
to finger where I live forever,
too new, too shy, to meet your gaze.

"Beloved love, I live for you alone.
Beloved love, you hold my heart.
MASAGO: I consecrate my life to you, lord,
TAKEJIRO: faithful,
MASAGO: tender,
TAKEJIRO: trusting,

MASAGO: Love parts my lips, and lifts my hands up
TAKEJIRO: Love struck fingers tremble
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: to trace the features of your face.
MASAGO: Love parts my lips to shape a whisper
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: the dance of sound that makes your name.

TAKEJIRO: Beloved love my love belongs
MASAGO: to you my love, to you alone
TAKEJIRO: to you my love, you alone,
TAKEJIRO: beloved love
MASAGO: you hold my heart
TAKEJIRO: hold me sweetest and kiss me
MASAGO: beloved love
TAKEJIRO: beloved love
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: the curving blade the sheath
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: the perfect fit forever now
TAKEJIRO: faithful,
MASAGO: tender,
TAKEJIRO: loving,

MASAGO: Beloved love I live for you
TAKEJIRO: I live for you alone
MASAGO: Beloved love you hold my heart
TAKEJIRO: heart of my heart
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: forever, my blood is beating now,
MASAGO: my hand and yours
TAKEJIRO: my lips and yours will
TAKEJIRO: hear my blood
MASAGO: heart of my heart
TAKEJIRO: beat for ever
MASAGO: beats for ever
TAKEJIRO: it’s my heart that’s
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: beating for ever.

TAKEJIRO: My fingertips mark out the magic
MASAGO: My eyes avoid your burning stare.
MASAGO & TAKEJIRO: Beloved love I'm yours forever, now
Beloved love here is my heart. "

scene 3:

Testimony of a Woodcutter
(the title of the scene is projected on stage for a few seconds).

The woodcutter is standing in the centre of the stage, his back to the audience. The axe comes down 2 times. As he raises the axe a 3rd time a sweeping sound (In sync with his movement) travels from the back of the hall to centre stage as if cutting the audience in two, and as the axe hits the wood the recorded wood cutting music starts.

The woodcutter turns and faces the audience, his axe hanging from one of his hands. He addresses the audience as if they were the police commissioner. The rest of the stage is in darkness.


Your honour, I was chopping wood.
My right hand slid from head to haft.
Sweet cedar chips were spurting in the gloom like sparks.
The Yamashina road was five hundred yards away.

The head of the axe worked loose.
I stopped and stooped to wedge it tight.
And then I heard the clink of bit.
I heard the horses breath.

But bamboo canes came thick between.

I could not see. I saw the aftermath.
A grove of trampled grass
and a body in a blue kimono.
Dead from a single sword wound in the chest.

A bluebottle was walking in the thin-lipped wound.
Shantung. Hirsute. Beryl. Lapis lazuli.

There was a coil of cord.

Can I leave the court, your excellency
I am a poor peasant, lord.
Firs are waiting to be felled.

scene 4:

The Bandit's version, as a sword fight is in progress
(the title of the scene is projected on stage for a few seconds).

CHOIR: bullion, beryl, lapis lazuli,.bullion, beryl,"

BANDIT: (arrogant)
I've been a bandit all my life.
I have my thirsts to quench."
BANDIT & HUSBAND: We had a chance encounter on the Yamashina road.
HUSBAND: My wife was seated sideways on the horse.
BANDIT: Her veil was lifted briefly by the breeze.
I saw her face and fell in love.
HUSBAND: Do not believe this bandit, love.

CHOIR: bullion, beryl, lapis lazuli"
BANDIT & HUSBAND: She had a mole beside her mouth
BANDIT: a drop of Indian ink still wet.
HUSBAND: brown, the shiny sepia of apple seed.
BANDIT: I could have killed the husband there and then

BANDIT: "But somehow this day I decided otherwise
HUSBAND: Perhaps because the Yamashina road can be a busy road.
BANDIT: I told the husband there was treasure in the grove.
HUSBAND: and I believed his tale of treasure trove.
BANDIT: A buried hoard of bullion,
CHOIR: , lapis lazuli"
BANDIT: bullion
BANDIT & HUSBAND: She waited with the horse while we forced through the cane.
HUSBAND: He overpowered me and tied me up.
BANDIT:The gag was tight and made him look a toothless crone
I told her that he was taken sick
HUSBAND: Do not believe......
BANDIT: and led her gently by the hand ....
HUSBAND: ...... this bandit, love.
BANDIT: ........ into the grove."
The bamboo squeezed itself against her flesh
CHOIR: as if the place itself were passionate.
BANDIT: Off! Her hat came off. Down!. Down came her hair.
CHOIR: The place was plucking at her clothes.
BANDIT: When she saw her husband bound,
her hand slid out of mine and drew a dagger.
She was angry. I was amused but agile.
Struck, the dagger went out like a light.

BANDIT: I worked my knee between her legs.
Shantung. Hirsute. Digging digging deep,
CHOIR: bullion, ....
HUSBAND: "bery,"
CHOIR: lapis lazuli"
BANDIT: digging...
CHOIR: beryl"
BANDIT: ...digging...
CHOIR: lapis lazuli"
BANDIT: digging deep, I worked the seam.
But when I came to go,
she begged...
HUSBAND: (interrupting the bandit)
Do not believe.... !

BANDIT: she begged, her hair across her mouth, .."
HUSBAND: We had been married only seven months.
BANDIT: Shantung. Hirsute. Digging digging deep,
CHOIR: bullion
HUSBAND: beryl
CHOIR: .... lapis lazuli"
BANDIT: she begged, that one of us should die.
I or her husband.

BANDIT: So that her shame should not be known to both.
Whoever won the fight would take her for his wife.
The husband rubbed his untied arms.
Our swords unsheathed like shantung silk when torn
and after seven strokes the Samurai was
HUSBAND: Do not (screaming) believe

WOODCUTTER: Dead (uttered immediately after stroke 7
and followed by 4 or 5 seconds of silence)
BANDIT: his last long moan a sigh of satisfaction.
But when I turned, the girl was gone.

BANDIT: Her hand in mine was very small.
I ask this court the supreme penalty.

scene 5:

Confession of the Wife in a Temple
(the title of the scene is projected on stage for a few seconds).

MASAGO: I was only nineteen years old, O holy father.
We had been married seven happy months.
When he had used me for his lust and left,
his blue kimono billowing behind,
I turned to where my husband was tied up.
The gag pulled down the corners of his mouth
so that his face was tragic, a Kabuki mask.
I did not recognise his strangers eyes.
I searched for tears trembling there
to match the mirage in my own
which made the bamboo curtain faint.
And grow upright again. And faint.
Seeing the hatred in my husbands eyes,
I said with broken, mended, broken voice:
You saw my shame. And now your nostrils smell my shame.
I am defiled forever and so we both must die.
I will kill you first and then myself.
The expression in my husbands eyes agreed,
Then I saw my dagger shining like the evening star,
uncertain, tearful, on the grass, a million miles away,
I think I said: Takejiro, give me your life.
And I pushed the blade easily.
I must have fainted.
I woke up somewhere on the forest floor,
Takejiro had gone to kiss his ancestors on both cheeks.
But then I couldnt kill myself
I stabbed my throat and lived.
I threw myself into a lake
but felt my body fight for breath on shore.
I hanged myself and was rescued by my hands.
I am only nineteen, father, holy father.
It will take a life to die of shame.

scene 6:

Story of the dead Husband, as told through a Medium.
(the title of the scene is projected on stage for a few seconds.)

THE MEDIUM: (longinly, like a distant call)). Masago....
TAKEJIRO: Masago with a mole beside her mouth,
brown, the shiny sepia of apple seed.
When he had finished with her flesh,
he held her hand and whispered calming words.
I wanted to cry across the grove:
THE MEDIUM: (tenderly)
do not believe this bandit, love.
TAKEJIRO: (sang as a loud cry stressing the word believe which fades into the rest of the computer-shakuhachi ine)
Do not believe this bandit, love!.
TAKEJIRO: He said:
THE MEDIUM: your husband will hate you now.
TAKEJIRO: He said:
THE MEDIUM: leave your husband, marry me.
TAKEJIRO: And then my wife...
TAKEJIRO: .... Masago,....
THE MEDIUM: we had been married ....
TAKEJIRO: ... agreed.......
THE MEDIUM: .....only seven.......
TAKEJIRO: ... to go.......
THE MEDIUM: ..... happy months."
TAKEJIRO: ... with him." !
TAKEJIRO: I watched the mole move by her mouth
as my Masago said: .."
THE MEDIUM: but you must kill him now.
I cannot be your wife while he still lives.
TAKEJIRO: He stood up, transfixed, then struck her down.
He came bowlegged across the grove.
He said: ...
THE MEDIUM: shall I kill her ......
TAKEJIRO: ..or ..."
THE MEDIUM: shall I let her live "
TAKEJIRO: For these words I plead that he be pardoned.
I hesitated. Masago with that mole.
I hesitated and she fled beyond his reach.
He cut one cord and left without another word.
As I untied my bonds, I heard someone weeping.
Gradually, this weeping came closer,...
THE MEDIUM: ...closer, ....
TAKEJIRO & THE MEDIUM:.....closer, ...
TAKEJIRO: ....,until I realised ...
TAKEJIRO & THE MEDIUM: ....that it was I.
TAKEJIRO: I took Masagos dagger from the forest floor,
wiped it clean and stabbed myself.
THE MEDIUM: Night came like a womans hair over my face.
The stars shone up above like dagger points.
The blood was cold and hard as frozen snow.
At dawn someone I could not see crept in the grove
and drew the dagger out and blood was bitter in my mouth.

"Lost love
dark mind

scene 7:

The Woodcutter again
(the title of the epilogue is projected on stage for a few seconds).

The woodcutter appears in the centre of the stage lit by a single spot, his axe hanging from one of his hands. He addresses the audience. His tone and manner change sharply (from stanza to stanza) from a matter of fact (giving evidence) to an emotionally/sexually involved delivery.

WOODCUTTER: I could not see.
No. I could see everything.
I heard the horses breath.
No. I heard someone coming to a climax.
I heard the horses breath.
No. I heard a womans sudden sobs.
I tell you I was chopping wood.
No. My right hand slid from head to haft.
Sweet cedar chips like sparks.
No. My seed was spurting in the gloom like sparks.
The bamboo canes were thick between.
No I saw the lovers till I closed my eyes and came.
The corpse was sleeping in the sun.
No. I felt and found the dagger in the dark.
EVERYBODY: I pulled....

the end