It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, when writers from around the world post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog. This week’s photo is by Jennifer Pendergast. Thank you, Jennifer!
The photo reminded me of a Rimsky-Korsakov opera called “The Tale of Tsar Saltan,” which premiered in the U.S. as “The Bumble Bee Prince.” Leave it to American publicists to dumb down a classic opera!
The plot is unbelievable, preposterous, internally inconsistent– in other words, the quintessential opera. Naturally, the Tsarina is a soprano and her chubby evil sister is a mezzo-soprano. We mezzos always get a raw deal (with the notable exception of Bizet’s “Carmen.”)
The American version of the title also may have been useful to promote name recognition for “The Flight of the Bumble Bee,” which is performed as an interlude between two scenes of the opera. You have probably heard it as a stand alone instrumental piece, without the vocal introduction by the Magic Swan, who later transforms into a human and marries the Prince. (I told you the plot was preposterous, didn’t I?)
For your listening pleasure, I’ve included a delightful version of the song below.
I encourage you to also read other Friday Fictioneers’ work by clicking the link that appears below the music at the end of my story.
The Bumble Bee Prince
by Jan Brown
“Well, now, my bumble bee, go on a spree….”
“What part are you singing NOW?”
“The Magic Swan! Don’t you remember, she turned the Prince into a bee so he could fly back home?”
“Yes, unfortunately, I do remember that. Why do operas have such goofy plots? Can’t we just see a movie where people don’t turn each other into monsters?”
“Oh, right. We could always see ‘Transformers’ again. Or ‘Iron Man.’ Nothing violent ever happens there.”
“Okay. Point taken. But no more operas!”
“Fine,” she warbled in a throaty voice. Indignant, she spread her wings and flew back home.
I think you will enjoy this version of “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” performed by Dame Evelyn Glennie. She is a world-renowned musician who happens to be profoundly deaf.
Glennie plays just about every percussion instrument from every country and culture, as well as “found objects” that she discovers or fashions herself. She performs in her stocking feet, so she can “hear” the vibrations of the music through her bones. She tunes her tympani by breathing on the skin, then quickly turning her cheek to feel the breath come back.
Some of you probably saw her perform at the London Olympics. She led 1,000 drummers during the opening ceremony in the segment that portrayed the industrial revolution. Later, during the lighting ceremony, she performed sublimely on a newly invented instrument known as the “aluphone.”