An Atherton’s Artificial Artifact!
An Opera Synopsis
Wilhelmina, a lovely peasant girl, whom Count Goblo desires to marry (Soprano)
Wilhelm, a hunter, and Wilhelmina’s true love (Tenor)
Kunigunda, Wilhelmina’s Wicked Mother (Contralto)
Count Goblo, a Wicked Aristocrat (Bass)
Ubel Arg, Captain of Palace Guard (Baritone)
Peasants, Hunters, Guards
The town square of the small forest village of Dorfimwald
Wilhelmina and Kunigunda are going marketing. They sing of Wilhelm. Wilhelmina says how handsome, brave and strong he is; Kunigunda says that it is all nonsense. The villagers sing of Wilhelm’s killing of a great boar; Kunigunda, pretending to mishear, says that he is indeed boring. With a flourish of trumpets, Count Goblo enters with guards. They sing of a plot to kidnap Wilhelmina, to be carried out, with the connivance of Kunigunda, on that very day, as soon as the girl is well on her way down the road back to the isolated cottage she calls home. Then Count Goblo and his guards all exit except for Ubel Arg, who stands in a corner and glowers. Enter Wilhelm and other hunters, carrying a great boar on a spit between them. The hunters sing of how Wilhelm killed it single-handed; Wilhelm, modestly protesting, says he used at least two. Wilhelmina and Wilhelm come nose-to-nose center-stage and sing of their love; also, Wilhelmina indicates that she is impressed at the size of the boar. Wilhelm says it was nothing. Wilhelmina says that she must buy bread; Wilhelm indicates that the village inn seems to call to him. They exit separately. The villagers sing a song about young love and also boars. Wilhelmina enters, her basket full of bread. Kunigunda sings that Wilhelmina must walk home alone, as she (Kunigunda) has something she must do. Wilhelmina says that the woods are very beautiful and she does not mind going alone, and exits skipping. The villagers melt away, exiting unobtrusively and as if they’ve wandered off home. The stage is empty now save for Ubel Arg and Kunigunda. Kunigunda sings a song about how rich the Count is and then exits. Ubel Arg sings of the beauty of Wilhelmina in a lascivious manner, implying much that is not explicitly said. Or sung. He stalks off.
A path through the woods
Enter the Count, Ubel Arg, and guards. The Count sings of Wilhelmina’s fresh young beauty and of the cunning of Kunigunda. A guard sings that Wilhelmina is coming; the Count and his retinue all hide themselves behind trees.
Wilhelmina enters singing of the beauties of nature. She walks along the path picking flowers. The Count steps into the path in front of her, and the guards step into the path behind her. The Count sings of marrying Wilhelmina; Wilhelmina sings of her abhorrence of the Count. The Count steps towards her with an evil leer; Wilhelmina, panicked, turns to flee- and sees the guards blocking the path. They are closing in when Wilhelmina sings a scream and dashes off through the forest. The Count sings out instructions to pursue her and they all rush off.
The shrine of St. Wilgefortis
Wilhelmina runs in, singing incoherently of the hopelessness of her position and the horror she has of the Count. Seeing the altar and the image of the saint, she kneels and sings out a prayer, explaining the whole thing. Shouts come from off-stage, indicating that the Count and the guards are just outside and know she has entered the shrine. Wilhelmina collapses before the image of the saint, begging for help. Ubel Arg enters the shrine and gives a lewd laugh at Wilhelmina’s prostrated condition. He starts to sing of the folly of women and the futility of prayer – and is interrupted by the entrance of The Beard. The Beard twines round his legs and pulls him inexorably offstage, and all his singing is of no avail whatsoever. Wilhelmina sings of her gratitude- until the voices of the men outside come again. She shrinks up against the wall of the shrine. Enter The Beard alone. It extrudes a tress out through the door of the shrine. There are noises of battle, and then the Count and his men retreat.
Wilhelmina tells Kunigunda of her horrible adventure. Kunigunda says it is very distressing, and gives her tea to drink. The tea is drugged, and Wilhelmina falls asleep. Enter Count Golbo and Ubel Arg, who carry Wilhelmina offstage. The rest of the Act is Kunigunda singing about the Higher Morality of what she has done to several birds and a stray sheep. No-one is intended to be convinced by this. Even the sheep looks disapproving.
The Palace Dungeon
Wilhelmina despairs noisily about her plight. Enter Wilhelm through a high window. They sing of their love until Ubel Arg comes in and catches them at it. Wilhelm and Ubel Arg fight; Wilhelmina scream-sings in a corner. Wilhelm stabs Ubel Arg through the body and kills him. Wilhelmina sings about how splendid this is, and Wilhelm sings about how maybe Ubel Arg will have the key to the prison cell on him somewhere. The key is found, and they rejoice about this in song. While they are busy with this, Count Goblo enters, not singing. They therefore do not notice him, and he gets the jump on Wilhelm, stabbing him through the body. Then he starts to drag Wilhelmina off, singing about how the Priest is waiting and they shall marry at once. The Beard bursts through the stone floor, and it and Count Goblo fight. Wilhelmina crawls to the side of Wilhelm, and sings about how she hopes he is Not Dead. He is Not Dead. As the fight rages on, they exit limpingly, singing about (on the one hand) love and (on the other) how remarkably unpleasant it is to be stabbed through the body.
A Hill; the Palace is in the background
Wilhelmina and Wilhelm continue to flee and sing; from the palace, there is noise of battle and occasionally a scream. Eventually, with a great noise of shattering glass, a tress of The Beard shoots out of a window. Another broken window follows, and another- until the palace is Engulfed in The Beard. As Wilhelm proposes tenderly to Wilhelmina, the Palace is dragged down into the earth by the beard. The lovers do not notice.
Robert Benchley does this Opera Synopsis thing better than I do, and I recommend him to your attention. His Opera Synopses are in the collection Love Conquers All, which is in the public domain and available at archive.org, in both text and audio-book format
This post references the legend of St. Wilgefortis