Commissioned by W11 Opera in 2006; also performed by other opera companies.
Synopsis: Rajah the weaver is a bit of an idiot. He tries to get all his work done but his inability to understand instructions means he usually ends up making a mess of everything. However his friend the clever Jackal is determined to straighten out Rajah’s life in style — by providing him with a wife from the top drawer – the King’s own daughter, no less. The Jackal sets Rajah just one condition — that the weaver keeps his mouth shut during the negotiations! With the help of a crowd of noisy animals and birds, the Jackal sets Rajah on the road to riches and success — but in the end it is the princess herself who really changes his life.
|Music Director||Philip Colman|
|Soloists||The Story-Teller, The Jackal, Rajah the Weaver, The King, The Queen, The Princess, The Children (Nina, Steve, Carla, Laura, Sam), The Prime Minister|
|Groups||The Deputy Prime Ministers, Wise Teachers, Weavers, Elders, Washerwomen, Princess’s Attendants, Village Children, Courtiers, Members of the Court, Peacocks, Brain-Fever Birds, Doves, Koel Birds, Jackals, Mosquitoes, Myna Birds, Frogs|
|Orchestra||Flute, Oboe, Cor, Clarinet, Horn, Cello, Double Bass, Harp, Percussion, Tabla|
Notes on Production: Based on a Bengali folk tale. An incompetent country bumpkin is rescued by a feisty princess under the guidance of a wily jackal. Features a panoply of enchanting and colourful characters in a world where the animals talk, everyone sings and no one is quite what they seem.
Bernard Hughes’ music evokes Indian rhythms and harmonies though scored for traditional Western orchestral instruments. The singing parts are relatively straightforward for school students to learn, with some complex part-writing.
Designers will find there is huge scope for imaginative and easily assembled costumes. In the W11 production the following groups were doubled: villagers/animals/courtiers and wise teachers/doves/elders. Age range 9-18 with plenty of opportunities for the younger groups in this range – has been performed with adult soloists.
Running time 65 minutes
An electronically produced accompaniment is available on request from the composer.
Music and video
The Story-Teller must spin a tale to interest five children, so we meet Rajah the Weaver. Rajah is no use at multi-tasking. He knows he should weave his cloth, cut his crops and milk his cow, but he gets muddled up. The clever Jackal advises him: “Dip your scythe in the water – That will make it cooler – Then it should cut well again”.
This advice works well, until Rajah plunges his cow into the pond to cool her down and drowns her, to the disgust of his neighbours in the village. To make amends, the Jackal promises to help Rajah find the ideal wife: a princess! The neighbours are scornful but intrigued, as is Rajah. The Jackal tells him to “take a bath and brush your hair – Weave some beautiful clothes to wear”, while he, the Jackal, is to go and meet the King, returning in three days time. Fortunately for Rajah, his friends the Weavers, Washerwomen, Milkmaids, Children, Village Elders and Peacocks are willing to help him.
Once at the palace, the Jackal impresses the court with his confident appearance (not to mention his very special and expensive shoes). Now while ‘rajah’ means king, our Rajah is a mere weaver. Without telling a single lie, the jackal makes him sound so impressive that the King and Queen are quite won over, as are the advisers from the Prime Minister all the way down to the Deputy Deputy Deputy Deputy Deputy Deputy Prime Minister. Besides the King needs a male heir, and the Princess is getting rather expensive. The Jackal is given a purse of gold with which to greet his master and begin to arrange the marriage.
The Peacocks, Myna Birds, Koel Birds and Doves, Frogs, Jackals and Mosquitoes are under orders from the Jackal to make as much noise as possible outside the palace, and the King is understandably alarmed. The Jackal explains that this is his master’s wedding procession: “No bridegroom’s train was ever larger!” It takes another bag of gold to buy some peace so that the King can get dressed without being deafened.
As the Jackal is weighing the purse of gold with satisfaction, Rajah arrives, magnificently attired. Knowing that his rustic tones would give him away, the Jackal instructs Rajah not to say a single word. Sure enough, the Weaver’s dignified silence impresses the court deeply. A feast is prepared and the Jackal shares some of the gold with the Birds and the Beasts; Rajah and the Princess arrive together, Rajah smiling broadly but the Princess looking cross.
After the wedding, it becomes clear that the Princess is very angry to have been married to as man who refuses to speak. Rajah, meanwhile, cannot work out how to get into the marriage bed – literally! He wrecks the mosquito net, and as the dreaded insects invade, Rajah forgets his vow of silence. In a moment he has revealed his true identity.
The Princess is furious, but even in her rage, she comes up with a plan to get rid of the Mosquitoes. Rajah falls in love with her for being so clever and vows to obey her. Meanwhile, she decides to make the best of things by organising his education in reading, dancing, music, fencing and archery. The results are stunning! So popular does Rajah become that the King is persuaded to declare him his heir-apparent. Chincha-Chancha Cooroo!