by RICHARD DANCU TRIFAN
OPERA IN FIVE ACTS
Principal conductor: To be determined
Production: To be determined
Set and Costume Designer: Katalin Varga New York
Lighting Designer: To be determined
Stage Director: To be determined
Sponsor: To be determined
Performance at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
Valerie Girard, Soprano
Lawrence Munday, baritone
Characters in order of vocal appearance:
Horst, a guild tradesman
Prince Magnus, son of a Nordic king
Vladimir, his trusted friend
Giovanna, fiancée to Vladimir
Baron von Eckst, a nobleman of the Saxon tribes
Elsa, the Baron’s daughter
Horatio, a Venetian artist
Marina, a peasant girl from Kiev
Medhat, an Arabian tradesman
David Ben Aron, a Yeshiva scholar
Sara, a young journalist
Youssef, a law scholar & descendant of Medhat
Russ Simmons, an American businessman
Professor Soko, a Japanese teacher
Li Pen, a Chinese student
Deepak, her fiancée
This is a story about virtue, and when challenged, how it grows stronger through noble example. The panoply of country settings, cultures, and time periods are intended to universalize the concept. Certain historical references and liberties with historical timelines are made to ground the reader in the time and environment in which this story takes place.
Synopsis of Story
The Global Opera is a story about virtue – ideally immutable in the face of adverse influences. Musical leitmotifs punctuate the music, representing qualities of character (e.g. the Virtue motif, the Avarice motif) and also impending corruption in the form of a local nobleman or other position of power. However, the Global Opera wants also to make the moral point that economic / social class alone does not predispose one to either virtuous or avaricious behavior; there are honorable and corrupt noblemen and paupers alike, both inspired to virtuous behavior, in either circumstance, from earlier formative character years. In this way the Global Opera tries to call attention to virtuous character, and the influences of civilization, economic opportunity and outstanding character on the continuing moral / spiritual evolution of people. Certain historical and timeline liberties are taken in order to insert certain known historical figures as peripheral characters in the story, hopefully helping the audience to “locate” themselves within the story.
The concept of the 4 main characters as being friends, and also seemingly ageless / immortal as each act jumps forward 200 years, imparts a surreal yet necessary quality to this vehicle. This assumption (and the required suspension of disbelief) is necessary in order to let the audience focus on the moral timelessness and universality of virtue, altruism, and other “positive” human perspectives vs. those of avarice, greed, callousness, disregard for other human life, etc. (which, as non-contributory to an improving society, will die with them). Only through the portrayal of centuries of experiences through the 5 acts can the steadfast, incorruptible continuum of true virtue be sufficiently communicated and felt by the audience.
Act I – 14th century - sung in German
Four main characters in this story begin their enlightenment in medieval Germany, influenced by the incorruptible nature of a Saxon land baron, who is willing to relinquish his earthly value and social standing in the province by upholding a rival’s claim to ancient territories. Virtue is extolled as essential for a complete character in retrospective soliloquies. Motifs abound (e.g. the Virtue Motif, first sounded by a full complement of French horns, later sung by the character of Giovanna). The Baron goes to his death, relinquishing all earthly wealth and reputation, because it is his only honorable choice.
Act II – 16th century - sung in Italian
Our four travelers awake in Renaissance Italy, confused and astounded by their seemingly instantaneous passage through time and distance (a.k.a the deep sleep metaphor of the Sleeping Beauty). Once in this setting, they encounter the same greedy, avaricious influences that impinged on the German baron’s honorable life. The group is already deeply affected and influenced to pattern their own lives and moral direction in a similarly high plateau, and successfully rebuff the scheming forces of the Duke of Venice. As they have gained insight and a love for the Baron’s virtue, they influence the outcome of a similar conflict in this time period, made richer with the explosion of Renaissance culture.
Act III – 18th century - sung in Russian
Our travelers now find themselves in post-Imperial Russia, shortly after the pinnacle of Catherine the Great’s rule and establishment of the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg. Some historical license is taken with the overlap of Catherine’s later years and a young Pushkin, eager to write about social conditions and moral conduct, soon a good friend and confidante to our travelers. As before, avarice, greed, and material / political opportunity take their form in this venue as well, with our travelers learning more from each luring “cycle” of how to manage the repercussions of their virtuous, incorruptible path with dignity and honor.
Act IV – 20th century - sung in Hebrew and Arabic
Our travelers now find themselves in the twentieth century, completely mesmerized and confused by the huge technological / mechanical revolution that has transpired over this 200-year period. Travel around the globe in hours is now possible; cultures are interacting, global concepts of pollution, overpopulation, and others have entered the social “library” of topics; issues completely foreign to our travelers. Furthermore, in the Middle East, they see the evidence of border and cultural struggle and clashes (with which they are familiar) carried to an enormous, monstrous cost (e.g. their learning about the World Wars and Holocaust which have already occurred). The travelers are so embittered with the dual direction of the technology and other material progress; one being to help / support humanity throughout the globe, and the other facilitating a huge potential for mass destruction and persecution. A friendship and mutual respect develops between two local characters in the story, a Jewish Yeshiva scholar, and an Arab graduate student (the descendent of Medhat, an Arabian trader from Act III). Their common bonds of education, love of family and tradition, yet a ferverent desire to expand their knowledge, and unequivocal rejection of cultural prejudice and bigotry, unite these culturally-divided students in some marvelous duets / arias, as they work together to thwart the American plan to usurp the oil & gas rights recently discovered in Hebron.
Act V – 22nd century - sung in Chinese, Hindi and Japanese
Our travelers now find themselves in the Orient, about 150 years in the future (22 century). This act is particularly meaningful in that this venue will illustrate the immutability, not of virtue, but of the human character. Even in the future, our travelers are encountering the same “opposing forces” of character that had challenged all the cultures and centuries that came before them. Further developed in this act is the concept of unified cultures (an “Orient” encompassing China, India, Japan, and other Pacific Rim countries). In this future, individual cultures and their unique aspects have become less important (to the general human population) than their ability to collaborate, cooperate, and otherwise work together for various gains, economic, educative, cultural richness, etc. Global warming is under control; space stations are collaborating, and cultures have essentially superseded wars.
Hopefully the Global Opera will leave audiences touched and impressed with its treatment of the potential universality and constancy of human qualities, impervious to (or compromised by) the compelling trade-offs between earthly material gain and moral constancy that have surrounded us for millennia.
HISTORICAL TIMELINE OF ACTS:
Act 1: Germany, mid-fourteenth century
Act II: Italy, early sixteenth century
Act III: Russia, mid-eighteenth century
Act IV: The Middle East, late twentieth century
Act V: The Orient, twenty-second century
THE STORY / LIBRETTO:
ACT I: Germany, 14th century
Scene 1: The guild hall in Rothenburg, Germany
In the great guildhall in Rothenburg, the innkeeper, Horst, is musing about his lack of success with a woman as he prepares the room for the tradesmen’s dinner. A stranger enters the room, apparently lost. When asked of his origin, the prince Magnus couldn’t remember where he last was. He partakes of Horst’s food and drink, and the tradesmen sing (to the chorus of "Wir Werden von den Freunden Umgeben" in A major). Exhausted after several choruses, he decides to spend the night.
Scene II: The garden of the Baron’s castle on the Tauber
The prince’s trusted friend and confidante, Vladimir, who is traveling is his retinue, overhears a conversation between Horst and the Burgomeister of Rothenburg, Hans Toppler. Toppler is scheming to seize the land of the Baron Von Eckst of Saxony by disgracing him for endorsing the Teutonic Knights, who are seeking to reclaim their lands. Von Eckst’s daughter, Elsa, knows of Magnus’ recent arrival and is attracted to his mysterious origin, which he himself cannot remember. Inspired by her native land, she sings of it as her green valley (the aria “Grune Tal” in C major). The baron hears Elsa’s love for their part of Germany and hopes that should she fall in love with the new stranger, that they would decide to remain in Germany and live with him at the castle.
Scene III – Toppler’s Little Castle, Rothenburg
Toppler arranges to appear at Horst’s inn at the dinner hour to accuse Elsa of her father’s betrayal to the Teutonic Knights commander who wishes to make Saxony once again the Knights’ home and headquarters. He rushes back to his home to prepare what amounted to a framed case against the Baron, who with his own records wished to prove to the guilds that the lands contested by the Teutonic Knights did indeed, belong to one Dieter the Frank, who served with the Knights in their medieval-period invasion of Russia.
Although beaten and disgraced by Alexander Nevsky’s inspired peasant armies, the Baron unearthed the facts that the Knights’ land claims are, indeed, legitimate. Originally seeking to justify the land as belonging to his earlier Saxons, the Baron is compelled to change his course and now risk his own lands and family name to uphold the rightful, although rival Knights. Magnus is struck with the Baron’s commitment to the correct, virtuous course of action, feeling stirred in a way he cannot explain, and singing with such conviction that the townspeople eventually join in the chorus (the aria “Path of Virtue” in A-flat major)
Scene IV: The Rothenburg guild hall
Magnus, present in the hall, stands near Elsa and again is overwhelmed with passionate admiration for Von Eckst’s stand, seeing in his daughter Elsa a soul of equally great depth. He feels he must write a letter to her, expressing in song as he writes the confluence of passion with virtue that has captivated his attentions (the aria “Magnus Elegy” in E-flat major). Planning to meet her after the meeting, he sees the Baron starting to create concern and doubt among the guilds about Toppler’s intentions. The plan is set to confront Toppler at the inn, with the town burgher leaders present, and expose Toppler preemptively before he can implicate the Baron. Agreeing to meet the following night, the hall disperses.
*** (time passes)
The guilds gather for their dinner in the great hall of the Inn; Elsa and Magnus pretend to be making innocuous conversation so as to be standing within hearing distance of Toppler and Horst’s preparation tables. Once dinner is finished the town meeting commences. Toppler begins with town business, and then points violently to Von Eckst, shouting of his defense of the soon-arriving Knights in Wurttemberg, accusing him of treason to his tribes and Wotan. Von Eckst entreats the entire hall with his love of his lands and his honorable life, asking “why would I yield that which is dear to me, if not for a higher value? (the aria “Mein Alpen nicht Mir”).
Scene V: The Baron’s castle and garden
The prince wakes the next morning and is told by Vladimir of the overheard deception. Having met Elsa some days before, when entering Germany from the north, Magnus
seeks to meet Elsa to offer his honor to defend her and her father’s name against Toppler’s powerful Burgomeister society, knowing that without the support of the craftsmen’s guilds, Von Eckst’s lineage would soon be economically finished; reduced to pauperdom.
After seeking Giovanna’s counsel, Vladimir decides to pay a visit to Von Eckst to understand what really may have happened between him and the Knights. Arriving in the garden with Giovanna, they are briefly captivated by the flowered meadows they remember in their first meeting in the countryside outside the city walls. Seeing Elsa, they ask for the Baron’s presence. Elsa is crushed with a feeling of foreboding for her father (the aria “Angst” in B-flat major) since she knows the depth of his virtue, and that he will put righteousness above his own future and even his life.
Being joined by Magnus and seated in his library, the Baron shows them his painstaking efforts to, with ancient manuscripts and medieval town records, prove that his lands have a legal lien from Dieter and the Knights, which must be reconciled beyond certainty. Magnus hastens to his inn to write his intentions, and before he can finish, falls into a deep sleep. He imagines that as he is traveling, he travels with Elsa in a way, and for a length that is unfathomable.
Act II – Italy, 16th century
Scene I – a forest near Venice
Magnus awakes in a glade, and immediately notices that it is well into springtime from the scent of lilacs. Recalling the town meeting in the guildhall as being in winter, he is at a loss to understand how the weather could have warmed so much by the next day, and how he got from his inn to the flowered glade he awoke in. Noticing a lady’s wrap nearby on the ground, he picks it up, only to be surprised by Elsa, who comes up the path to him. She shares her surprisingly similar experience of waking up in this unfamiliar place, with torrid dreams still in her memory (the aria “Il piazza no familiare”). They seek out Von Eckst, but soon discover that they are in central Italy (not Rothenburg) and upon visiting a church for guidance, discover that it is the year 1509, as townspeople seem to be mourning the death of the last Montague line. Magnus is overwhelmed with confusion and intense sadness at realizing that, somehow, two hundred years have passed and all his family and friends must be surely departed. But what of Elsa? How had she retained the identical pallor and even the clothing that they had been wearing that evening in the Bavarian guildhall? Not being an overly religious / superstitious person, he was besieged with possibilities (had he, and Elsa too, been somehow chosen for some greater purpose? Or had consumed some food or potion that rendered them somehow suspended, not aging?)
Scene II – the village of Galila
As he and Elsa leave the town of Galila, (“Tutti temps est fugit”) they see none other than Vladimir, with Giovanna! The excited couples are immensely relieved to see each other exclaiming (in the aria “Was Magic ist es?”/ “Que magicca il et?”), Elsa realizing her father and his heroism is long passed, grieving and missing the outcome of the now ancient feud in the guildhall, and Von Eckst. They are convinced that the purpose of their ageless sleep is to bring Von Eckst’s tale to their new time, inspiring virtue and resistance to malice and evil.
They meet a young sculptor, Horatio, along the road from the Medici territory belonging to Lorenzo de' Medici (II), Duke of Urbino, who tells them, as strangers, to answer all official questions with a statement of loyalty to the Venetian duke Umbro, uncle to the poor artist Horatio. He explains his banishment from Venice and the Duke’s lands due to upholding an old Lombardic territorial deed against Umbro and the Sicilian king. Umbro had offered his incorruptible nephew lands and a bishop’s position at the Vatican, tempting him with the power of estates and political influence (the aria “Uno falte ne di Consziense Compromisti”) sung by the duplicitous Umbro.
As he listens, Magnus is mesmerized by the similarity of principle and path of virtue as the noble Von Eckst (the motif “Sein Virtue Ist Frei”), deciding to help Horatio confront Umbro’s treachery with the virtue he learned from Von Eckst, who had fallen from grace and died a pauper in his beloved Saxony which betrayed him for his courage. Magnus and Elsa are equally determined to beset Umbro, displacing him and preventing future injustices from occurring in the new Italy as they journey to Venice.
Scene III - Florence
Horatio is alone, working in his apprentice shop, on his third marble sculpture for his master teacher, the great Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) for whom he has promised another piece by the spring of 1520. This leaves him with a little more than a year to finish the piece; after meeting his four new, mysterious friends, Magnus, Elsa, Vladimir, and Giovanna, he is so inspired that he sings as he works (the aria “La Magia Nella Pietra” in E major) tapping his mallet and chisel in time to his verse.
Scene IV – The Old Square of Verona
Magnus and Elsa are briefly alone as they walk within Verona, singing a love duet to each other (the aria “The Old Square” in C major) as they linger at a medieval town fountain in the Verona city square. As they sing, townspeople gather around them, with several minstrels joining in on the mandolin, and the music of an early harpsichord (based on Hermann Poll’s clavicembalum from 1397) tries with spirit to accompany them. They are so rousing to the listening townspeople that everyone starts to circle around the fountain as the song the aria “Round Der Well” in D major) is sung to completion, and they are invited to stay the night by several of the townspeople, which they graciously accept.
Scene V – A Garden
Giovanna muses about her earlier time in Germany, and the noble acts of the Baron von Eckst. Recalling their earlier mysterious deep sleep, she is afraid that it may happen again and she will not remember what has transpired in Italy (the aria “Leaving” in C minor). She soliloquizes about the elusive nature of virtue and how precious it is; recalling the Baron from the first act (now long ago). At the end of the aria, she is overcome by the deep sleep.
Act III - Russia, 18th century
Scene I – a country cottage near Perm, the Urals
This time it is Vladimir who awakens in a thatched hut, large but very organized and with mechanical devices for processing food. He rouses the others just as a peasant girl rushes in (“Escape! The czar’s soldiers are coming!). Just as they flee to some woods behind the house a contingent of soldiers rush forward to set it ablaze. Helpless and shocked, they must watch the conflagration of about 15 village houses. The peasant girl, Marina, hides with them and reluctantly explains why these imperial soldiers would descend on a Russian steppe village. Her courtier, Aleksandr, a young Russian writer, has apparently angered bourgeois gentry with his writings of opulent decadence and the contrasting, virtuous peasant populace, little more than the serfs they were under prior tsars, particularly Ivan the Terrible.
Filled with empathy and responsibility for the attack, Vladimir pours his support for the Russian peasant people into song (the aria “the Land of the People” in B minor). He is determined to find Aleksandr and ensure his safety from the nobility, already worried about the progress of the Seven Years’ War with Prussia.
Scene II – Catherine II’s Winter Palace, St. Petersburg
The royal procession returns from a day in the country (to the music “Procession to Winter Palace” in E major)and promenades down Nevsky Prospekt to the palace. Catherine is leading the procession on horseback, anxious to meet with her generals and hear how her foreign campaigns are doing.
Scene III – the House of Orlov
Alexey Orlov, brother to Grigorii Orlov (a cavalier and ardent paramour of Catherine’s (Kat’ka)) starts to describe the many ways in which a throne occupied by Catherine would benefit the Russian Empire more than Tsar Peter III. An Arab trader, Medhat, engages Orlov in conversation about increasing trade with Arabia along roads known for bandits and thieves, and how Medhat could guarantee safe passage for goods and shipments meant for the Russian nobility. Orlov is interested, and their dialogue continues. Orlov confides in Medhat his belief that Tsar Peter III made military blunders in managing the progress of the Seven Years’ war.
Scene IV – Aleksandr’s writing room
Aleksandr is hard at work by candlelight on a new novel, and decides to take a few minutes to write a brief letter to Marina, when he hears horses rushing up to his flat. Looking out, he sees Vladimir and Magnus, who rush in, sharing the news of Orlov’s plot to discredit Tsar Peter III’s control over his armies. This, according to Vladimir and Magnus, could incite Prussia to war in the belief that the Empire’s defenses would be poorly managed. Tsar Peter, having had many afflictions in his youth, had entrusted most of his military responsibilities to his advisors and had no knowledge that a plan to depose him, involving Catherine, had already begun.
Aleksandr spontaneously sings of his new friends Vladimir, Magnus. Giovanna and Elsa, and wishes that all his friendships could be so free of worry and guile. Having no connection to local politics and loyalties, these 4 friends could be trusted completely, and Aleksandr is eager to share more of his writing with them.
Scene V – The Palace of Ropsha , near St. Petersburg
As Peter III was confined to Ropsha after the coup d’etat in 1762, his health was steadily declining, and Vladimir and Magnus are determined to plead for a royal pardon for Aleksandr, who has been placed under house arrest for his latest writing. As they arrive at Ropsha, they are surrounded by Catherine’s guards, who demand they leave. Not intimidated, Magnus pushes ahead of Vladimir and insists on an audience with the Empress herself. They are locked in a guardroom, and when the guards return for them, they find the room empty, yet nobody has been able to leave. The 4 have simply disappeared, and the guards suspect sorcery, hastily leaving.
Act IV – Middle East, late 20th century
David, an exuberant and brilliant student, is immersed in study when Sara, a journalist recently graduated from the university, calls his cell to explain she can’t meet him because of an important assignment in Lebanon. David reluctantly agrees that she should go; after caring good-byes he is once more to his studies.
Scene 2- Library in Yeshiva
Meanwhile, Youssef, a graduate fellow studying in the same library, is so stirred up and incensed by current events that he cannot focus on his dissertations. He pours out his feelings (aria “I must help my people” in E minor) of how his ideas are suppressed at his university by Islamist clerics who censor his graduate papers. Noticing each other’s distraction, and having already met David in a local exchange for students, they laugh, then have the duet (“Educata Mia”).
They develop a good friendship and trust, fostered by Magnus as he and Elsa see the same goodness building in the two students as her father, Horatio and Marina all displayed in their centuries and countries. However an American businessman, Russell, is striving to entice Youssef into working for him as an agent of an oil venture, which Youssef vehemently opposes. Land in this development belonged to his ancestor Medhat, and Youssef’s dream is to, upon graduation from law school, work within the system to direct oil revenues for social projects, not for export and profit for Simmons and his American-based multi-national.
Magnus and Elsa ask Youssef how they can help (“How can We Help”) in ridding the area of foreign investors, the crusaders of this time period. Being just graduate students themselves, they are not yet a match for Simmons’ attorneys and their gratuitous cash payout schedules, with the ecologically-stripping provisions buried deep in the contracts’ details.
Scene 3- a remote field in Hebron
David and Youssef are proceeding well into their second year of geologic survey projects, teamed up with a post-doctorate fellow from Oxford. One weekend a union worker from the tectonic measurement team visits David as he leaves Yeshiva, visibly upset and insisting on a clandestine conversation in the middle of a nearby park. He cannot keep the dreadful secret that Simmons has started covertly drilling diagonal forays into the natural gas caves under the West Bank city of Hebron. Were this area to be revealed as capable of producing vast petroleum stockpiles, it would upset the balance of power maintaining the final cease-fire. Nothing could cause such a potential backsliding into territorial violence as an economic controversy now engulfing an already-besieged land and people. Frightened as a people might be of being conquered by ancient sword-wielding invader-horsemen, the thought of their land and oil rights being bought out from under them by pen-wielding American lawyers was far more frightening and irreversible. What working people could save enough to buy back the country their leaders had sold?
Magnus, upon being told by David of the subterfuge, counsels David to confide in Youssef, and, through Vladimir’s budding strategic “friendship” with Simmons’ project managers, manages to alter the progress reports from the field expedition in the drilling area. Over the next several months, reading disappointing yield samplings from the altered reports, Simmons’ conglomerate lets their option on the land expire. Wise counsel it was, indeed, that side-stepped the Americans’ ego and managed their financial expectations instead to achieve the desired exodus.
Scene 4- West Bank
In a conciliatory parting to Simmons’ team, Magnus and Elsa sing their “Circle of Injustice” aria, reflecting bitterly on how centuries ago, wealth in the form of gold and jewels was fought for, for as many centuries as was recorded history; now, however, in order to avoid submission to a legal form of invasion, a society had to pretend to be poor of resources in order for the invaders / investors to lose interest and leave. David and Youssef join the aria, lamenting how battles were not won anymore with might and valor, as in past times, rather with justifiable duplicity and deceit of information. Elsa is deeply troubled by this decline in 20-century society as they continue to encounter the future.
Act V - The Oriental Union, mid-22nd century
Scene 1 – A hillside near Mt. Fuji, Japan
It is Magnus who first feels the earth moving as he wakes – as he now has come to expect that their periods of sleep and transport will not separate them, he assumes Elsa is behind him in the room. As he turns around he is amazed to find himself somehow transported to the center of a huge, glamorous palace palazzo. As he has gotten accustomed (as much as is possible!) to waking up in an unfamiliar place, he seeks out his Elsa, Vladimir and Giovanna. They assemble and gradually walk around the strange, other-worldly building.
When they walk outside they see a mountain that is strangely familiar, but without its signature cap of snow on its summit. They are shocked to realize it is probably Mt. Fuji, which they have seen in paintings, but they are at a loss to explain where the year-round cap of snow has gone! They share their confusion in the duet ("The Future Is Here" in B minor).
Scene 2 – The university at Osaka
The 4 travelers are able to barter their way to conforming clothing in this part of the world, and this time; they have no idea even what century it is. They decide to follow a group of university students into some classrooms with the hope of listening and learning where they are, and what time period they are now in. Somehow they are able to understand the language being spoken, and enter a cathedral-like lecture hall.
As Professor Soko attempts to instruct his class in formal samurai dance, inspired by 4 genuine terra-cotta soldiers on loan from the Beijing National Archives, a huge gong sounds in time with a magnificent march (the aria “The March of Progress”in A minor). The students adhere to his formal choreography while he is looking at them, but whenever he turns his back the students embellish his formality with rambunctious spins, twirls, and paired-off couples reminiscent of Carpathian folk dancing. When he witnesses this breach of discipline he bangs his staff on the ground in time to restore order to the lesson, and indicates to his servant to hit the huge gong in the lecture hall.
Some of his students start asking about whether the Oriental Union can withstand the continued progress of all its member nations, each excelling in different areas of technology, commerce, historical / genealogic analysis, and outer space exploration. Soko knows that this thinking can be dangerous if it undermines the student generation’s faith in the continuing Oriental Union, and cleverly distracts his students’ questions with segues into what each of them will major in (for graduate studies) and what their contribution to society will be.
Magnus, Vladimir, Elsa and Giovanna having been listening and now accepted as guests at Soko’s class, and are struck by the very same concerns they have heard and encountered throughout the last 8 centuries of kings, dukes, tsars, presidents and dictators’ common concerns about remaining as relevant leaders of their individual cultures. After the lecture, they discuss whether the current leader of the Oriental Union is proceeding on what they mutually feel to be the best all-inclusive path in this regard (the aria "It's Absurd" in B minor).
Scene 3– The Silk Road, somewhere on the Karakoran Highway
Li Pen and Deepak walk together to a point where they must part, but before they leave each other they gaze into the distance and marvel at the millennia of travelers who passed along this very thoroughfare (the aria “The Silk Road” in E major).
As they continue to walk, they discuss their concern that in the gradual homogenization of the Orient that has taken place in the 21 and 22 centuries, thata gradual erosion of each country’s original culture has taken place, and is inevitable. They reflect on the 20 century’s creation of the old European Union and what that did to the individual cultures of Western Europe (in the duet "What Will Happen?" in E-flat major).
*** (time passes)
They meet up with Magnus, Elsa, Vladimir and Giovanna and share their concerns about their Oriental Union’s direction. Vladimir and Giovanna are distracted (as they all are) realizing that they probably will never get back to their familiar German / Scandinavian homelands (Vladimir's soliloquy - the aria "What Have We Learned" in A minor). They practically miss what Deepak is trying to express, and only give superficial acknowledgment and agreement.
Scene 4 – in a wooded glade
Magnus awakes from a nap, and as he remembers Professor Soko’s Progress March in his head, he hears a simultaneous melody, the Virtue motif from his days with the Baron von Eckst.
As he looks upward to strive to see where this music is coming from, Elsa arrives, accompanied by Vladimir and Giovanna. They all hear the dual themes, with the Progress March gradually fading and marvel at the musical juxtaposition of the Virtue motif (aria “Virtue Motif Reprised” in B major), and together they hope that this is an indication that any society’s march of progress can preserve their inherent virtue (that they have nurtured through the centuries).
Although they have seen numerous examples of avarice triumphing temporarily, they are newly heartened that their efforts over the last 8 centuries have inspired the civilizations they have interacted with. As the Professor, LiPen, and Deepak join them, the ghostly figures of the past centuries also materialize in the glade. In chorus, they sing the Virtue motif with the orchestra, linking hands with their ancestral friends in the final moments of the opera. The curtain comes down on the final notes of the motif.
By RICHARD DANCU TRIFAN