Baba Yaga: the Cyrillic Witch and Lockless in Life: two libretti
Billings, Brian Carroll
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The translation of libretto is "little book," and it is just that - a condensation of a drama in verse upon which is grafted musical embellishment which enriches the text for public consumption by magnifying its emotional high points. Yet the librettist, once championed as a poet of skill and insight, has become reduced to a figure who exists solely to fuel the ego and inspiration of his composer. The development of a musical production, however, is first and foremost collaborative. The librettist deals in characterization, plotting, and declamatory poetry while the composer provides evocative emotional ambience to the mix which readily enables the transportative powers of the plot for an audience. One element of the production does not succeed without the other. A librettist has the difficult job of creating an open form drama which must perfectly suggest musical ornamentation to complete its subtle sentiments; he must craft a sturdy dramatic shell to house and hold an animating, musical force. My own attempts in this genre are twofold - a traditional operetta and a modern operetta. Baba Yaga: The Cyrillic Witch adapts the lore surrounding the Russian ogress into an investigation of the human need for belonging by humanizing her and investigating her sense of isolation. The text is dark and brooding with a well-structured plot and uplifting ending (the hallmarks of traditional operetta). Lockless in Life is more modern in that it abandons strict plotting in favor of a psychomachian story: a an battles internally for understanding of his place in life, his id, ego, and superego juxtaposing their sentiments in multiple vignettes in order to bring about insight. (This idea of juxtaposition of components stems from the structure of the modern combination novel, in which a number of short stories combine to reveal a larger trath or an overarching story.) The differences between these libretti demonstrate the flexibility of the libretto as a literary genre. The "little book" can condense complex concepts such as societal rejection and personal paranoia into simplistic constructs that can be instantly identified by audiences, particularly once these constructs have been modified by music.