REBUS - an opera by Anders Koppel
Libretto by Naja Marie Aidt, Marianne Larsen, Sidsel Falsig Pedersen, Pablo Henrik Llambías, Villy Sørensen. Libretto adaption by Ulla & Anders Koppel.
C - young female. Actress/dancer. An outsider from the start, a person who does not sing, but speak, she is throughout the play always desperately trying to be one of the group, much to the irritation of the others. A born loser with a serious lack of motor coordination.
L - bright mezzo (rhythmic singer). A new-comer to the group, she is always helpful to the others, always trying to conform to the group. With her innocent naughtiness, she is hoping for the best.
M - dark mezzo (rhythmic singer). Although she is longing for the ordinary life like the others, she is a queen in her own mind, and her solitude is magnificient, especially with the men. With L she becomes quite friendly, and they make a dangerous team.
T - tenor (classical singer). Lost to the world in his narcissistic drunkenness, totally self-indulgent, absorbed in his own macho beauty. But like the others, alone, and looking for help. Tries to get through by small-talking. Every issue will do.
R - baritone (classical). Like fallen down from Mars, h does not understand too much of what's going on, although he is trying so hard. He is always being cancelled, but it does not matter much. When he is feeling anything, he gets melodramatic, because he is so empty. He is always one step behind.
Oboe, saxophone (soprano and alto, with the ability to improvise), violin, cello, piano, double bass and percussion (with the ability to improvise).
All scenes take place in the same set. A stair-case, many doors - an abstract corridor, that - by shifting the colours and the doors' position - can change atmosphere.
The press wrote after the Danish premiere, April 2000:
"Rebus is both entertaining, absurd and philosophical - it is cabaret and Fritz Kreisler, it is Brecht, musical and opera. It is timeless and topical and it embraces the whole tradition of music theatre in one big hug from Italian "comedia dell'arte" to the modern rhythm scene. Anders Koppel's music is wonderful, intimate and grandiose." Aktuelt, Copenhagen.
"Rebus is expanding the opera genre in its own way and hits it in the clever lines and emotional and existential moments. You are both wiser and more confused on a higher level when you leave the theatre." Kristeligt Dagblad, Copenhagen.
"Believe me. It is chaos. But a highly disciplined chaos. We are attending a small scenic oratorium, somebody might say an advanced cabaret show. A show with ancestors back to the 1920s, where dada-meaninglessness went hand in hand with ironic satire about incomprehensible human folly. About these crazy times and everything in our confused heads." Ekstra Bladet, Copenhagen.
"Here is absurd humour, crazy numbers succeeding more lyrical ones, and the atmosphere is generous and warm throughout. It is a performance I will remember with one big smile." Arbetet, Sweden.
"It's all funny, weird and absurd. You laugh, gawk and is about dancing along the way. Afterwards you have been reminded of a few painful and funny sides of life and hardly anyone of the audience escapes." Politiken, Copenhagen.
"The whole damned thing seemed to be therapy for the jubilant audience. I wonder what they suffered from when they arrived. I should have left." Weekend Avisen, Copenhagen.
1. The Empty House. L arrives to the scene, the house, and lyrically tells of her journey through storm and snow.
2. Ouverture. In which the performers appear one by one on stage.
3. Therapy. All five gathered on stage, sitting on a line, each one contributing his or her statements, like in a therapy session. C presents them like statues, and informs that everybody is getting paid. T stands up and sings about "me" - "I show me, I think me, I yawn me, I love me". M sings an aria about her "no one" - "No one is my worshipper, no one my age, no one my ability". L keeps repeating "I am new here, is there something I can do?" R reports from his world, which can be switched on or off like a television set. At last, they all unite in C's closing statement: "I am a transitional person. Flesh is not flesh anymore, blood not blood anymore, that is well known."
4. Interlude. The therapy dissolves, and everybody is busy getting on with their everyday life.
5. The Blue. T explains to R the advantages of the colour blue. He is considering painting his office blue. M and L are trying to hear their conversation, and finally they all agree to the sentence "There is something abut the blue". C interrupts the conversation, and elaborates in many words that she has exactly the same experience. All of them hastily leave the stage, leaving only C to conclude her story about the blue.
6. Application for an apartment. L applies for an apartment, M and R being representatives of the building to evaluate her. As she agrees to renounce of high heels and curry food to take part in their system of making the same food on the same days, she is accepted.
7. The Journey. T is telling R of his vacation on the most wonderful spot - an old-fashioned pension in Northern Italy with no tourists. M and L are listening again, and they all agree that you must have it all for yourself. C (again!) interrupts, to top their story: "I was precisely such a place last summer". The others see their chances to disappear.
8. Interlude. In which C discovers that the others have left.
9. Sleepless. T has read in the newspaper that if you sleep too much, you lose the ability to be happy. "It must be something chemical". So now, he puts all his efforts into staying awake. It was hard in the beginning, but now he is getting used to is and awaits happiness any day.
11. Application for a Life. M asks R: "Is their anything for me today?". "What have you applied for?", he asks her. She has applied for a life, just an ordinary life with friends with their own beach lot, a life in which you quarrel with your sweetheart, but get over it, only to be stronger. "I just gave the last one away", he informs her. She sadly understands: "Then it wasn't today". He ends the act by saying: "Have a nice day."
12. Cowboys. The two friends M and L are siting together, T comes passing by. He asks them why they are wearing cowboy clothes (which, of course, they are not), would they be going to a costume party or something? They respond rather aggressively and soon turn the situation around. They ask him where he comes from. Why, Denmark of course, he answers. "Never heard of it, isn't it in Texas?", they say. Finally, he gives up: "I'll just leave you here... in your cowboy clothes". They all say goodbye and leave.
13. Interlude. In which R tries to impress the girls, M and L, who, disgusted, rejects him.
14. Cancelled. R tells about a girl who said that she was going to cancel him. But he never thought it made such a big difference. Maybe he was already cancelled.
15. Interlude. T and R get together, and T is just about to pick up a new issue (After the blue and the vacation journey), as
16. A Car with Four-Wheel Drive. C interrupts them even before they get started. "Mentioning a car with 4WD..", she says. "We did not mention a car with 4WD!", they irritatedly respond. But she continues her monologue about the advantages of a 4WD, even when the two boys place her on the wall, to hang there... and contentedly they leave C, who concludes her appraisal of the 4WD: "You can do anything with 4WD, you are not inhibited by anything!"
17. Opinion and Fate. Solemnly, M reflects about the distinction between meaning and fate. She wants to meet her fate and find the real meaning with her life.
18. Emergency Aid. All five reach a sort of point of no return. They gater - like in the opening therapy - but the mood is much different. All in their own way they cry for help, but no one seems to be interested in caring, except perhaps for L, who reminds them of her commitment to help each other, though she herself gets so tired of being good for several hours in a row. There seems to be no way of crossing the gap between them, as
19. Interlude. A storm breaks loose, they are thrown around in the turmoil, this is the final breakdown. At last everything calms down.
20. Ghost of Nazism. R is standing like a atatue. T passes by, asking him why he is wearing such funny clothes, with uniform and helmet (which, of course, he is not). R answers that it's because he is the ghost of Nazism. A conversation develops, whether R is dressed out as the ghost of Nazism, or he really is the ghost of Nazism. R maintains that he is in the middle of a performance in the memory of World War II. But T turns the situation around (maybe he learned something from the girls' tactics in "Cowboys"), claiming that he himself is a ghost, not dressed like a ghost. Well, R must continue his performance, and they bid each other goodbye.
21. Questions M and L alone on stage. They ask each other questions such as: "Are there stars enough in the sky?" - "How do you feel about the directions of the wind, should they be banned?" - "Is it appropriate to dream in colours?" - "What is your attitude to morning light?"
22. Minus Control. T and R talks about C. They are tired of her and her 4WD, her vacation journey and her colour-rubbish. They imagine that she is the kind of girl who is meticulously arranging her things in neat order, who is in control of everything and never gets any sex. They agree that it's no good with too much control, there should be room for spontaneity. And sex. So T concludes that even if he is now going to paint his office in blue, maybe some time in the future he will .."what, what, what??", the others ask him impatiently... paint it red! M and L joins the two boys in ecstasy over his statement. They all agree about the importance of giving in to life, of not being in control of everything. They leave the stage, singing in concordance.
23, Where did they all go? C is left alone on stage. She wonders where they all went and regrets that she didn't succeed in saying all she wanted to say. She will rehearse saying everything she wants to say in one sentence. She likes the silence and decides to stay a little while. And while the lights are dimming, she even tries to sing.