|Rolando Villazon, Julien Vanhoutte, Marianne Crebassa, Alix OpdeHipt y Olga Peretyatko en los ensayos de Salzburg|
foto: Facebook Olga Peretyatko
The Ingenious Gentlemen Don Roli and Don Wolfi of Salzburg
A Tale in the Picaresque Style
By Joanna from New York
Part, the First
Light rain fell on a lively street in Salzburg late one evening on a warm summer night in 1772. From one of the street’s many taverns, a burly tavern-keeper emerged, grasping two young men roughly by their collars, and thrust them unceremoniously into the street, where they landed face-down into the mud.
“And don’t let me ever catch the two of you in my tavern again! I’ll set the law on you!” bellowed the ogre, brandishing a broomstick menacingly at the objects of his wrath. He flung the weapon into the muddy street, retreated into his establishment, and slammed the door. The young men, not past their teens, sat up, rubbing sore heads, knees, and elbows, looking visibly relieved that they had escaped with their lives.
“I don’t know why he’s so mad,” exclaimed Wolfi, a young composer in a white powdered wig, slowly rising and picking up the pages of a musical score that had begun to scatter in the wind.
“Right!” cried his companion, Roli, an opera singer whose head was crowned with a mop of curly black hair, now dripping with mud. “All we did was have a few beers and sing a little. And very well, I might add. We provided entertainment for the patrons of the tavern. He should be thanking us! We should have been paid!” he said, rising with some difficulty.
“Well, we did dance on the table tops, and maybe sort of broke one or two,” conceded Wolfi.
“And then there were those beer steins!” added Roli. “Didn’t they make great projectiles? But it was the karaoke that really got us into trouble. Lesson number one: do not sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to a bunch of drunken old men. It makes them cry in their beer, then they overcompensate by starting a brawl.”
The young men looked at each other and burst into uproarious laughter. It was obvious that this was not the first time that these friends had been similarly escorted from polite establishments, nor was it likely to be the last. As the rain came down harder, Roli picked up the broomstick, and the young men walked, or rather limped, in complete silence for an entire minute, a first for the loquacious pair. “I don’t know, Wolfi,” remarked a suddenly pensive Roli, “we seem to be stuck in a rut, same thing every night.”
“You’re right. Write, sing, party. Write, sing, party. Write, sing, party,” replied his friend.
The young men walked in silence for another minute, when Roli stopped abruptly as though struck by lightning, and his face brightened in a moment that was nothing short of an epiphany. “We need something really different, something important to give purpose to our lives!” he said, turning to his friend and gesticulating wildly. “It must be a cause that is worthy and noble, a cause to which we can devote every fiber of our being!”
“Yes, that’s it!” he thundered. “We need…a QUEST!”
“That’s absurd!” cried Wolfi.
“Right! That’s why we need to do it!” exclaimed his animated friend.
“But, right now, I’m on a quest for some aspirin and a bed,” moaned Wolfi.
“No, think of it, the two of us together on a noble quest!” effused Roli. “But this cause must be truly glorious! Maybe there is a dragon to slay! Or a damsel in distress! Or a precious amulet to be found to restore order to the kingdom! Wolfi, we will become knights! That’s right! Heroes! Doers of great deeds! Of course, the adventures must be full of peril, providing us with ample opportunity to display our unparalleled courage and prowess with weapons.”
“But we’re not knights!” objected Wolfi.
“No problem!” retorted Roli. He held the broomstick up and shook off its mud.
“Kneel, Wolfi!” he commanded his friend. Then with all the gravitas the ceremony demanded, he tapped the broomstick on Wolfi’s right shoulder, then his left shoulder, then the top of his (sore) head.
“I dub thee ‘Don Wolfi of Salzburg!’ Go forth and do great deeds!”
Taking the broomstick from his companion’s hand, Don Wolfi knighted his friend, and with great pomp, solemnly declared, “I dub thee ‘Don Roli of Salzburg’! Dragons of the world, prepare to meet your doom!” Finally beginning to feel enthusiasm for his new-found mission, he effused, “Everything is about to change now! I can feel it! But one last thing. What exactly are we questing for?”
Don Roli quickly responded, “I have no idea! We’ll know it when we see it!”
The knights marched boldly down the street, taking turns wielding the broomstick, which, in their eyes, had been transformed into a glorious weapon, when they saw a small young woman desperately fleeing from an enormous man, who chased her crying with blistering rage, “Come back here, or I’ll…!!” Realizing that this was his first opportunity to put his knighthood to the test, Don Roli quickly grasped the woman by her shoulders and twirled her behind him, shielding her from the raging brute.
“Have no fear, My Lady!” he assured her courageously. “It is I, Don Roli of Salzburg, and I am here to rescue you from this fiend from hell.”
“Huh?” the damsel murmured under her breath. “What a fruit cake.”
Don Wolfi, observing that the woman was holding a large sack full of money behind her back, attempted to catch the attention of his fellow knight, calling, “Roli, wait! This may not be what you think!”
“No, Wolfi!” Don Roli replied. “Clearly, this is a damsel in distress! This brute is attempting to rob this paragon of virtue of her money and no doubt her honor as well! Nothing can deter me from my just cause!”
Don Roli turned to his formidable opponent and proclaimed, “Sir, I am Don Roli of Salzburg, well, actually, Don Roli of Mexico City, but I’m already in a time warp, which is confusing enough, so I won’t press that detail. Hmmm…where was I? Oh, yes! You, sir, are a villain. You have chosen a bad day to perpetrate such an outrage on this fair lady. I stand before you with The Mighty Broomstick of Doom! Woe unto him who is condemned to taste its wrath!”
The towering giant screamed, “How many beers have YOU had today, buddy? Out of my way! Don’t you see she’s running off with all of the proceeds from the annual bake sale benefitting the Retired Florists of Salzburg, Lodge 27?! She’s robbed us all blind! Quick, catch her! Thief!”
But the young woman gleefully raised the sack of stolen booty on high and escaped, crying, “Thanks for the help, Don Fruit Cake! I couldn’t have done it without you!”
The furious man, now backed by a mob of enraged retired florists armed with petunias, pansies, daisies, and other weapons of mass destruction, turned on Don Roli, who smiled sheepishly, and chirped, “Oops, sorry! We’ll be going now. Have a nice evening.” He backed up slowly, grabbed Don Wolfi’s arm, and yelled, “Run for your life!” They ran like their hair was on fire until they turned into a narrow alley and could no longer hear the man clamoring for revenge and commenting inappropriately about the female members of their families.
Panting, Don Wolfi, exclaimed, “So far this knight business isn’t going so great,” to which Don Roli replied, “Well, we’re just getting started. That was our practice round. It didn’t count. But we’ve made too many enemies here in fair Salzburg. First the tavern-keeper, then the Incredible Hulk, and worst of all, those maniacal retired florists. It’s time to move on. Go home and gather your belongings. I’ll meet you at the city gate at day break. Bring only what you need. Do you have any money?”
“Not much,” replied Don Wolfi.”
“No matter! What is money to two noble knights? We’ll live by our wits and feast on glory!” exclaimed Don Roli.
“But where are we going?” asked Don Wolfi, somewhat concerned.
“Wherever there are great deeds to be done!” boomed Don Roli.
And thus, the young knights errant, inspired by heroic ideals and visions of glory, dedicated themselves to their quest. Indisposed from the previous night’s adventures, however, the young knights were unable to rouse themselves until the afternoon of the following day, when they finally left the city. They had walked for several miles until they reached a dense forest as night began to fall. Weary and hungry, they stopped to rest. After a moment of silence, Don Wolfi said, “You know, being on a quest sure makes a guy work up an appetite. Right now I’d like to go on a quest for some nice wiener schnitzel and a Heineken.”
“Great, you just had to say it, didn’t you!” cried a famished Don Roli. “It looks like we’ll have to turn to nature to provide for us.” Just then, he caught a glimpse of something moving down the road. “There!” he exclaimed. “A deer! Go get it, Wolfi!”
“And what do you expect me to do, chromatically harmonize it to death?” he asked. “And besides, I can’t eat Bambi! The horror…the horror!”
Don Roli conceded that such an act would be unspeakable. Not a moment later, Don Wolfi whispered, “Shh, look behind that tree! A rabbit! That would be easy to catch!”
Don Roli turned to his friend and cried with the utmost moral indignation, “Eat Bugs Bunny? Never! I’d rather die of hunger!”
As they spoke, they observed that the motionless rabbit was staring at them with an air of zen-like tranquility. “Wolfi, don’t panic,” said Don Roli in a voice that barely concealed his rising dread. “I think that bunny looks kind of…psychotic….OK, stay calm. Look him straight in the eye. Don’t make any sudden movements. They can smell fear.” Just then, the rabbit turned quickly to retreat into the forest, which the fledgling knights interpreted as an all out attack on their persons, with a gruesome end awaiting them. They prudently escaped up a nearby tree.
Once they felt all danger was past, they climbed down, visibly shaken. “That was a close one!” cried Don Wolfi. “Monty Python warned us about the dangers of killer rabbits, but nothing can prepare you for the moment when you lock eyes with The Psycho Bunny! Did you see the soft fluffy tail on that monster?” he asked his fellow escapee.
“We’re lucky to be alive!” exclaimed Don Roli. “Just think: we could have been…tickled to death! Oh, what a way to go!”
They both shuddered.
Hungrier than ever, they changed tactics, wisely electing to avoid any creature with four legs, or two for that matter. They foraged for whatever edibles they could find, but after a considerable amount of time, all that they were able to gather was a few weeds, some sour berries, and tree bark.
“There!” exclaimed Don Roli. “A meal fit for a king!” Don Wolfi gazed pathetically at their dinner, and lamented, “You expect me to eat weeds and tree bark?”
“My noble friend,” responded Don Roli brightly, “It is not what we are eating, but rather our perception of what we are eating that matters. In the words of Hamlet, ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.’ “
“Fine, then Hamlet can have my tree bark,” grumbled Don Wolfi.
“I admit it could use some salsa,” conceded Don Roli. “Look, no one said this was going to be easy. A little hardship will toughen us up and prepare us for slaying dragons!” As they sat by the roadside enjoying their feast, they observed two men of rough aspect approach them on horseback.
Don Wolfi greeted them cheerfully, “Oh, you must be pilgrims! Or are you knights, too, like us? Have you found any dragons that need to be slain? Could you direct us to them?”
The “pilgrims” dismounted and drew their pistols, crying, “Stand and deliver!”
Don Roli turned to Don Wolfi, perplexed: “What does that even mean?”
His friend quickly responded, “How should I know? Maybe they’re requesting alms for the poor! You’re the one who’s gotten us into this big mess! ‘Let’s be knights! Let’s go on a quest!’ you said, Einstein. First, I barely escape being mauled by The Psycho Bunny from Hell, then I’m eating tree bark, and now we’re about to be robbed at gunpoint…or blown to kingdom come!”
The thieves lowered their pistols and stared at each other: “What planet are these guys off of?” they wondered. The knights continued to debate over who was responsible for their dire predicament, when one of the highwaymen pointed his pistol skyward and fired one shot. “Stop arguing! OK, let’s try this again: we are highwaymen! Rough, rough highwaymen! And we mean to separate you from your possessions! Our hearts are hard as flint. Do not provoke us any further, or you’ll pay with your puny lives!”
The knights raised their arms, and Don Roli somehow summoned the courage to ask the highwaymen, “Do you believe in life after death?”
Completely taken aback, one of the highwaymen, Fred by name, responded, “What? Life after death? Why do you ask?”
Don Roli continued, “Well, it looks like that’s where I’m headed, so I was just curious.”
Highwayman Fred scratched his head and responded, “I don’t know. I guess I never really thought of it that much.” He turned to his fellow highwayman and asked, “What do you think, Bob?”
“I know there’s a hell because I’m living it right now,” moaned Bob.
“Now, Bob, don’t be flippant. The boy asked us a legitimate question, and, as responsible highwaymen, we owe him an answer.”
“True,” conceded Bob. “Well, in that case, I would have to say ‘no,’ because if there is, we’re all in big trouble.”
“So you don’t believe in the existence of God,” replied Fred.
“I didn’t say that,” retorted Bob quickly.
“But isn’t it implied if you don’t believe in an afterlife?” asked Fred.
“Not at all,” reasoned Bob. “You’re thinking of the question in terms of a traditional Judeo-Christian religious construct, but I’m considering this from the epistemological standpoint of Kant, who argued that the existence of God can be deduced from the existence of good.”
“If you drag Kant into this, we’ll be here all night,” lamented Fred.
As the two highwaymen engaged in their esoteric conversation, the ingenious knights quickly glanced at one another, then slowly and quietly began retreating until they were out of sight of the highwaymen.
“Nice work!” exclaimed Don Wolfi. “The old ‘Life after Death’ ploy. It’s the oldest trick in the book! I can’t believe they fell for it! High five!” Once again, they dissolved into gales of laughter until they collapsed onto the ground, begging each other for mercy.
“You know, we still haven’t pooled our resources,” observed Don Roli, who thought it was time to get back to business. The young knights emptied their pockets, the contents of which, when combined, consisted of precisely $3.47, a yo-yo, and a piece of string.
“A treasure trove!” rejoiced Don Roli.
“I’ve also brought with me this score I’ve been working on…it’s a role I’ve written just for you!” beamed Don Wolfi. “It’s called Lucio Silla, and it’s the story of this nasty Roman tyrant, so I knew the part was yours, and yours alone!”
The cacophony of their laughter resonated throughout the forest as the young men proceeded on their way. The merry sound grew more and more faint until they disappeared around the bend in the road on their journey into the unknown.
To be continued….