Those dreams that never die|
you live on them and so do I.
--Anubis, in The Second Mrs Kong, Act I Scene 1
THE SECOND MRS KONG (1994)
An Original Opera
The artwork for Second Mrs Kong from the
Glyndebourne Touring Opera's 1994 program
A brief synopsis: Act One begins on an island in the world of shadows where the dead live. Anubis the jackal-headed boatman arrives, and the dead emerge from the shadows. They include Eurydice, Orpheus, a former beauty queen named Inanna, her spiritual advisor Swami Zumzum, a film producer named Mr. Dollarama, and Vermeer. Kong, too, is here, trying to "work out what he is." It's the idea of Kong, we discover, who's present: not a dead ape, but a live idea. But an idea can't be killed, so what's he doing in the realm of the dead? The dead replay fragments of their remembered lives, and eventually they decide to experience a memory together: Vermeer's first meeting with Pearl, the Vermeer Girl who will pose for his famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. (Pearl is a favorite obsession of Mr. Hoban's, and her symbolism is explored with great detail in The Medusa Frequency and Fremder.) During this encounter, Vermeer hands Pearl a mirror, and she has a vision of Kong in the shadows of the future. The idea of Kong hears her voice as well, and begins to yearn for her.
In scene two, an especially striking and witty scene, Pearl manages to hook up with Kong via video link/computer chat. In scene three, the other dead look on and consider their own memories. Kong decides to pursue Pearl in the land of the living: he grabs Orpheus for a pilot and steals Anubis' boat. "Go for it," cry the dead as Act One ends.
Pearl and Kong meet via videolink: poster art
I have looked at many reproductions of Girl With a Pearl Earring; several are before me now as I write, and I know that what happens with these is what would happen with the original: no matter how steadily I look at her I cannot see her continuously; she is like music, always partly now and partly remembered. In her look is the terror of Creation, in her eyes a question that can never be answered; on her lips a word never to be spoken. Of course the lost and lonely child that is the idea of Kong will cross the soul's dark sea to find her, and it is in the nature of things that these two predestined lovers can never have each other. But it is the longing for what cannot be that moves the world from night to morning.
The program cover from
Glydebourne Touring Opera's
MR DOLLARAMA: What's up with Kong?
ANUBIS: He's been here since 1933 and he's still trying to work out what he is.
SWAMI ZUMZUM: The answer to this question is that we are that which asks this question. A stitch in time saves nine.
MR DOLLARAMA: The trouble with Kong is that he's not actually an ape.
ANUBIS: The trouble with Kong is that he's not actually dead.
SWAMI ZUMZUM: Death and life, what are they but names for a mystery that has no name! You never miss the water till the well runs dry!
INANNA: In the film it was a puppet that they killed, a puppet only. The real Kong is an idea that will not die, an idea that will never, never die.
MR DOLLARAMA: An idea of what?
ANUBIS: That's what he's trying to work out.
MR DOLLARAMA: But if he's a living idea why is he here among the dead?
ANUBIS: Back in 1933 it wasn't that easy to tell the difference between a live idea and a dead ape.
MIRROR: It is not love that moves the world from night to morning, it is not love that makes the new day dawn.
PEARL: Not love?
MIRROR: No. It is the longing for what cannot be,...
PEARL: The longing for what cannot be?
MIRROR: The longing for what cannot be. The world needs the power of your yearning, the world needs the power of your love that cannot be fulfilled.
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