Pedrillo Botón

Pedrillo Botón is a chamber opera for an audience of children and adults. The text is adapted and translated into Spanish from The Adventures of Peddy Bottom by Stefan Themerson (1910-1988).


instrumental excerpts

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Nr 1 Prelude 2:19

Nr 2 Narration 1:04

Nr 4 Prof. Camel’s Song 1:25

Nr 5, 7 Interlude and Duet of the Carabineer and His Wife 8:09

Nr 8-9 The Shopkeeper’s Frantic Dance – Crossing the Border 2:31

Nr 12-13 Captain Metapherein’s Sad Story of the Sea and Shipwreck 4:45

Nr 16 Interlude: Entering the Forest 3:17

Nr 17 Mrs Metapherein’s Story of the Shrinking Rain (with Interruptions) 2:32

Nr 18-20 Interlude – Dinner at Mr Wolf’s Restaurant 6:03

Nr 23 Mr Bibazo’s Song about Moving Forward 1:24

Nr 24 Twenty-Four Halberdiers on Their Roaring Motorbikes – At the Prime Minister’s Palace 4:33

Nr 26 Aria-Vocalise of the Prime Minister’s Wife 2:47

The Story

The story of this chamber opera takes place in the land of fables, where humans and animals are persons alike. Walking along the road from one ‘chapter’ to another, Peddy-Pedrillo encounters a series of colourful characters such as a poetry-loving camel, a pompous carabineer, a lachrymose sea captain and his formidable harpist wife, and a wolf who keeps the economy running. Through these encounters he tries to find out who or what he is: no easy task, for all people and animals identify him as something else, and different from them. In the end Peddy-Pedrillo discovers that identity is not a matter of simple labelling: it can be good to be many things at once. The theme of identity and Stefan Themerson’s humorous-ethical outlook make his story highly relevant for today.

But all the men I meet on my way think there is something doggy about me, and all the dogs think there is something human about me, and all the saw-fishes think there is something of a nightingale about me, and all the cats think there is something fishy about me […]. (p. 8-9)

Theatre and Music

The text abounds in opportunities for musical theatre. There are poems, stories and songs, and moments for dance. The Camel-Professor who loves reciting poetry much more than lecturing; the Sea Captain who has told the story of his losses so often that even the trees and the stones can’t take it any more; the Prime Minister’s Wife who is compared to a nightingale: these are ‘operatic’ characters.

Pedrillo Botón is a mixture of narration, spoken dialogue, melodrama and traditional operatic forms. Like the protagonist, it is a bit of every­thing; but nothing else is like all these combined in this specific way. And just as Stefan Themerson’s story is, among other things, an ironic reflection on fairy tale conventions, this ‘opera’ contains its references and reverences to the history of the genre. I have assumed that, just like the book, it will still be enjoyable in a more naïve way, without such ironic awareness.

LM March 2009

[…] a major source of potential conflict in the contemporary world is the presumption that people can be uniquely categorized based on religion or culture. […] A uniquely divisive view goes not only against the old-fashioned belief that all human beings are much the same but also against the less discussed but much more plausible understanding that we are diversely different. Amartya Sen, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Penguin Books 2007)

Stefan Themerson, The Adventures of Peddy Bottom. Drawings by Franciszka Themerson (Amsterdam: Gaberbocchus Press/De Harmonie 2003)