This is the original libretto of the opera by Sebastian Schloessingk. An Italian translation of the libretto, by Susanna Basso, Sebastian Schloessingk and myself, was used for the Lugo performance.

INTRODUCTION
Cottongrass

CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
      Once upon a…
princess   princess  
    Look she’s  
playing, I’m      
    playing  
      again
  in the meadows    
near home      
    the lovely meadows  
in my little white gown      
  her crown and her    
    gold heart on a chain  
      When out of
the forest, look!      
  an elk! an elk! an elk!
an elk!      
    no fear  
It’s coming! Look      
  How big!    
    and its muzzle  
I’m stroking! Mum! I’m…      
  stroking    
      the big strong elk
Can I go with you? Can I go with you?    
      but all the dangers
but I want to see      
  the world the world  
      the dangers
and you      
  will protect me    
       
    the elk thought and said the elk thought and said
OK OK OK OK
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
yes!      
  cool!    
Mum! The elk      
  says so    
[PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE]
      the elk
and me      
  go on a journey go on a journey  
      into the forest
  the hills    
    and softlands  
forest hills softlands forest
  going through all    
funny places      
    a tufted marsh  
      Careful princess
  it’s full of    
funny people      
      Careful dear
What are they, elk?      
      Elves. They’re elves
elves! elves!    
    pretend  
  they’re not there    
    Who are you, who…? [quiet]  
      Careful now
  what’s your name? what’s your name? [getting louder]  
  Come on, what’s…? Come on, what’s…?  
no!      
      Careful princess!
  your name? Who are…?  
Hey, help, my crown!      
  Got it [delayed echo] Got it [delayed echo]  
Help!      
  And keep it And keep it  
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
  First Time Around First Time Around First Time Around
  The Princess Lost Her Crown The Princess Lost Her Crown The Princess Lost Her Crown
[PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE]
  Then in the marsh    
    an island where  
My Elkie lives      
    please  
let me sleep      
  the princess put    
near to you      
  her gown on a tree    
    and slept and slept
    naked  
because the elk      
  is keeping    
    watch  
  and the next day    
  the princess said the princess said  
I’ll go bare      
  naked naked naked
all day and      
  hold the gown    
    in her hand  
      Careful dear
I want to see      
  more and more    
    of the world  
and up      
  she goes    
      and the elk runs
  like the wind like the wind like the wind
yes!      
  cool!    
    into the wood  
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
      your head down!
  so fast    
    watch the branches! watch the branches!
Ow!      
    the branches  
  whip the princess whip the princess  
slow down, elk!      
  down slows the elk    
      [audible breath]
    moss and lichen  
  on the stones    
    like a rug  
all the colours all the colours all the colours all the colours
      [audible breath]
but it is      
  spooky    
what’s that      
      moving
  there and    
    there, it’s  
      haunted, deary
behind the trees      
  its eyes    
    ice green  
      A haunted wood
and mouth      
  blood red    
    witch [flat quiet]  
      of the wood
  careful! careful!  
      Hallo!
      what’s your name?
[silence]      
      little girl!
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
Cottongrass      
  It’s Cottongrass    
      And what a lovely
  careful (whisper) careful (whisper)  
      dress. Do let me
no      
      the material
       
  Don’t! (whisper) Don’t! (whisper)  
      Go on
  Don’t! Don’t!  
      Just let me
  Don’t! Don’t!  
      touch, look, just
Go on then      
      Hmmm
Now give it      
      not bad
back, I said      
      ha! ha! [violent, harsh]
    too late  
      ha! ha! [diminuendo]
  And the second time around And the second time around And the second time around
  She lost her gown She lost her gown She lost her gown
[PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE] [PAUSE]
  She didn’t like that    
Not fair      
      Even the elk
  was angry about it    
    But they pressed on  
Not fair      
  till night    
    ever deeper  
      into the forest
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
  and when the sun    
    found them out  
  the girl is asleep    
    trusting and naked  
      again
  and the elk    
    unsleeping  
      keeping an eye
wakes me up      
  wake up!    
where we going?      
    It is the time  
      the pool
What pool?      
    No human  
      has ever
  seen it    
What pool?      
  Deep    
    in the forest  
    the leafy pool the leafy pool
  we’ll soon be there    
it’s so dark      
  what is?    
the water      
    careful  
  all the princess    
    is wearing now  
      her golden heart
  on a chain    
    I gave to her  
my little chain      
      careful dear
Look if I look      
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
  down into the pool    
    don’t  
      you can see
my little heart      
  getting closer    
    to the dark  
shiny      
      pool
  careful!    
Oops!      
  I knew it    
    I gave it  
my little heart!      
    sidling down  
      to the bottom
my little heart!      
  of course of course of course
I want it      
    it’s gone it’s gone
where is it?      
    forget it  
it’s there!      
  forget it forget it  
somewhere, Elk!      
      what is it?
Find it!      
      Can’t
Elk! Elk!      
      What is it?
Don’t go      
  Then come Then come Then come
But elk!      
    Then come [quieter]  
But elk!      
CHILD GIRL WOMAN OLD WOMAN
      What is it?
But elk!      
      [silence]
But elk…[quiet]      


PARTING

Girl Woman 1
soprano, mezzo-soprano

body body body body
body body body
body body
add!
body
head
body
head
body goes to the head
to the head
head head
add! add!
heart
oh heart
body body
to the head
heart
and! and!
regret
heart regret
body regret
and! and!
add! add!
sex
sex
head sex
head
sex
heart
regret
head sex
her sex

Girl Woman 2
soprano, basso

body body body body
body
add!
hope
body body
body
body

hope hope
hope
hope
weight
hope
hope
weight sex
sex weight
her sex
head sex
sex sex sex
her sex
weight hope
sex sex sex
her sex
head
sex
heart
regret
heart!
sex weight sex weight
heart!
weight sex weight sex
heart

Couple Talk
Woman, Man
mezzo-soprano, baritone

Let’s play that game…

Can I come in?
It suits you, it really…
Let’s play that game…
I prefer you
Amazing meal
Leave me alone

Ooh cold feet
Course I do
Let’s talk, right?
Big or little?
Just give me some reasons
You’re so good to me

Satisfied?
About when you were a child…
You go
So? So?

If you ever fucking…
Remember that time…

She’s pretty, isn’t she?
Don’t be like, don’t…

Is that supposed to be a joke?
Come on, we’re late
You’re mad, you’re fucking…
Put your hand
Where you ringing from?
OK you can look
Do you never ever stop to think…
Because you are an exception
Is it for me?

Relax, take it easy…
Your father would turn…
So what did you make of them?
Because I’m crying

You’re so impolite
But I like to touch

If you’ll let me finish…

Darling, don’t worry, OK?

He’s only my friend
Nothing, nuh-thing

You talk so much crap
Sleep now, sleep

Your turn, go on
And shut the door
Feeling better?
Here we go, over and over
The keys, where the pissing…?
It’s your lover
And don’t wake me up
Give me time, OK?

I don’t believe it
Can we turn over?

Yeah yeah

So where to this year?
Shut the fuck…
I like it when you…

Who says?
It’s cosy
Listen, you have your friends and…
Look at that view
I could fucking sue..
Let’s stay in bed
You do what you want
Don’t answer it
No need to shout
‘Cos I’m fond, I’m really…
Keep doing that
For you or for me?
[pause]
Men.

Yes, I do care
Stop looking at yourself, will you?
And your first boyfriend?
I’m reading. Reading.
Look at me will you
So. Did you like the film?
Where’ve you been?
Who was that?
[pause]
Peace I want peace

You’re just a bastard.
Tell them the story
Words words words
Don’t give me that
Just a goodnight kiss
I like your body
You’re looking tired
Cunt.
Don’t change the subject
I’ve always known
Go fuck somebody else
Why are we stopping?
What about your mother?
Because I say so
Look, it’s still dirty
Are you being sarcastic?
The old wonderbra
You’re so stupid
How much did it cost?
Don’t ever use that word in my hearing…
At least I tried
Not like that
It’s your bare tummy, drives me…
How could you
Words words words
Well, look after yourself
Don’t be pathetic
Your hands. Is what I noticed first
Is this a wind-up?
Typical fucking woman
Brilliant
You’re getting fatter
Didn’t you once said you loved me?

O.K.! O.K.!
I was worried about you

You fucking try
Let’s, yeah, come on, let’s…

The things we…
Go. Go. Go. Go!

And then?

Those legs of yours
Get out of my life
Answer the question
Just like your fucking family
You look so young
Just piss off, leave…
We can’t afford it
It’s my body
You never talk like…
You’re lying again
Promise?
And then you rang
Don’t touch me
Shush, I know, I know
The night we were talking…
Men just need to
Let me breathe
That’s great, that’s perfect
Inside or out?

You choose
No really you were the best-looking…
Don’t pressurize me OK?
A bit higher… a bit lower…
You’re all arseholes

Girl Woman 3
soprano, basso

heart heart
heart heart
sex
sex
regret
body regret
body
sex regret
body
body regret
sex
body
head
body body body
head
body body body
body
hope
body body
regret
body body
regret
body body
hope
body body
body body
and! and!
trees
sex and!
trees
heart weight
trees sex
trees heart
trees
trees


EDGE

Ironic Chorus
singers
Woman, Man

So, the woman has started.
Fat hope.
What’s she after?
She is ill-advised.
But she is not happy.
Strange to say.
And will she get happy like this?
Who can tell?
Who can say?
But we say , fat hope.
But she is not happy.
And who can blame her?
We can, we blame her.
Who are you?
We men.
Which men?
The new men.
Who?
Who try.
We’ve read about you.
And about her?
She’s out there and who knows?
Search me. Search me. Search me. Search me.

Monologue
Woman

I’m speaking to no-one
It was so hard to go that I couldn’t.
It was goodbye to all that built…
Inviting, protecting and unreal.
I didn’t fit, I did not fit.
What I came up with was mostly nothing.
The way it went, I was the enemy.
To them and to me and…
An enemy learning to see, I suppose.
In the night, or asleep.
I could see but I couldn’t move.
You’d say it had the shape of trees.
When I went, which I did.
If it wasn’t such crap.
I’m told it’s crap.
What I was after.
And a long time till their voices…
Gave me the space.
Space, and difficulty.
Trees for women, is different.
But not to say, that’s not to say…


COMING BACK

Third Voice
Woman

I don’t know, I’m so far behind it
You’re very quiet. I like that
But it’s not easy to have been
You won’t see many, of the things, you just won’t
Don’t look at me like that, like all alone. We both are
Anyway you wouldn’t appreciate … where
You’re so far away, your eyes are all big and hurt. No, stay there, I’m thinking
I’m thinking. Later, later. I won’t be like this forever
Come here

Song Of The Pool
soprano

Beyond the woods
Whichever way you come
With a harder looking face
There is a pool
Surrounded by woods.
Divided by ripples
If any.
Scarcely broken by
the ripple, or lit.
Loosened ties,
wooden tears
stain my face and spear the water
slum it and clear it.

Wall Of Voices
singers
Woman, Man

Went of her own free will.
Trees shed leaves because of wind.
Didn’t desert him.
Because of the wind otherwise hitting
and knocking the whole body down.
Now I doubt if he exists.
Alone in the forest and going
all animal or one sad human?
Never want to see her again
unless she comes and knocks and says
and not even then.
Think you’ll be snapped out of it
soon enough by B-roads crossing
the wood, saved and saddened? Think again.
It’s not something done with other women.
The B-roads and stretches of sodium lights
have slunk away forever.
I never had the attention span
to read enough into the difference.
A month in nature becomes grotesque.
After a month do you still say ‘I’?
Until I was suddenly casually ready
to sort for myself the moon size problems.
If he calls me here, will I pick it up?
Or pity the repetitive sound
of a small creature no worse than the rest.
It’s not the shadow of the heart you fool.
Group nature? Group nature?
There is less reason to be afraid
even in the night than in the suburbs.
And it’s an outrage when from way off
a face with the right hair turns and refuses.
The wilderness so matter-of-fact.
I am not for him and not against him.
The automatic spurts of animal fright.
If they ever ganged up, but they don’t.
Sunlight is an omission by clouds.
If my footsteps make no noise, what then?
Trees and nerves and lungs and needs…

© Sebastian Schloessingk 1998