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 performance in Lugo di Ravenna.



   Once upon a…
princess princess 
  Look she’s 
playing, I’m   
 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…   
   the big strong elk
Can I go with you?Can I go with you?  
   but all the dangers
but I want to see   
 the worldthe world 
   the dangers
and you   
 will protect me  
  the elk thought and saidthe elk thought and said
Mum! The elk   
 says so  
   the elk
and me   
 go on a journeygo on a journey 
   into the forest
 the hills  
  and softlands 
 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
 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…? 
   Careful princess!
 your name?Who are…? 
Hey, help, my crown!   
 Got it [delayed echo]Got it [delayed echo] 
 And keep itAnd keep it 
 First Time AroundFirst Time AroundFirst Time Around
 The Princess Lost Her CrownThe Princess Lost Her CrownThe Princess Lost Her Crown
 Then in the marsh  
  an island where 
My Elkie lives   
let me sleep   
 the princess put  
near to you   
 her gown on a tree  
  and sleptand slept
because the elk   
 is keeping  
 and the next day  
 the princess saidthe princess said 
I’ll go bare   
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 windlike the windlike the wind
  into the wood 
   your head down!
 so fast  
  watch the branches!watch the branches!
  the branches 
 whip the princesswhip the princess 
slow down, elk!   
 down slows the elk  
   [audible breath]
  moss and lichen 
 on the stones  
  like a rug 
all the coloursall the coloursall the coloursall the colours
   [audible breath]
but it is   
what’s that   
 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
   what’s your name?
   little girl!
 It’s Cottongrass  
   And what a lovely
 careful (whisper)careful (whisper) 
   dress. Do let me
   the material
 Don’t! (whisper)Don’t! (whisper) 
   Go on
   Just let me
   touch, look, just
Go on then   
Now give it   
   not bad
back, I said   
   ha! ha! [violent, harsh]
  too late 
   ha! ha! [diminuendo]
 And the second time aroundAnd the second time aroundAnd the second time around
 She lost her gownShe lost her gownShe lost her gown
 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
 and when the sun  
  found them out 
 the girl is asleep  
  trusting and naked 
 and the elk  
   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?   
  in the forest 
  the leafy poolthe leafy pool
 we’ll soon be there  
it’s so dark   
 what is?  
the water   
 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   
 down into the pool  
   you can see
my little heart   
 getting closer  
  to the dark 
 I knew it  
  I gave it 
my little heart!   
  sidling down 
   to the bottom
my little heart!   
 of courseof courseof course
I want it   
  it’s goneit’s gone
where is it?   
  forget it 
it’s there!   
 forget itforget it 
somewhere, Elk!   
   what is it?
Find it!   
Elk! Elk!   
   What is it?
Don’t go   
 Then comeThen comeThen come
But elk!   
  Then come [quieter] 
But elk!   
   What is it?
But elk!   
But elk…[quiet]   


Girl Woman 1
soprano, mezzo-soprano

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

Girl Woman 2
soprano, basso

body body body body
body body

hope hope
weight sex
sex weight
her sex
head sex
sex sex sex
her sex
weight hope
sex sex sex
her sex
sex weight sex weight
weight sex weight sex

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

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?

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?
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
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
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
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
body regret
sex regret
body regret
body body body
body body body
body body
body body
body body
body body
body body
and! and!
sex and!
heart weight
trees sex
trees heart


Ironic Chorus
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 try.
We’ve read about you.
And about her?
She’s out there and who knows?
Search me. Search me. Search me. Search me.


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…


Third Voice

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

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
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