"Attention, attention! Unknown flying objects from another planet and creatures
identified so far only as Globolinks, have landed on Earth. All citizens
are asked to remain calm. Be on your guard. Stay tuned for further broadcasts.
THE GLOBOLINKS ARE HERE!"
A scene from some science fiction movie? It certainly could have been; the
admonition is so familiar but, no, this is the opening spoken narrative that
follows some evocative night skies, space-sweeping and reminiscent-of-schooldays
orchestral music in Menotti's space-age opera for children of all ages,
Help, Help, The Globolinks. Composed in 1968 and first performed in
Hamburg, this is it's first recording. Menotti's music for
...Globolinks is appealing and accessible and often very amusing.
The opera has a message that should be heeded in every school.
Amusing electronics characterise the Globolinks. The opening scene has them
gathering around a school bus. They are about to converge on the children
when they are repulsed by the sound of the horn. The children awaken and
are alarmed but Tony, the bus driver, tries to comfort them. Then they learn
from the bus radio that the Globolinks are at large and that they are frightened
of the sound of musical instruments. However, all the children, who are returning
to school after their holidays, had left their instruments at school except
for Emily who is persuaded to go to the school for help from the teachers,
playing her violin as she goes to protect her against the Globolinks. Tony,
sung commandingly and heroically by tenor David Small, has a memorable aria
as he persuades Emily to go and find help, "Let music clear your path..."
His aria is broadened out to include the children's voices and he sings in
counterpoint to them as they urge Emily to "Make arrows of your scales; pierce
the night with your bow..." Emily (beautifully sung by Erin Windle) replies
with an equally enchanting aria, "Farewell, my friends... After brave Emily
departs, we hear a lovely interlude with a prominent part for the violin.
This interlude, and its preceding conclusion to Scene I, is the high point
of the opera.
Scene II opens with the Globolinks' electronic music but we are now at the
school where the Dean is worried about the whereabouts of the children. Where
is the school bus? Timothy, his dim-witted school custodian is no help. Then
the Dean's concern is inflamed by the entrance of the school's music teacher
Mme Euterpova who is threatening to resign because the children are not receiving
any encouragement from the Dean to study music and she deplores the fact
that they had all gone on holiday without taking their instruments to practise
on. "You do not know the power of music", she admonishes him. "That's what
is wrong with the world! It has forgotten how to sing!" But the Dean remains
unconcerned and Mme Euterpova (sung with real shrewish relish by Rachel Joselson)
sweeps out but not before she lets us know that she is in love with him.
From the radio we hear that musical instruments are the only defence against
the Globolinks who can penetrate walls and doors but the Dean thinks it is
all nonsense and, now exhausted, he dozes off. A Globolink enters and touches
him. At once he begins to change into a Globolink himself for he looses his
voice and only electronic sounds come from his mouth much to the concern
of Timothy who calls on the teachers to help him. They recognise the problem
and resolve to collect up the instruments and go off to rescue the children.
Timothy finds a tuba and discovers that it's tune can kill Globolinks. Mme
Euterpova takes charge of the situation and after reversing the "spell" on
the Dean in getting him to sing one note - "La", the teachers go off on their
quest stirringly singing "Musicians unite, let the trumpet blaze..."
After another interlude contrasting the eerie danger of the Globolinks with
the heroic theme of the rescuers, with important parts for piccolo and tuba,
we are back with the children now cowering in the shadow of their bus because
the Globolinks are becoming more and more daring and they will soon overcome
the children. Tony, the bus driver, encourages the children to sing the school
song to keep up their spirits but the Globolinks seem to be just enraged
by it (a nice ironic touch which will appeal to many school children) Just
as all seems lost, the teachers appear and the Globolinks retreat. After
rejoicings, a roll call of the children reveals Emily still missing. Everyone
goes off armed with their instruments in search of her, led by the Dean who
can now fly. An amusing orchestral march accompanies them
Scene four is set in the forest. Emily is lost; she is surrounded by Globolinks.
Menotti here gives us a haunting violin melody and Emily sings plaintively
"I still cannot find the way...but I must play on." She has to rest and falls
asleep. A Globolink picks up her violin but its sound frightens him away.
Alas he drops it in his hasty retreat and it is broken. Emily is distraught
because she now has no protection. But then Dr Stone, the Dean, appears.
Emily cannot understand why he keeps on singing La, then she is frightened
when he turns completely into a Globolink and flies away. At this point the
rescue party arrives to save Emily. Mme Euterpova is philosophical about
the loss of her Dean but decides she should now look for another husband.
She then says that a lesson should be learnt from the day's events. And to
another splendidly affecting Menotti theme (rather Elgarian nobilmente) she
sings, "Unless we keep music in our soul, a hand of steel will clasp our
hearts and we shall live by clocks and dials instead of air and sun and sea.
Make music with your hands, make music with your breath." In a miscalculation
- an understandable miscalculation - yet a sad error of taste, this laudable
sentiment is brushed aside by another teacher's admonition that the message
is boring. The opera then draws to a close as the cast departs but isn't
that a wee Globolink following them?
A completely charming little production which I recommend unreservedly and
I hope that many more productions are staged for children.
Footnote: Composer, librettist, and conductor, Gian Carlo Menotti was born
in Cadegliano in Italy in 1911 but has lived mainly in America and Scotland.
He studied at Milan Conservatoire from 1924-27 and then on Toscanini's advice
at the Curtis Institute where he met and formed a lifelong friendship with
Samuel Barber. He has worked mainly in the field of opera and is best remembered
for his opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. Other successes have
included The Consul and The Medium.