A Little Nightmare Music, S. 35

P.D.Q. Bach

Edited by Prof. Peter Schickele
Text: Libretto by Peter Schickele
Duration: 00:20:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The Swedish dramatist August Strindberg, know to his friends as ?Chuckles,? wrote a dream play, but A Little Nightmare Music is, as far as I know, the only dream opera ever written. It is based on an actual dream that P.D.Q. Bach had on the night of December 4, 1791, the night that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died and Antonio Salieri didn?t. (To be precise, Mozart died during the first hour of December 5; I don?t want anybody writing me telling me I don?t know what Mozart?s death-date is). The dying genius is said to have said that his arch-rival Salieri had poisoned him, and that statement has led to a story by Pushkin, an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov, a play by Peter Schaffer, and a firm denial by Salieri.

P.D.Q. Bach started writing A Little Nightmare Music as soon as he woke up that fateful morning, and, in a fit of uncharacteristically concentrated energy, he managed to finish it before the bars closed that evening. When he found out several days later that Mozart had indeed died on the night of his dream, he exclaimed, ?Weit weg!? (?Far out!?) and, ordering a round for everyone in the tavern, offered the following toast: ?Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that Mozart was the greatest billiards player known to me either in person or by name. He had a good eye and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of English.?

The opera was given its first performance at the castle on the outskirts of Wein-am-Rhein belonging to P.D.Q.?s friend and sometime patron, Prince Fred, with the composer playing himself. The fact that he gave himself a silent role tells us something, perhaps, about P.D.Q. Bach?s singing ability. No other performance is known between then and December, 1982, when the present editor staged the work at Carnegie Hall in New York City in a series of performances followed by a recording for Vanguard Records. Thus has this newly-found fuel in the ever-waged controversy surrounding the death of Mozart been preserved for all posterity.

Additional Information

Cast Voices Tenor, Baritone, 2 non-singing roles (1 preferably a violinist)
Editor Schickele, Prof. Peter
Orchestration Strings - to the music of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Conducted by first violinist from part; no full orchestral score. Specially marked string parts on rental. Piano/vocal score for sale
Premiere December, 1982.


I Aria: ?What sweet music?
II Aria: ?Nature gave us eyes?
III Duet: ?Uh oh?
IV Finale: ?What hutzpah!?