Albums

Man of La Mancha – Studio Cast Recording 1996

Man of La Mancha – Studio Cast Recording 1996

Listen

Synopsis

The scene is Seville, Spain, at the end of the 16th century. Miguel de Cervantes, prisoner of the Inquisition, descends a staircase to the common room of a prison. Thin and tall, in his late 40s, he is accompanied by a captain of the Inquisition, a group of soldiers and his chubby manservant, who is carrying a trunk. Around the room, the other inmates sit or wander, one dancing, one playing a guitar. The soldiers leave, and the other prisoners attack Cervantes and his servants, stealing their goods. One inmate, the Governor, asks why Cervantes has been imprisoned. “I am a poet,” Cervantes says. A poet, a playwright and an actor. But he is in prison because he is to appear before the Inquisition. He was a tax collector, and he foreclosed on a church because the law said to treat everyone equally. But before there is to be an Inquisition, there will be a different kind of trial, the Governor says: “No one enters or leaves this prison without being tried by his fellow prisoners.” The verdict will be guilty, and the fine is all the new man’s possessions. Cervantes offers them the contents of the trunk, which is full of theatrical costumes and properties, and asks only that he be allowed to keep one large package. The Governor at first thinks the package is valuable but then sees it is merely paper. It is the manuscript of a book Cervantes is writing. The Governor goes to throw the manuscript in the fire, but Cervantes stops him and demands the trial. He will plead guilty, but will offer a defense because the jury may choose to be lenient. “I shall impersonate a man,” he says, beginning to put on the appropriate makeup. “Enter into my imagination and see him. His name is Alonso Quijana . . . a country squire, no longer young. Bony and hollow-faced . . . eyes that burn with the fire of inner vision.” Quijana – and Cervantes, too – shall become a knight-errant and go forth into the world to right all wrongs. He shall become Don Quixote de La Mancha – I, Don Quixote. Don Quixote and his servant, Sancho Panza, set out along a road, which to Sancho looks like the way to EI Toboso, where you can buy chicken soup. But the Don informs him that “like beauty, my friend, ’tis all in the eyes of the beholder.” He warns Sancho of his enemy, the Great Enchanter, whose “thoughts are cold and his spirit shriveled.” One day they shall meet in battle. They encounter a windmill, which Quixote thinks is a monstrous giant. He attacks, only to find that his sword has become a corkscrew. Undaunted, he and Sancho head to an inn, which to Quixote is a great castle. The inn is full of rough men – Muleteers – and rough women. One woman, Aldonza, is a cook who specializes in all pleasures of the senses, and she and the men sing of their lives and their relationships – It’s All The Same. Enter Quixote, seeking the lord of the castle. He espies Aldonza, to him a “sweet lady . . . fair virgin” whose glory the whole world shall know under her “real” name – Dulcinea. The scene reverts to the prison, as Cervantes now tells of Alonso Quijana’s family and friends: the Don’s niece, Antonia, his housekeeper and the local Padre, who are worried about Quijana and the effect his madness will have on their futures and their fortunes – I’m Only Thinking Of Him. Antonia’s fiancée, Doctor Sanson Carrasco, “a man of breeding . . . intelligence . . . logic,” arrives and declares that “your uncle is the laughing stock of the entire neighborhood” and “there is a certain embarrassment at having a madman in the family.” They vow to wean the poor old man from his madness. Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Don Quixote has sent Sancho with a missive for Aldonza, for “it is imperative that each knight shall have a lady – for a knight without a lady is like a body without a soul.” In the letter, Quixote asks for a “token of thy fair esteem that I may carry as my standard into battle.” Instead of the customary scarf, Aldonza provides her filthy, torn dishcloth and asks Sancho why he follows this madman. Sancho’s reply is simple: “I Really Like Him.” Aldonza leaves and takes a bucket to the well, wondering What Does He Want Of Me? The Muleteers eye her lasciviously, singing a song to her pleasures – Little Bird, Little Bird. The Padre and Doctor Carrasco arrive, hoping to cure Quixote. There are no giants, they tell him, no kings under enchantment, no knights. “These are the facts,” the doctor says. But Quixote will have none of it. “Facts are the enemy of truth,” he says. Sancho returns and offers Quixote the dishcloth; he accepts it with reverence . A Barber enters, singing of his profession (Barber’s Song) and encounters the knight. Quixote demands the Barber’s brass shaving basin, which the knight sees as the Golden Helmet Of Mambrino. “When worn by one of noble heart,” Quixote says, the helmet makes him “invulnerable to all wounds.” The Padre crowns Quixote with the helmet, to which has been attached his longed-for dishcloth. Quixote asks the Innkeeper to dub him a knight; the Innkeeper agrees to do so at sunrise. “There is either the wisest madman or the maddest wise man in the world,” the Padre says. But the doctor is unappeased. Quixote is mad, the doctor says, and they must find a cure. “The cure,” the Padre says. “May it be not worse than the disease – To Each His Dulcinea. As Quixote, lance in hand, contemplates “this historic night,” Aldonza returns and asks him why he calls her Dulcinea. That is not her name; she is Aldonza, “and I think you know me not.” Quixote demurs: “All my years I have known thee,” he says. “Thy virtue, Thy nobility of spirit.” He asks to serve her, to hold her in his heart, “that I may dedicate each victory and call upon her in defeat.” Unnerved, she asks why he does “these ridiculous . . . the things you do.” “It is,” he says, “only that I follow the quest” – The Impossible Dream. “Would you look at me as I really am?” she asks again. “I see beauty,” he replies. “Purity. I see the woman each man holds secret within him. Dulcinea.” Pedro, one of the Muleteers, returns. He is angry because Aldonza has not gone to bed, and he slaps her. Quixote, furious, attacks him. The other Muleteers arrive to join the fray. Aldonza grabs Quixote’s sword and knocks Pedro down. The brawl continues, and the Muleteers are routed. “Victory!” Quixote shouts. The Innkeep comes on the scene and sees that Quixote is hurt. He berates the Don for disturbing the peace of his inn and demands that he leave. Quixote says he will depart at daylight but reminds the Innkeeper of his promise: to dub him a knight – The Dubbing. “It is customary to grant the new knight an added name,” Quixote says; the Innkeeper glances at the old man’s face and instantly knows what that title must be – Knight Of The Woeful Countenance. Quixote leaves, and Aldonza goes to minister to the wounds of the Muleteers. But, furious at losing the battle, they vengefully and brutally rape her. Far away, Quixote is rhapsodically praising his noble Dulcinea “Let this be proof to thee, Sancho,” he says. “Nobility triumphs. Virtue always prevails. Suddenly he falters. The scene shifts to the prison. Quixote reverts to the persona of Cervantes. He has heard the sound of the Inquisition; are they coming for him? But no, this time it is for someone else. The Governor urges him to go on with his defense. One prisoner wonders why poets are so fascinated with madmen. “I suppose,” Cervantes replies, “we have much in common.” In his years on Earth, the author says, he has seen life as it is: “Pain, misery, hunger . . . cruelty beyond belief.” “When life itself seems lunatic,” he adds, “who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness . . . Too much sanity may be madness . . . Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” And again he is Don Quixote, who next encounters a Moorish Girl. She entices him, but he sees only innocence as her companions steal all of his possessions. He and Sancho are forced to return to the inn. Aldonza, bruised and in tatters, bitterly talks of Quixote’s “madness and lies.” He vows to punish all those who committed the crime. “You know the worst crime of all?” Aldonza retorts. “Being born. For that you get punished your whole life.” And she tells of her difficult existence – Aldonza. Suddenly, there is the sound of trumpets. A knight arrives, wearing “a chain-mail tunic on which are mounted tiny mirrors that glitter and dazzle the eye.” It is the Knight of Mirrors, who calls for Quixote. “Thou art no knight, but a foolish pretender,” the mirrored vision says accusingly. Quixote is furious. It is the Enchanter, he says, his sworn enemy, and he prepares to do battle. But the knight’s shield is polished steel, a mirror that blinds and confuses Quixote. “Look in the mirror of reality and behold things as they truly are,” the knight says. “A madman dressed for a masquerade . . . See the clown.” Quixote is defeated, and his freedom is forfeit. But the Knight of Mirrors is not the Enchanter; he is Doctor Carrasco, who has perpetrated his “cure.” Back in prison, the Captain of the Inquisition enters and warns Cervantes that he will soon be summoned by the judges. The Governor asks Cervantes to finish the story. It is done, Cervantes says. But the Governor and the inmates announce that they do not like the ending and begin to pronounce their own sentence. “Wait,” Cervantes says. “Let me improvise.” And he continues. Don Quixote, Alonso Quijana, is in bed, dying, his mind “retreated to some secret place.” It is hopeless. Sancho wishes to speak to him, “a few words . . . to lighten his heart” – A Little Gossip. Quixote speaks. He is Alonso Quijana, and he would like to make a will. Aldonza forces her way into the room, demanding to see Quixote. He does not recognize her or remember her name. “Please,” she says, “try to remember” – Dulcinea (Reprise). His mind stirs. “Then perhaps,” he says, “it was not a dream.” And they recall his quest – The Impossible Dream (Reprise). He tries to stand and asks for his armor and his sword (I, Don Quixote – Reprise), but falls to the ground, dead. The Padre prays for him – The Psalm. Aldonza urges Sancho to believe in the dream. “My name is Dulcinea,” she says. Hearing the drums of the Inquisition, Don Miguel de Cervantes is summoned to “submit his person for purification.” The Governor hands him the package, the history of his mad knight. “I think Don Quixote is brother to Don Miguel,” the Governor says. “God help us,” Cervantes replies, smiling. “We are both men of La Mancha” – Finale.

Credits

Don Quixote (Cervantes): Placido Domingo Sancho Panza: Mandy Patinkin Aldonza: Julia Migenes Antonia (Don Quixote’s niece): Carolann Page Padre: Jerry Hadley Housekeeper: Rosalind Elias Barber: Robert White Innkeeper: Samuel Ramey Anselmo: Plácido Domingo, Jr. Pedro: Alvaro Domingo Muleteers: The Concert Chorale of New York (Jacqueline Pierce, Artistic Advisor) Tenors: James Bassi, Rodne Brown, Daniel Egan, Michael Hume Basses: Roger Andrews, James Bingham, Julian Long, Joseph Neal