Kismet: A Musical Arabian Night – Studio Cast Recording 1991
Act I It is dawn in ancient Baghdad, and outside a mosque a man, the mosque’s Imam, looks at the sky and sings of the fleeting nature of the Sands Of Time. The faithful are called to prayer, and three beggars asleep in front of the mosque are awakened by the noise. It is time to begin work. “Alms for the love of Allah,” they cry. Omar, “an old reprobate of talent and wisdom” arrives and notices the absence of Hajj the Beggar, who has gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca. In the distance a voice is heard: “Rhymes! Fine rhymes.” It is the voice of a penniless Poet, who has come to sell his verses – Rhymes Have I. His daughter, Marsinah, follows him and joins in the sales pitch. But no one is interested in purchasing the verses. “A man can sell anything in the world except verses,” the Poet laments. He asks his daughter if her hunger has grown and she replies that it has, “like a magic tree.” (In a song written for the original production but deleted before it opened, Marsinah sings “My Magic Lamp,” a tribute to her father.) He sends her off to the orange market with a warning not to “take so many that they interfere with your speed of foot.” And he sadly sits on the steps of the mosque. But the beggars reproach him. “You can’t beg in that spot,” one says. It must remain empty until Hajj returns from Mecca. But the Poet reassures them that he is a cousin to Hajj. “The old man never spoke of relatives,” a beggar says. “Noble beggars, how many of you have relatives of whom you are ashamed?” the Poet replies. And the Poet begins to beg, persuading the recalcitrant by placing curses upon them if they refuse to give. “May your taxes increase,” he tells a businessman, who fearfully hands him a coin. The Poet is moved by his success as a beggar and composes a verse, a reflection on his Fate. But he is interrupted by three huge men who believe he is Hajj, throw him to the ground and carry him off. In a tent outside Baghdad, the Poet is brought before Jawan, an aged robber and murderer who threatens to torture him. Fifteen years ago, Jawan says, Hajj placed a curse on him, and soon after, Jawan’s only son was stolen and has not been seen since. Jawan says he will die soon and wishes to see his son before his death. “Remove the curse!” Jawan demands. The Poet, seeing an opportunity for advancement, says he is willing to do so, but it will cost. “A curse must be removed voluntarily,” he says. He haggles, and Jawan gives him a purse with 100 gold pieces. Jawan says he will now go to Baghdad to search for his son, but his assistant, Hassan-Ben, warns him not to enter the city. You will be taken by the police of the dreaded Wazir, Hassan-Ben says, and you will be tortured and beheaded. But Jawan ignores the warning and leaves. “No man may avoid his fate,” he says. “That is Kismet.” Meanwhile, the Poet rejoices at his riches. Back in the city, tradesmen cry their wares to the crowds of eager customers – Bazaar Of The Caravans. Suddenly a trumpet is heard, silence falls on the multitudes and the Wazir’s police make way for their evil master and his wife, the luscious, oil-scented Lalume. She has returned with a loan her husband desperately needs: all the gold ten camels can carry. But as a condition of the transaction, the Wazir must arrange a marriage between the most-high Caliph and the three Princesses of Ababu who have accompanied her. The Princesses perform a dance and tell Lalume they wish to return home. But Lalume assures them that Baghdad “is the world’s greatest playground – there’s been nothing like it for a thousand years” – Not Since Nineveh. The Wazir, Lalume and their retinues leave. An orange merchant enters in pursuit of Marsinah. He twists her arm and demands the return of the oranges he says she has stolen. But before he can beat her, the Poet comes on the scene and knocks him to the ground. Marsinah urges her father to leave before the police arrive. But he smiles and says there is no longer any need to fear the police: he and his daughter are rich. He displays the gold coins and says they now can buy the house and garden they have always desired. And he tells the merchants to set forth their silks and jewels, their “finest garments and sweetest perfumes!” for her delight. Marsinah laughs and sings as the merchants display their products, their Baubles, Bangles And Beads. As she sings, she is seen by the young Caliph, who, accompanied by Omar, has been roaming through the town incognito. He is entranced by her beauty. She departs, and he follows. On a side street, an informer tells the Wazir’s police that he has seen Jawan the brigand skulking through the city. As they leave, the Poet enters with a bevy of scantily dressed slave girls whom he has bought with his newfound riches. But as he cavorts with them playfully, the Wazir’s police return and ask his identity. They are searching for Jawan. The Poet offers to bribe them, but they see that the purse that holds his gold bears the sign of the House of Achmed, which was recently looted by robbers. They arrest him. In a garden in the Widow Yussef’s house, the simple abode that Marsinah and her father have longed for, Marsinah sighs with delight at the thought that it will soon be theirs. The Caliph appears and quietly enters the garden. He tells her he is a gardener. He touches her hand, but she pulls away. “I don’t know why I moved my hand away,” she says. “I didn’t want to.” First Marsinah and then the Caliph sing of their newfound love – Stranger In Paradise. The Caliph, still incognito, says he must leave but asks here to meet him again in the garden, at moonrise. In the street, the Caliph meets his friend Omar and reveals that he has fallen in love. A townswoman overhears the conversation and shares her discovery with the police and others, who sing of what they now know – He’s In Love. At the Wazir’s palace, it is time for the villainous Wazir and his council to administer his version of justice – The Wazir’s Council. The Poet is brought before him; the charge is the theft of 100 pieces of gold. The Wazir has no need to hear the evidence before pronouncing sentence: “I order that the right hand of this liar, rogue and thief be cut off.” The Poet professes his innocence, and the Wazir adds twenty lashes to the punishment. But the Poet will not give in. “Were I merely a beggar and thief,” he says, “I would not dispute your sentence. A man can steal with one hand as well as with two. And as for begging, he’s better off with no hands at all. But as a poet and story teller, the loss of a hand would cripple my career!” The reason? “It is the gesture that tells the story,” he says – Gesticulate. Lalume, who is attracted to the Poet, tells the Wazir that the argument is a clever one. But the Wazir will have none of it. He orders that twenty more lashes be administered and that men be sent to search the Poet’s home. The Poet, furious, puts a curse on the Wazir: “May calamity strike you! May disaster overwhelm you!” The Wazir sneers, but suddenly there is a loud noise. His guards inform him that they have captured Jawan. The brigand is brought in and sees the Poet, whom he still believes is Hajj. Angrily he shouts that he wishes to tear out the Poet’s liver. “He swore I would find my son before the day was out,” Jawan declares. “Where is my son?” And then, suddenly, Jawan sees the Wazir and cries with joy. He points at an amulet the Wazir is wearing. Jawan had put that amulet around his son’s neck before his son was kidnapped. The Wazir is his son! The Poet is a magician – “a man with the power to curse and un-curse.” Jawan is thrilled to see his son, but the Wazir is not one to be affected by warm human emotion; he sends his father to the dungeons to be killed. “But I am your father!” Jawan pleads. “All the more reason to be rid of you,” the Wazir answers. “For the leading judge of Mesopotamia to have as a father the leading criminal of Mesopotamia – it’s a disturbing thought.” Now the Wazir’s mind returns to the Poet. At first he believes he can make use of the Poet’s powers but then he realizes that the Poet has cursed him. He draws his sword. But just at that moment the Caliph enters. He happily tells the Wazir that he has chosen a bride, a commoner, and he leaves. Now the Wazir is desperate. He will lose the loan and face total ruin if the Caliph does not wed the Princesses of Ababu. But then he decides it is all the fault of the Poet’s curse, and he reverses the sentence he has meted out. If you prevent the Caliph’s marriage, he tells the Poet, I shall make you an Emir and you shall have a life of riches. The Poet agrees, and, the Wazir, relieved, exits. Lalume remains with the Poet. “You dunce!” she says. “You’re no more magician than I am!” But the Poet says that to try is his only hope. She looks at him and admiringly realizes that her tedious life with the Wazir can be turned around, and he indicates that he is more than willing to cooperate (“Bored” a song written for the movie version). The Wazir returns with his harem and hears singing in the street. It is the Caliph’s bridal procession. Furious, the Wazir orders his guards to kill the Poet as soon as the wedding trumpets sound. But the Poet enlists the help of the harem and, as they dance (Finale – Act I) he escapes through a window. Act II In a street near the Widow Yussef’s house, the Caliph, in his wedding procession, sings of his happiness – Night Of My Nights. In the garden, Marsinah remembers her new love – Stranger In Paradise – Reprise. Her father enters, gives her the gold and tells her she must leave immediately for Damascus. If the Caliph does not marry the commoner, he explains, “I’ll be an Emir and you an Emir’s daughter”; but if the wedding takes place, the Wazir “would destroy you as well as me.” But Marsinah refuses to go. There is someone she has promised to meet in the garden at moonrise. Angered at her refusal, the Poet moves his hand as if to strike her. He quickly stops himself, but both he and his daughter are startled at his action. She runs off, and he exits in the opposite direction. The Caliph arrives at the garden and gazes at the house where he believes his true love resides. But she is not there, and he must leave without his beloved. In the Wazir’s palace, the Wazir’s spies tell him that the Caliph’s commoner bride has disappeared. The Wazir is overjoyed. He decides that his magician is a valuable asset and must be kept happy. Imagine my power, he says, with such a wizard in my employ – Was I Wazir? Lalume proceeds to begin to make the Poet happy. On a terrace above the Wazir’s harem, the Poet rests upon a divan as Lalume tells him of a wonderful dish that can “drive a man out of his Mesopotamian mind” – Rahadlakum. Lalume suggests an assignation at “a certain oasis in the desert, about a week’s journey away by dromedary.” But before they can discuss the details, the Wazir arrives to crown the Poet as Emir. The task done, the Wazir heads for his harem. The new Emir’s daughter arrives; she tells her father that she refused to leave the garden because she has fallen in love. The Chief Policeman shouts to the Wazir that the Caliph has entered the palace. Sternly, the Caliph orders the Wazir to send all his men in search of the girl he will marry. In great detail, the Caliph describes her beauty; simultaneously, in the next room, Marsinah tells her father of the wonders of the man she loves – And This Is My Beloved. Later, still in the Wazir’s palace, the Poet encounters Omar, who is his counterpart in verse. “What is a man of talent and feeling doing in the ménage of the Wazir of police?” Omar asks. “Only a fool would leave a barnyard where the goose is laying golden eggs,” the Poet replies. But the answer does not satisfy Omar. “Which is the more foolish, the live fool or the dead fool?” he asks. The Poet, however, is not absent a reply: “There is always something to be learned,” he says. “Even from fools.” And he explains – The Olive Tree. Outside his harem, the Wazir tries to persuade the Caliph that marriage to one woman is nothing but “a stage a man goes through.” He gives the Caliph the opportunity to view the harem through a secret watching device. As the Caliph watches, Marsinah innocently enters the harem chamber. The Caliph reacts with a scream of pain. It is his love! And she is in the Wazir’s harem! The Wazir is confused; he is not sure of what has happened, but he quickly offers Marsinah to the Caliph as a concubine. The Caliph, however, refuses – it is not a concubine that he wanted. Deeply upset, the Caliph orders that all candidates for his hand in marriage appear that night at his Diwan, where he will choose his Wife of Wives. After the Caliph leaves, the Wazir reflects in amazement on how his magician has managed to place the commoner in his own harem. The Chief Policeman escorts Marsinah into the room. The Wazir has told the Caliph that she is one of his wives, and to make the statement true, he forcibly marries her, performing the ceremony himself. He tells her that he shall visit her after the Diwan. But Marsinah vows that if he does, she shall kill herself. In the Caliph’s Diwan, the various candidates appear before him and dance to attract his ardor: Zubbediya of Damascus (Zubbediya); Samaris of Bangalore (Samaris’ Dance); the Ababu Princesses. But he is not moved. The Poet tells Lalume that he has been looking for Marsinah but cannot find her; Lalume says she will look for her. The Wazir is nervous; his future depends on the Caliph’s decision. He asks the Poet if there is anything else that can be done and casually thanks him for his wizardry in placing the Caliph’s beloved in his own harem. “I married her,” the Wazir says. “She swore to kill herself tonight. Angry little thing.” Name of Marsinah, he says. The Poet, stunned, draws a knife and is about to kill the Wazir when he glances at the Caliph’s bathing pool and gets a better homicidal idea. He strides over to the Caliph, takes a blank plaque from his own turban and tosses it into the pool. The Poet predicts that “this magic plaque will be inscribed with the name of our Caliph’s bride-to-be,” once it is retrieved from the pool. Then the Poet calls the Wazir aside and secretly gives him a second plaque, writing on it the word Ababu, and tells the Wazir to hide it in his boot. Returning to the Caliph, he says that to prevent fraud, the Wazir himself will retrieve the plaque. The Wazir enters the pool, putting one foot on a parapet. The Poet grabs the foot and yanks it. The Wazir lands head first in the water and, as the Poet continues to hold him, slowly drowns. The Poet turns to the Caliph, “What judgment would you pass,” he asks, “if your love were lost because a lie were spoken? What judgment upon the man who lied?” “I would order his death without delay and without mercy,” the Caliph replies. “I thank you for your verdict!” the Poet responds. “It has been carried out.” Marsinah is brought in. She and the Caliph “gaze at each other, in disbelief and delight.” Lalume asks the Caliph to pardon the Poet, but the Poet says no – all he asks is that he be condemned “to some dreadful oasis . . . at least a week’s camel journey away.” He must also be condemned, he says, to take with him the widow of the late Wazir, “lighten her sorrows” and “remove all grief from her heart.” Finally, the Poet tells the Caliph, “take from Hajj his greatest treasure, his daughter Marsinah. Take her away forever – by marrying her to the end of her days.” And, of course, the Caliph agrees – Finale – Act II.
Imam: Rodne Brown Muezzins: James Bassi, Daniel Egan, Rodne Brown, Michael Hume The Poet (later called Hajj): Samuel Ramey Marsinah (his daughter): Ruth Ann Swenson Bangle Man: James Bassi Lalume: Julia Migenes Wazir: Dom DeLuise Caliph: Jerry Hadley Policemen: Joe Neal, James Bingham, Julian Long Solo Girl: Beverly Myers Ayah: Gale Limansky Marriage Arranger: Mandy Patinkin Townspeople, Policemen, Harem Girls, Wazir’s Council, Guards, Guests: The Ambrosian Singers The Concert Chorale of New York London Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor: Paul Gemignani