Rain Dance 2014 Preview

Inspired by Tish Farrell's story, "The Hare Who Would Not Be King"
Music by Stuart Hancock
Libretto by Donald Sturrock
Commissioned by W11 Opera in 2010


Inspired by the music of South Africa, Rain Dance is a 75-minute, humorous, entirely-sung political drama inspired by Tish Farrell's story, "The Hare Who Would Not Be King".

Brief Synopsis

A crisis faces the animals of the African savannah. Their waterhole is almost dry and a leader is desperately needed to find a solution before they are wiped out. At the hustings, the bullying and corrupt lion, Tau, is elected, but proves to be a disaster. In despair, the animals turn to the clever and fleet-footed hare, Roli, for help.

But Roli refuses. Ever since his grandfather embarrassed himself in a race against a plodding tortoise, Roli has lived in shame and in therapy, on the margins of animal society, embittered and self-reliant. It is only when Tau challenges him to make it rain that Roli agrees to confront him at the waterhole. Roli claims that Tau is an imposter and that the real lion king lives in the waterhole. Enraged, Tau attacks his own reflection in the water and drowns.  Roli's family leads the other animals in a traditional rain dance and, coincidentally, it begins to rain. Roli is acclaimed king.

The Cast

 Soloists  Roli the Hare
 Mandisa, his wife
 Tau the Lion
 Lamia the Lioness
 Lulu the Lioness
 Layla the Lioness
 Lisha the Lioness
 Koni the Rhino
 Bello the Meerkat
 Balosi the Baboon
 Kipling the Hornbill
 Dikeledi the Drongo
 Johnny Jackal
 Jackie Jackal
 Hobo the Hippo
 Thendo the Elephant
 Ndanga the Zebra
 Humbu the Old Tortoise
 Antoine the Wild Dog
 six leverets
 numerous cameos
 Choruses  Baboons
 Water Buffalos

The Plot

(Click on scene title to hear the entire scene or highlighted words for individual songs. To follow along in the music, download the complete vocal/piano score)

Scene 1 – A Waterhole at Sunrise
The animals of the African savannah (zebras, meerkats, hippos, warthogs, elephants, gazelles, hyenas and Humbu the Tortoise) meet to elect a king to lead them through the prolonged drought. Bello asks his fellow Meerkats for the weather forecast, which is hot and dry, good for voter turnout but not much else.  Candidates Hobo the Hippo and Ndanga the Zebra give stump speeches, Tau the Lion enters with his four lionesses and intimidates the Animals into voting for him instead.  The Animals are hopeful Tau will solve their desperate need for rain, but Koni the Rhino and local reporters Kipling the Hornbill and Dikeledi the Drongo Bird are apprehensive.

Scene 2 – The Foot of a Baobab Tree in Late Morning
At the home of Roli the Hare, his wife, Mandisa, is telling her six children, the leverets, of how the Baobab tree came to be planted upside down. They are joined by Koni the Rhino, who is dismayed by Tau's election victory. When Roli enters, Koni asks him why he, the most brilliant animal on the savannah, did not participate. Hares, Roli explains, are libertarians and consider themselves free of any civic duty.  Koni admonishes Roli for his lack of empathy and leaves. Alone now, Roli and Mandisa ponder Koni's words and profess their love for each other.

Scene 3 – The Waterhole at Midday
The animals, led by Thendo the Elephant, acclaim Tau as their new King. Tau promises to solve the drought, but also demands that the Animals build a "climate research center" under the watchful and sadistic eye of Balosi and the other Baboons. The royal chef, Antoine the Wild Dog, announces that he has prepared Tau's chief political rival, Ndanga, as tonight's dinner. All the Animals are stunned except Dikeledi, who desperately wants to interview Tau.

Scene 4 – The Waterhole in the Afternoon
As the Animals labor in agony to build what is, in fact, Tau's palace, the Animals reminisce of happier times before the Waterhole became a dustbowl.  The aged Koni is overcome by the heat, but is bullied back to his feet by Balosi's whip.  Observing, Roli is unmoved by Koni's tribulation.  The Baboons attempt to arrest Roli, but he escapes.  Balosi approaches Dikeledi, offering her an interview with Tau if she agrees to write an article critical of Roli.  The Animals resume their labor, and Koni collapses.


Scene 5 – Tau's Palace at Sunset
Two interior decorators, Jackie and Johnny Jackal, apply the finishing touches to Tau's palace. Tau and the lionesses gloat over their new luxurious accommodations. Balosi introduces Dikeledi to Tau for her interview, which is cut short when Tau eats her.  Antoine then enters with the main course, Koni under glass.

Scene 6 – The Desolate Savannah at Evening
Starving and parched, the Animals have all but lost hope and call out for a savior.  Back at the baobab tree, Roli has a nightmare about losing a race to a tortoise, which Mandisa interprets a sign that Roli needs to come up with a way to rid the savannah of Tau.  Bello, Roli, Hobo and Thendo stop by and show Roli the morning newspaper, containing Dikeledi's scathing article.  There's a bounty on Roli's head, and Tau has challenged Roli to make it rain.  Roli agrees to confront Tau, claiming to know a dance that will make it rain.

Scene 7 – By the Waterhole in front of the Palace at Night
Beneath a cloudy but rainless sky, the trial of Roli commences, with Balosi as prosecutor and Tau as judge.  Roli demands to be judged by "the highest authority" on the savannah: Tau the Lion, who lives in the Waterhole, not the impostor on the bench before him.  Enraged, Tau attacks Roli, but in the chase catches a glimpse of his reflection in the Waterhole.  He lunges in, claws extended, and drowns.  The Lionesses depart to collect on the life insurance.  In celebration, the Animals do Roli's rain dance, and, miraculously, it begins to pour.  The Animals proclaim Roli the new King, but Roli will have none of it and is gone before the bewildered Animals can turn around.