Thursday, May 10, 2012

III.ii. The Mouse-Trap - French Rock Opera

Un trône sans roi/Throne Without a King is a transitional piece of music on Johnny Hallyday's album, but if you use your imagination, you might see how it would have underscored action in the staged rock opera. It is placed where the Mouse-Trap would be, and through the repetition of the dirge motif Le vieux roi est mort/The Old King Is Dead already used twice before, has a similar recap function. Here is the text and a quick translation.

Un trône sans roi
Le vieux roi et mort
Depuis moins d'un mois
L'herbe sur sa tombe
Ne pousse encore pas

Le vieux roi est mort
Le temps d'une messe
Il est notre roi
Il cale ses fesses

Throne Without a King
The old king is dead
For less than a month
The grass on his tomb
Still does not grow

The old king is dead
The span of a [church] service
He is our king
He sinks his ass

It is telling that the chorus sings here and not Hamlet, though as we know from the play, he has written their words. This is the murder as presented by the Players. We could well imagine the processional music underscoring the arrival of the Court to the playhouse. Then, suspenseful stings over the dumb show, probably dance-like. Finally, we end with the result of a king's death, and the familiar Dead Old King theme. The first two lines are the same, but reiterate, as Hamlet does in the text, the temporal collapse caused by his grief. Using the chorus/Players translates that collapse to the People, foreshadowing their later rebellion. In fact, the lines here go further, from "less than a month" to "the span of a church service". The King has been forgotten by the time his funeral service is over.

And then time is collapsed even further when a new King shows up in the next line, so Hamlet Sr. has been forgotten in the breath between two lines. Those final lines do play on an ambiguity, as the "king" is actually two separate characters in the play. On the one hand, there is a resistance to a new leadership, the dead king being that of the people, even as his descent into the ground is mocked with colorful language. On the other, the new king is now that of the people - speaking to an ironic interchangeability as far as commoners are concerned - and a mockery of his sitting on that empty throne, now filled. That is the story of The Mouse-Trap.

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