© 2019 by Hugh Levick

THE MAN WHO DISAPPEARED:

AN OPERA IN THREE ACTS

ACT I

Possibly Karl does not regret being thrown out of the house; for it represents a way of escaping from a situation which is secure but stifling. Karl should be cocky, self-assured here. Right and ready. He collaborates in the seduction.

Music: 'authority theme'-menace and power; 'submission in the face of authority'-timidity, hesitation; 'sex theme'-virility, loss of control, escape; 'authority theme' & 'expulsion theme'

I.1 

Defending the Stoker, Karl is defending himself against the injustice done to him by his parents. K. can make a good case for the stoker (himself); he is coming to the aid of a weaker man, but the stoker messes up his defense through the runaway emotions that make him incoherent. The Stoker is an image of what Karl will be reduced to by the end of the novel-- afraid of authority and the Last Judgment this represents?….Jacob comes from the outside and saves K. Or so the others wish to view it. Karl can be seen at this time as up to any challenge. Uncle is the reterritorialization of Karl. 

Music:'submission in the face of authority'-timidity, hesitation; 'authority theme'-menace and power; 'stoker theme'; courageous,confident confrontation of power; karl's power; salvation . "A movement without end, a restlessness transmitted from the restless element to helpless human beings and their work".

I.2 

Karl is the prince, the heir apparent. His story begins with the fulfilled American dream.The rigidity of the daily schedule Jacob has imposed on his nephew moves Karl to accept Pollunder's –who sees Karl as a good catch for his princess--invitation; it offers a refreshing escape. This can be seen as Prince Karl's 'coming out '; he's displaying his accomplishments in front of Pollunder and Green. 

Music: Nervous. Excitement & bustle. Power Theme (uncle);guilt (karl); popular american music 

I.3

This is supposed to be the betrothal occasion, but King Jacob—never having wholeheartedly embraced taking Karl under his wing—uses Karl's departure with Pollunder as an excuse to kick his nephew out in the street. Pollunder's is a nightmare: the spooky house; the girl-animal Clara (Karl is scared of sex). He asks to return to Jacob's, but Green hits him with a double deterritorialization: he must leave Pollunders and his uncle has banished him as well. 

Music: humiliation by green, pollunder and clara; physical fight with clara;loss of his new-found home;sex with clara; guilt vis a vis Jacob; expulsion: popular american music 

ACT II 

II.1 

Karl begins his American adventure at the point zero, which Jacob had saved him from earlier on. Seeking solace in the image of his parents after being kicked out with nothing but his belongings…Nothing could be further from the parental home than the 2 small-time scammers, Delamarche & Robinson. They perform a reterritorialzation at the same time as they tear him from the contemplation of long lost home. They are going to secure him even while they lead him into a vagabond (deterritorialized) way of life. 

Music: loss of parents and family, loss of suit; humiliation and betrayal as D&R sell his suit; karl's innocence, trust and good will 

II.2

In the hotel Karl can't get to the food; there is a wall being put up between him and sustenance. This endangers his survival; it also scares him that his new companions will take his having come back empty-handed as a betrayal of his word to them. Karl believes in the symbolic order of the mother: loyalty, honesty,, defense of the underdog. Thus, when the manageress saves his life by feeding him, and offers to take him in (sexually as well as materially). Karl politely refuses her offer to –through loyalty—respect the territorialization he has established with R & D. 

Music: popular american music; first choral piece: humiliated by power (the brutal power of numbers); salvation by the manageress(mother); guilt keeps karl from accepting her offer straight off; karl's innocence as inability to read reality.

II.3

R&D have gone through his suitcase, have violated his possessions (him), Now they turn on him; now they’ll do to him what they did to his belongings. They charge him with having territorialized at the hotel, leaving them out, climbing the social ladder without them—the very thing Karl refused to do out of obligation to them. As sure as Jacob saved him in the first scene, now the waiter, sent by the manageress, saves Karl from a beating. But now, instead of good riddance to bad rubbish, Karl is in desperate need of R&D: the photo, the one and only photo, of his parents –his past, roots, identity—is gone. Karl will forgive them, will give them everything else in his possession if only they will return the photo of his parents…But they don't have it. For Karl all that has been truly lost. 

Music: humiliated by the violation of his belongings; R& D threaten him with their sheer physical power; salvation comes from the manageress(mother) via the waiter. 

II.4

Karl reaches the zenith of his aspirations for happiness. The manageress introduces him to Therese with whom love seems possible. Karl is reterritorialized, and basking in this security he hears Therese's story, a story of her mother's wretched poverty and death that could have been his own. As Karl's defending of the Stoker is a defense of himself vis a vis his parents, so Therese's mother's story is the fate Karl was fortunate enough to escape.

Music: theme of salvation by love; sex; popular American music underlines the romance; violent contrast erupts with the story of therese's mother's suicide, the loss seen through the eyes of the little girl.

II.5

The movement/non-movement of the lift, the vertical circle, stagnant and safe is attacked by Karl's past. Robinson, arriving drunk at the hotel, drives Karl from safety into a new wilderness. Frantically trying to stay in the territory, he manages to get a spittoon under Robinson's vomit. He then puts Robinson in his bed in the bunkroom, further eroding his own identity.

Music: Robinson's return is humiliation renewed, the cocking of the trigger of injustice, the opening power awaits; actual intentions can be obfuscated through ill-will ; any action he takes condemns him to guilt for breaking the rules.

II.6 

Karl is tried and found guilty. His defender (the manageress) abandons him. Only Therese, (holding on to the last shreds of Karl's identity) weeps as she watches. Alone with Karl, the Head Porter hugs him to him under the pretext of searching for stolen goods in Karl's possession. Losing his coat, Karl escapes, but the only way free is to accept the aid of another enemy, Robinson, who pulls Karl into a cab that speeds them away.

Music: power, physical and bureaucratic crush karl; the manageress does not fight for his salvation; love without power—therese—is helpless; guilt and humiliation; the loss of identity—his papers and his coat; flight to escape a fate worse than mere expulsion. 

II.7 

Trying to save the hotel from association with him, Karl flees rather than answer the policeman's questions. As Robinson (enemy) saved him from the Head Porter, now Delamarche (enemy) saves Karl from the cop. The deterritorialization from the hotel becomes reterritorialization with R&D who, it appears, are slaves and servants of Brunelda.

Music: humiliation at the hands of R & D and the policeman; the loss of his papers makes him suspect; flight to escape the cop; bitter irony that he is 'saved' by Delamarche who wants him as a slave for Brunelda. 

ACT III

III.1 

Seeming at first not to want him, Brunelda soon accepts Karl as a servant who's been brought to her by Delamarche. Karl , exhausted, without will, collapses on the pile of curtains, only to be awakened by Brunelda hysterically ranting for some salvation from her discomfort. The heat! She must be naked! D. kicks Karl and Robinson onto the balcony.

Music: brunelda simply calls him 'a stranger' ; her aria invokes her desire for delamarche; humiliation; through fatigue and loss Karl has been reduced to nothing.

III.2 

Karl learns that he is to lose his identity as a free man. Brunelda & D come on the balcony to watch the political rally below—a kind of democracy-among-the-apes spectacle. With her more than ample body Brunelda has Karl pressed against the balcony railing. Sex as imprisonment and abuse. Karl, nonetheless, is fascinated by what he sees going on below in the street. As soon as he can—as if inspired by the grotesque spectacle of 'free elections'—Karl tries to escape through the kitchen entrance. But Karl can't break the lock quickly enough—obstacles to flight abound—and Delamarche, catching him, beats him unconscious.

Music: Slavery, imprisonment, loss of Karl's identity through subjugation to the power of a master; political parody of democracy revolves around power & Humiliation; Brunelda humiliates Karl through her sexually suggestive gestures; Karl is overwhelmed by Delamarche's superior strength.

III.3

The student enthuses over the security of territorialization; deterritorialization can lead to perdition since there are no jobs out there. Karl's imagination becomes his line of flight as he speculates on his eventual apotheosis into an office manager in one of the businesses on the street. Canetti on AMERIKA: "The harshness of life in the new country is compensated for by its greater social mobility. The person humiliated is always filled with lively expectation; every fall can be followed by a miracle which raises a person up again." 

Music: The student studies with no end in sight, and this is his salvation; even as a prisoner karl is better off than on the street where there are no jobs; Karl fantasizes his success, his becoming powerful. 

III.4 

a – Karl sees the ad for the nature theatre of Oklahoma on a poster Brunelda, Delamarche & Robinson lift the sleeping figure of Karl and carry him into the street. They exit, and Karl awakens looking at the Nature Theatre call for applicants.

 

III.5

 

b – at the recruitment center Karl meets Fanny.

The trumpets are blaring. This is the entrance to the theme park. Karl reunites with Fanny, fantastically appearing from a nowhere so profound she hasn't even been a character in the novel. It's almost as if the NTOO has materialized her to make appiclant/customer, Karl, feel at home. Fanny calls Karl under her skirt, a proposition Karl can never resist. Desire is the creator of lines of flight.

III.6

 

c – Karl, without papers, gets through the staff manager & the bureau chief.

Staff manager is the head priest. He wants Karl to believe, and he wants him in the "Church".Everyone is welcome (as long as they believe, as long as they have money, they can be part of the show. The GTOO depends on its 'customers'. "Nobody cares about being an artist, but everyone wants to be paid"—this is our Ethos , just like it's yours. We understand. You're in the right place." Karl doesn't have his identity papers, but he wanted to be an engineer so it's OK. No problem. Bureau Chief, an apprentice priest, tells him he can go the next step to membership. All the time he is being inducted people are attending to Karl. Bringing him water. Pulling up chairs for him. He's treated like an important customer.

d – Bureau clerk goes above the bureau head to engage karl under the name, 'negro'.

Here's where Karl meets the reign of the Modest and the Just. The bureau clerk (Christ) overrules the bureau chief (the 'Emperor') and accepts Karl into the community of the believers (consumers). They transport Karl to a modest throne amidst a semicircle of other modest thrones (where newly recruited members have been seated).

e – Karl is interviewed by the 10th squad leader.

The 10th squad leader approaches Karl as a petitioner, a counselor. Karl modestly responds to the leader's questions. The leader reassures 'Prince Karl' that he will find his way, as actor or engineer. Once he's arrived in Oklahoma "The Promised Land", all will be peace and light (death).

f – Karl joins the banquet, but before he can eat, the recruits are hurried off to the train.

Food, a great feast, is brought to the newly-accepted recruits, each seated on his/her modest throne. Piping hot platters of delicious victuals and goblets of wine. But before they can dig in, an attendant rushes up to announce that they have no time to eat, the train is leaving for Oklahoma. They must go at once or be left behind. The recruits complain that they have to fetch their belongings. Nothing to be done. There is no time for that. New belongings will be found in Oklahoma. Karl and the others are dragged from their 'thrones' and herded towards the train.

CODA – Karl rides through the vast , cold american west in a train on his way to the great theatre of Oklahoma

Loss, humiliation, guilt, expulsion and flight all come together in Karl as he sits in the train, carried by forces beyond his control, towards what can oly be unknown. 

THE END

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