The Final Battle for Love

The Final Battle for Love, 2008
A one-act opera based on Tony Earley’s short story “Charlotte.” Used by Permission.
Libretto adapted by Philip Thompson
Music by Philip Thompson

Update: See video of scenes from Final Battle at the 2010 Virginia Arts Festival.

Synopsis with Audio Excerpts

Set in Charlotte, North Carolina in the early 1990s, The Final Battle for Love is, so far as I can tell, the world’s first professional wrestling opera. The story is related by the Everyman Narrator who manages P.J. O’Mulligan’s Good Times Emporium, a fern bar in downtown Charlotte. P.J.’s caters to wrestling fans and the wrestlers themselves. The plot unfolds as a series of flashbacks focusing on the major characters in the story.

At the outset of the story the narrator explains that the Southeastern Wrestling Alliance had been sold to Ted Turner and moved to Atlanta. The departure of the SWA precipitated the Final Battle for Love, a wrestling match between Lord Poetry and Bob Noxious, to resolve once and for all the loyalty of Darling Donnis. Up to the time of the Final Battle, Darling Donnis was Lord Poetry’s girlfriend but she was also attracted to Bob Noxious’ raw power.

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The Narrator’s girlfriend Starla enters and the two “wrestle” about love. Starla does not believe in love, only that they have “good chemistry.” The two argue intensely about the nature of their relationship.

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Lord Poetry comes into P.J.’s a few days before the Final Battle. The Narrator asks Lord Poetry to tell him a poem that he can say to Starla to show her the depth of his love. Lord Poetry quotes from William Butler Yeats’s Adam’s Curse.

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Rockin’ Robbie Frazier is one of Charlotte’s most popular wrestlers and Lord Poetry’s friend. When Rockin’ Robbie enters P.J.’s his fans cheer and urge him to describe how he will “B-52” (launch himself from the turnbuckle onto his stunned opponent) the Sheik of the East in the upcoming match.

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Big Bill Boscoe the Ringside Announcer sets the stage for the Final Battle for Love with an introduction that evokes the language of the Old Testament prophets.

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As the match progresses, Lord Poetry and Bob Noxious try to strangle each other. Darling Donnis rushes into the ring in a panic, begging Big Bill Boscoe and Rockin’ Robbie Frazier to intervene, but there is nothing they can do. Starla roots for Bob Noxious while the Narrator remains loyal to Lord Poetry. Darling Donnis screams until she collapses and the wrestlers collapse to the mat as well.

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The wrestlers and Darling Donnis revive. Bob Noxious cajoles Darling Donnis into rejecting Lord Poetry. Bob Noxious begins to pump his pectorals in an intense display of strength as fans chant wildly for him to “Shake ’em, Shake ’em, Let ’em go!” Darling Donnis is transfixed. At Rockin’ Robbies insistence, Lord Poetry tries to calm Darling Donnis by reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 18, but she ignores him. Lord Poetry gives up in despair. In a last effort to help Lord Poetry, Big Bill Boscoe recites more of the sonnet, but it is too late. Darling Donnis has chosen Bob Noxious.

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All the audio excerpts for the Final Battle for Love are from a demo recording created in the spring and summer of 2009. The excellent singers are:

Emily Pinkerton, Darling Donnis and chorus soprano 1 and 2

Eva Rainforth, Starla and chorus alto

Rob Frankenberry, Lord Poetry and chorus tenor

Robert Kurth, Narrator and chorus bass

Tim Marquette, Rockin’ Robbie Frazier

Sean Donaldson, Big Bill Boscoe

Tom Octave, Bob Noxious

The virtual instruments are MOTU Symphonic Instrument orchestral library and Reason for the drum set. All the recording and mixing for this project took place in my home studio. For those who are interested in the details, I recorded everything into Digital Performer using a Rode NT 1000 condenser mic going through a MOTU 896.

I would particularly like to thank Tony Earley for supporting the project so enthusiastically.