Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews   entry Sept 2015   Allegro ma non troppo #37  (original pub. date, Lion Magazine, 1990-95)


This was inspired by a discussion I led at a meeting of the Naples Writers' Circle. The topic was 'Humorous Writing'. The task was to write a nonsensical pseudo-encyclopedic entry on the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Here:

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai. Russian inventor of the compound surname and only member of the Russian Five (see: Multiple Personality Disorders), prominent composers who were forced to take up music after 6/11 of Rimsky-Korsakov's personality and football team was destroyed in a tragic Thorazine mine explosion. The rest of Rimsky-Korsakov was known as Korsky-Rimanof, Rimsky's Corsetsoff, Cursty-Onandoff, and Mrs. Rebecca Symthe-Wimpole of Smedlington-on-Foot (see: East Anglian Folk Music. On Sundays, see: East Anglican Folk Music. Note: If you can actually 'see' the music, you are suffering from—and will soon die from (see: 'So much for seeing')
a condition called 'cross-sensorial transfer' or 'Synesthesia'. See: a doctor, then take two of them little red ones and call him in the morning.)

Rimsky-Korsakov composed a number of operas drawn from Russian history and legend. In fact, he originally did draw them. He also sandblasted and spraypainted his operas onto granite mountains on the outskirts of Moscow (although he was in St. Petersburg at the time) before he hit upon music as a vehicle. Some musicologists speculate that he may also have been hit by a vehicle at about the same time. His early work Le Coq d'Or [The Golden Cockerel], was originally a flop due to the fact that the opening night public was apparently under the impression that they had come to hear the ever popular Golden Cocker Spaniel. Furious critics were not at all assuaged when they found out that 'assuaged' has nothing to do with 'massaged' and by learning that Le Coq d'Or in Russian really means 'The pen of my aunt is on the table'. Another of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas, The Maid of Pskov (also known as Ivan the Terrible) also failed until the opera company came up with a prima donna who looked a lot less like Ivan the Terrible.

Rimsky-Korsakov is well known for his orchestral suite Scheherezade. Once you squeezed the timpani out onto the balcony, you could fit an entire 130 piece orchestra into the suite, plus eight jugglers from the Moscow Imperial Circus. Scheherezade (meaning 'Fragrant Dove' in Arabic, but 'Buffalo Lips' in Tamazight, one of the Berber languages of North Africa) is a Sultan's young bride who saves her life by maintaining his interest in the tales she tells him over 1001 nights. After almost three years of sleep deprivation the sadistic male pig finally croaks and sweetcakes inherits the farm. Irrefutable musico-medicinal research has now shown that the sultan had Alzheimer's Disease and that Scheherezade actually got away with telling him the same story over and over again.

Rimsky-Korsakov also wrote the Russian Easter Overture, which, due to the differences in the Orthodox Ecclesiastical calendar, is performed only at Christmas in leap years. His most popular work is the Flight of the Bumblebee, a musical tribute to a disgusting yellow hairy arthropod, the sting from which can induce anaphylactic shock and kill you in no time flat. The bumblebee's only claim to fame is that it somehow manages to keep airborne in spite of having a metathorax about as aerodynamic as a meatloaf. This flies in the face of everything we know about meatloaf, and if you've ever had a meatloaf fly into your face, you will understand why I'm getting so worked up about this. Anyway, the tune goes "doodle-oodle-oodle-oodle-loodle-oodle-oodle-oodle.". Some music critics feel it may be in the key of C minor (see: Minor).

Rimsky-Korsakov was a master of orchestral color, anticipating, for example, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, by once painting all the trombone players in the Bolshoi Symphony a bright orange. He often arranged the works of other composers. He also arranged their finances, arranged their furniture, arranged to meet their wives, and once he rearranged Mussorgsky's face when they both got stinko on a jug of cheap vodka, a potent Russian drink made by squeezing potatoes with barefoot peasants, then discarding the potatos and drinking the peasants. Rimsky-Korsakov even arranged to have Mussorsgsky's Boris Godunov staged outdoors in the dead of winter, which is why only one person showed up, a gentleman whose now famous comment, "If it's Gudonov for Boris, it's gudonov for me!" has gone down in the annals of Russian musical criticism as totally incomprehensible. (see: 'Totally incomprehensible'. You may have to search for a while. It should be somewhere between 'totally igloo' and 'totally isometric'). Rimsky-Korsakov also worked on parts of Borodin's Prince Igor. He repaired Igor's tennis elbow, stitched up a hernia or two and was preparing for some serious stuff when he noticed that Igor's organ donor card had not been properly validated by the parking attendant. He died in 1908 at the age of 62 and would be even older today if he had lived. Rimsky-Korsakov, that is. Prince Igor is still alive. (See: You Later. See: Alligator.)

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