Die Schicksalstafel (The Tablet of Destinies)
Childrens opera based on the Babylonian myth of Anzu
Text: Tina Breckwoldt
Music: Gerald Wirth
Director: Frank Martin Widmaier
Stage design, properties and costumes: Martin Mohr
Choirmaster: Lucio Golino
Conductor: Gerald Wirth
World premiere on 23 February 2002, at the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of their childrens cycle Allegretto
Tour of Japan 2002 (56 performances)
In ancient Babylonia, the world is ruled by the Tablet of Destinies, a mixture of oracle and horoscope. The tablet can predict and influence the future; owning the tablet means absolute power. The tablet is kept in the temple of Enki, god of water and wisdom. It is consulted in a daily ritual by all the gods; but wise Enki is the only one who can interpret the magical signs that appear on it.
The world outside of the temple is a desert. Anzu, the lion-headed eagle lives here: he has left the temple years ago to escape the rigidity of the ritual. He wants to steal the tablet to gain power over the other gods.
Back in the temple, the gods prepare for the ritual. Ishkur and Shara quarrel about guarding the temple gates ? each tries to get the other one to do the hated chore. Ninurta mocks Turtle, because he is such a slow turtle. Ishkur suggests Ninurta as gatekeeper, Ninurta tries to foist the task onto Turtle. Shara suggests that they let chance decide; Ishkur and Shara load the dice, and Ninurta has to stand by the gate. A noise outside forces Ninurta to open it. An exhausted someone collapses into his arms; Ninurta and the gods shrink back, appalled and frightened. Turtle recognises the lion-headed eagle. Enki arrives, and everyone is quick to assure this is not their fault. I didnt touch him, Ninurta claims. Enki looks, and sees that the new arrival is Anzu; he informs Ninurta that this is Anzu, who is in fact Ninurtas brother. Ninurta is shocked: he has not seen his brother since he was a child.
Anzu, who has feigned the collapse, comes to and is welcomed home. Enki (who has seen on the tablet that Anzu will steal it) puts him in a position to do so: he makes him keeper of the tablet. Turtle, who has a fair idea of what Anzu is up to, is confused: why would Enki help Anzu along? Anzu, who feels the tablet practically in his talons, sings a mocking aria (Gods, sleep in peace), before he disappears with his prey.
After the theft, the temple is in an uproar, and the world is thrown into chaos. The gods cannot perform the proper ritual. There must be something we can do, says Shara. The gods decide to send out a hero to fetch the tablet back. Shara and Ishkur, the obvious choices, refuse. Ninurta declares that he will fight his brother and return the tablet. The gods encourage him in a fighting choir, sung with the original Babylonian words.
Meanwhile Anzu, sitting in his eyrie, tries to get the tablet to talk; but it remains stubbornly lifeless, immune to threats, rough handling or cajoling. Ninurta approaches under cover of fog. They start to fight, but as they are brothers, they are evenly matched. Blood is thicker than water, and as power over the other gods seems an attractive prospect (no more gatekeeping!), Ninurta lets Anzu talk him into an unholy alliance. The brothers decide to move together against the temple dwelling idiots and in particular Enki. They are convinced that if the tablet does not work in the outside world, it will work in the temple.
At the temple, the gods have prepared for their return: some gods have transformed themselves into a shifting, moving maze. Ninurta cannot find his way in, as his tension and frustration mount, he presses against a wall, which suddenly gives way: Anzu falls over Turtle, who is behind the wall, and loses the tablet. The gods mock him, pride goes before the fall. But Enki stops the choir, helps the two miscreants to their feet and restores some of their pride. He quelches the choirs cries for revenge and punishment with a simple statement: Nobody escapes their fate. You fate is to forgive them. And theirs ? to be forgiven. The gods realise that to accept forgiveness can be difficult, too. And Ninurta and Anzu know now that you cannot escape fate, but you are responsible for your deeds.