The Butt

a satirical opera based on 'The Butt' by Will Self

Susannah Self

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a satirical opera based on ‘The Butt’ by Will Self

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Composer Susannah Self
Year of Composition 2016
Duration -


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Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ss1tb1


A new chamber opera by Susie Self premiered in Vienna on September 1st, 2016. Based on the novel by Will Self, the opera traces the bizarre trajectory of its hapless protagonist, Tom Brodzinski, as he falls prey to a cunning plot to deprive him of his family, his money and finally, quite a significant part of his mind. Is his wife in on the plot? Who is behind the sophisticated scam? Why does Tommy Junior have a scar running down the back of his head?

Musiktheatertage Wien, a festival of modern music theatre, is co-producing this staging of The Butt in the contemporary venue of Werk X together with Selfmade Music Theatre. Conducted by Susie Self and directed by Thomas Desi, the cast features six exceptionally talented opera singers backed up by two cellos, percussion and piano.

Tom Brodzinski, an ordinary man, is on a family holiday in an un-named imaginary country whose laws place an extraordinary emphasis on the control of smoking. Deciding to give up his filthy habit, Tom negligently flicks his final cigarette butt over the balcony of his holiday apartment. It lands on the head of an elderly man below, burning his scalp. Tom apologies profusely, but the old man (an honorary elder of the tribe of his wife) has to go to hospital where he ends up in a coma. Tom now finds himself on trial for assault, and possibly attempted murder, owing to the extremely harsh anti-smoking laws, combined with the notion, adapted from native beliefs, that there is no such thing as an accident. Tom is found guilty (wth the connivance of his wife, who appears in disguise as his defence lawyer) and must make reparations to the offended tribe, in person. He duly sets off and eventually arrives at the village where he falls into the hands of one of the architects of the scam, Von Sasser, who is not only a hare-brained sociologist with delusions of grandeur, but a self-taught surgeon with a penchant for lobotomies. Overwhelmed by his experiences, Tom surrenders to Von Sasser and his persuasive arguments, and eventually becomes a bum scrabbling in the street for cigarette butts. Alone and penniless, lobotomy has liberated him, in a final ironic twist of fate.