Oscar and the Opera

Oscar was trying to get some sleep. It was the middle of the day ( which was the middle of the night for any self-respecting owl) and he was to be found, high up in the tree that overlooks the house and the farmyard. He had sought out his special sleeping perch which was buried deep within the foliage of the tree, dark and quiet, just the place for a young owl to get his beauty sleep.

Except that he wasn’t asleep. He had tried to nod off but as soon as his eyelids closed in that slow, lazy way that owl eyelids did, he was woken. It was most frustrating. He was being disturbed.

The cause of this disturbance emanated from way below him, down on the ground. It was a type of moaning, then trembling, then moaning again noise. It was intolerable, even to a young owl who, even at the worst of times, was very patient. Eventually he could take no more. He edged along the branch to see if he could get a view of what was disturbing his slumbers but all the leaves got in the way. There was nothing else for it but to launch himself off the tree and glide down to a convenient fence post.

The noise was louder now and seemed to be coming from the old garden shed, no more than a few person paces away. The shed window was wide open.

Ooooh, aaah, abble-abble, ooooh” went the noise. Was this some fierce creature, thought Oscar, working itself up into a lather of excitement, ready to gobble up a small owl? He should have been frightened but so angry was he at having his sleep disturbed that nothing prevented him from flying across and landing on the window frame. To his shock and amazement he saw no fierce, owl-eating animal but rather his old friend Percy, the erudite pigeon, who was standing on a perch and stretching his neck whilst puffing up his chest to make these ghastly sounds.

Percy!” screeched Oscar, “what are you doing? Have you lost your senses? What is this terrible row?”

Percy, who clearly had not noticed the arrival of his young owl friend, spun around and, if pigeons could blush, blushed to the base of his feathers. “I’m so sorry, young Oscar. I had no wish to discommode you.”

Oscar had no idea what he was talking about but rather suspected that being discommoded was not very nice. “What are these terrible noises you are making? I can’t sleep because of them. What on earth is going on?”

Oh dear, small owlet. I had not intended to disturb your sleep. I had no idea that the sounds would reach to the top of your tree, that is why I came into the shed to do my practice.”

Practice! Practice. What are you practising? Are you in training to be a bird-scarer or perhaps a burglar alarm?”

Percy looked a bit huffy. “I appreciate that it may not be your cup of tea but I am rehearsing a part in an opera. There are some who think I have a particular talent.”

Well, Oscar knew that his erudite pigeon friend had many talents but singing in an opera, whatever that was, was not one of them as far as Oscar was concerned. Almost certainly, not definitely not.

And then he thought ‘opera’, I’m pretty good at ‘opping and to prove it he took a little ‘op off his perch on the shed window. Yes, a good little ‘opper. “Percy, can I be in the opera? I’m good at ‘opping.”

Percy the pigeon laughed. “It’s not ‘opping, Oscar. It’s singing and I think all would agree that owls cannot sing, only hoot. There are no hooting parts in Don Giovanni.”

Oscar was a bit put out at this. He had heard singing; there was a a thrush who sang from the top of the tree next to his and it was a glorious, joyous sound. Percy’s groans and warbles were nothing like that thrush’s outpourings.

What’s this donjy vanny? Is it a pizza?” (Oscar liked pizza.)

You must come to a rehearsal, Oscar. Then you’ll see. This evening, just before sunset behind the barn, that’s where we rehearse. Come along.”

Well I would come, Percy, but I will need to get some sleep before then” he tilted his head to the side in a quizzical fashion.

All right, all right, young owl. I’ll stop practising for now. Go and get some shut-eye.

Which is what Oscar did. A lovely deep sleep full of dreams of hopping up and down, delivering pizzas.

Evening came and Percy returned to wake the sleeping owl. Together they made their way down to the farmyard and then around to the back of the barn. They were greeted by a most extraordinary sight. The whole area was filled with animals and birds of all shapes and sizes. Some seemed to be singers (they were preening themselves), others had a whole variety of instruments. There were drums made out of old cans which were being played by an enthusiastic badger, a whole contingent of squirrels were blowing into pipes to make a high-pitched, squeaking noise. Twenty four fluffy lambs were playing violins and six sheep were sitting astride milking stools, playing the cello. There were foxes playing trumpets and pigs playing trombones. A rather elegant race-horse was playing the harp.

Behind them, in serried ranks, were the singers. Mostly birds but the occasional mouse had crept in (which made Oscar’s mouth water), birds of all shapes and sizes, thrushes, larks, blackbirds, robins and yes, Oscar spotted his cousin Bertram the barn owl. What singing he could do mystified Oscar, both cousins were confirmed hooters.

In front of the choir stood four characters, a lark, a gull, a goose and, to Oscar’s great surprise, Percy the erudite pigeon had taken his place at the front.

What are you doing there, Percy?” he whispered as everyone seemed to quieten down.

I’m a principal singer. I sing the part of the Don, Don Giovanni”. The pizza, wondered Oscar? Percy continued “the Don is an important part and it goes very low”. So that was what all those strange noises were about, Percy learning to be the Don.

At that moment there was a clatter as all the orchestra and choir stood up. From around the barn came none other than Buster, the dog previously known as Yapper. He was looking very important, wearing a small white bow-tie. He stood up on the rostrum, raised a white stick and said “Please sit, everyone. We shall start at Act Three, the Don’s aria. Percy if you please” and Percy fluttered up to his perch. Buster brought down his stick and the orchestra started to play. Oscar was entranced. Could animals do this? Then Percy began to sing and Oscar had to admit that it was much better than the sounds he had heard coming from the garden shed.

On and on went the music. The singers sang, the animals played and what a merry sound it made. Eventually, at a signal from Buster, they all stopped. He turned to Oscar with a flourish. He was speaking in a rather strange way.

Ciao, leetle Oscar. You-a havenotta gotta an instrumente for which to play?” Why on earth was he talking like this? I suppose I had better humour him, thought Oscar.

No, Maestro” (he had heard other orchestra members call him that. It seemed more appropriate than Buster.)

Then you-a shall play the triangle “ went on the dog/conductor “we do-a-ntta have a triangle player.”

Triangle. Oscar had learnt about triangles at school. It wasn’t going to be equations, was it? He hated equations, especially quadratic ones. He was relieved when drum-playing badger produced a metal instrument on a string and a metal basher with which to hit it.

When do I hit it?” he whispered to the badger

Oh, just when it seems a good idea. He won’t notice.”

And so, the following night inside the barn, which had been transformed into an opera house the animals and birds under the baton of Maestro Buster performed the whole of Don Giovanni. The performance was notable for the frequent sounding of the triangle, played by an enthusiastic young owl.

Oscar was overjoyed to take part. He was even more excited when, after the concert, they all sat down to pizza. What more could a young owl want?

© Andrew Chapman. 2012

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