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ENO Mini Opera Submission/In The Flutter Of An Eye

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In The Flutter of an Eye

by Tom Minter

Based on Neil Gaiman’s, The Sweeper of Dreams

ENO Mini Opera submission




PEOPLE: mixed chorus

SWEEPER: counter tenor (or) bass (or) baritone

MAN: tenor

WOMAN: mezzo

BOY: alto



 Scrim; darkness; the soft sound of rain.

Eyes closed, a person drops from above. And another, and another, and another.. and suddenly the scrim is full of bodies falling; asleep. The sound of the rain blurs into words of the sleeping/falling people.


I hate. I hurt. I want.

I need. I wish. I will.

Never. Yes.

And then. If not..

[The bodies fall to ‘collect’ in the bottom third of the scrim; light here brightens to a deep, chilling blue; this ‘strata’ of humanity, turns into a ‘frieze’ of muttering bodies, stretching across the stage –men, women, children; every shape and hue- all ignorant of the jumble, or place, or that they sleep..

Once the ‘frieze’ has assembled, the rain of bodies stops; their monotonous low muttering continues as ‘background’ throughout the entire piece.

A bright demarcation appears, delineating a thin space between the ‘frieze’ (“below”), and the two-thirds dark of “above”.

 SWEEPER enters along this line of bright, from stage right; it is of a height that dwarfs the humans over whom it walks; it moves slowly; like dense smoke; it is in a great, flowing/floating cowl.  As SWEEPER moves onstage, its cowl wafts behind it, and creates an effect of “twilight”, which it seems to draw along behind itself..

Ahead of the SWEEPER, there is only a bruised, blue/black darkness.]


..this curious Cirro


..once Nimbo

stratus.. no accident.


There was a Nocti


..-no; Arcus..

rose hued and-

[A MAN, in the ‘frieze’ of bodies, starts to flutter his eyelids, as if coming awake.. The SWEEPER feels this; stops abruptly; focuses on this.]

MAN: ruddy red as young,

wet, rust.. soft and tangy as



..wanton lust..

[SWEEPER passes his hand in the direction of the MAN whose body rises out of the ‘frieze’ to hover before him..]


..touch me here…

all the more..

quickly now; as time leaves..

SWEEPER: more..

[SWEEPER’s seems to “weigh” the hovering MAN –then, with a ‘sweeping’ motion of his hand, the MAN is ‘swept’ into the gray/twilight behind the SWEEPER.]


(sung as he is ‘snarled’ into the grey/twilight cowl) 

..come lie beside me..

..let my fingers play.

Your husband is away

and I am lonely too. me/love me/love me


no need to leave him..

just love me me.

Or let me love-

[At the last instant, before he is engulfed in the ‘grey’, the MAN’s eyes open wide –awake.]




[The face of the MAN is now part of the fabric of the twilight, and remains there with the last wide eyed glance before waking. In the ‘frieze’, a WOMAN’s eyelids start to flutter; SWEEPER focuses on her.] 






[SWEEPER raises her from the ‘frieze’.] 




water’s hot; cup’s in his hand

..teaspoon dips in the bowl..

don’t look/don’t look/look away

it must all seem right;

sugar’s just as white..

he’ll never know..

look away!

[SWEEPER ‘sweeps’ her into the grey, behind him.] 


..yes, stir it in..

..stir it right..

just some little more might-


..that’s all he’ll need!

..and I’ll wear black

-or maybe blue..

Or even dance on his grave with-

[At the last instant, before she is engulfed in the ‘grey’, the WOMAN’s eyes open wide –awake.]




[The face of the WOMAN is now part of the fabric of the twilight. SWEEPER slowly moves forward.]


..-but the ball is thrown; it flies up!

Right through the hole in the cloud..

and all the cirrus moves away..

And all below.. stare up..

..and gape..

and miss

three bases stolen!

[A BOY, in the ‘frieze’ of bodies, starts to flutter his eyelids, as if coming awake.. The SWEEPER feels this; stops abruptly; focuses on him.]


..the teacher didn’t see.

I took it in with me;

Kept it in my lap.

..not a little treat..

..nothing she’d imagine..

‘cause I never cheat!

Never cheat.

Never meant to cheat.. hand brought it in!

I didn’t mean it to!

Don’t tell my folks!


[SWEEPER ‘sweeps’ him forward, into the dark, ahead.] 


I’m so afraid inside.


I’m so sorry that I lied..


(spoken) Let a dragon chew my bones!

 [At a gesture: a dragon swoops out of the dark, in a great bellow of flame, and consumes the BOY!

The dragon brightens, burning into a star; it hangs, twinkling in the dark ahead of SWEEPER.]


In the flutter of an eye,

 My task ends the dream!

I leave it all

No better than insignificant.

Oh yes;

As the toll Time takes on surprise,

Leaves nothing new to see..

..except- exquisite


That’s it for me!

A Fallstreak even!


..blood hued below..

..Noctilucent above..

..oh yes!

That’s it for me!


[-as the muttering voices of the PEOPLE break out of monotony. Their eyelids start to flutter; SWEEPER motions their rising; as their bodies move above the ‘demarcation’, the SWEEPER gestures them into the “twilight” behind him –or into “stars”, ahead.]


(continues humming) 



I hate. I hurt. I want.


I need. I wish. I will.

Never. Yes.


And then. If not.


[This ‘process’ continues; the transfigured bodies collect, behind and ahead of the SWEEPER. The area of the ‘frieze’ empties; the chilling, frozen blue light diminishes. The SWEEPER sinks into this empty, below, as, above, the area of the stage is now the full representation between twilight, and a star studded night..]

The end




Written by tomminteroffthestoop

May 18, 2012 at 10:37 AM

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