Oh, To Speak
a song not quite from the opera
A Brief History of Root Vegetables
Composer: David Heuser
Instrumentation: baritone, piano
Year Composed: 2011
Duration: 5 minutes
Pages, piano score: 15
A Brief History of Root Vegetables was premiered in March 2010 by the University of Texas at San Antonio Lyric Theatre. Oh, To Speak was cut before the first production in order to help streamline the final act. Right before the song, the nearly-mute Claudio, who has been cursed for many years so that he can only say one word – “Rutabaga” – has the curse lifted. In the final form of the opera, however, Claudio begins the song, and before he can get through the first lines the Producer enters and cuts him off explaining that his song has been cut from the show. Here I restore to Claudio what is rightfully his: an explosion of words following years of magically enforced monochromatic speech. The text is below.
Oh, to Speak
Ow. I said “Ow.”
I said “I.”
I said “said!”
Oh, to talk, oh, to speak,
oh to utter, chatter, shout and banter,
oh to use all those words
like chicken, canker, croup, cracker, cantor.
I want to gab, I want to prattle,
with an accent, or a twang, or drawl.
make a speech, turn a phrase,
take a cheap shot, and give my two cents to y’all.
All those words I couldn’t voice
like flipper, flapper doodle, dipper, dapper,
words like cream puff and generator,
and slagheap, sludge, slob, slipper, slapper.
At last I can speak my mind, flap my gums,
warble, gasp, enunciate
let drop, declare, allude to,
whisper, yell, pronunciate.
Oh to wail, oh to whine,
about shoes and ships and sealing wax
oh to quote, retort, opine
to patter, yap, spiel and yak, yak, yak.
I want to shoot off my face
about barbers and bean dip and bus stations,
reflect, rejoin, remark on
crayfish and crabs and other crustaceans.
but not about…you know what…
My new vocabulary!
Give me a thesaurus and I’ll be happy:
glad, joyful, radiant, beaming, glowing,
starry-eyed, sparkling, cheerful, purring,
“throned on highest bliss”
My new lexicon!
I speak all of the mother tongue and make it snappy.
I should make my declaration
on elocution, a reflection
of the question about inflection,
not to mention interjection, exclamation, and intonation.
Oh to snap, oh to say,
to murmur, mutter, mumble. Exclaim!
Oh to express and convey,
interject, blurt out, and proclaim.
Assert, recite, and quote and sing.
Allege, allude to, muse and speak of.
Disclose the secrets I’ve held in.
Like he’s embezzled
and they’re in love.