Operas by neo-Romantic American composer David Avshalomov

A playful one-act magic tale, faux-horror story, and Medieval romantic comedy rolled into one, based on the perennial favorite children’s-book-for-grownups by dry American humorist James Thurber.

Libretto adapted directly from the book by the composer. Used by permission of the Thurber Estate.
Duration: Under 2 hours. The genre is light opera–sung throughout. Musical styles range from serious/operatic (tonal modern) through operetta to light old-school musical-comedy parody. 6 leads plus ensemble of 8-12 with step-forward solo roles. Accompaniment: trio (piano, flute(s), percussion).
The composer invites expressions of interest from companies for full productions.
For inquiries use the CONTACT form below.

Live candid wide-shot archival video of the World Premiere by Mission Opera in Santa Clarita, second night, June 11, 2022



The Cold Duke of Coffin Castle Nasty Baritone, in his forties
Prince Zorn of Zorna (Xingu* the Minstrel) Lyric Tenor, 21
Princess Saralinda Lyric Soprano, almost 21
The Golux [a Wizard; also Listen, invisible] Lyric Baritone, old but ageless
Hagga Contralto or Mezzo, 38
Hark/Narrator, the Duke’s henchman Bass, forties


Tavern Frequenters/Chorus (stepping forward for these roles:)

Taverner / Jackadandy(Baritone)
Traveller / Jack-o’-Lent (Soprano/Mezzo; pants)
Tale-Teller (Bass-Baritone)
Troublemaker (Tenor)
Tosspot (Bass/Baritone)
Castle Guards and Captain (minimum 4, played by tavern frequenters)



Whisper, the Duke’s spy, non-singing run-off
The Todal, non-singing (2 actors, 3-legged-walking in a large dark slimy-looking sack)
Voice of the Todal (all ensemble voices mixed, offstage)
The Geese (all ensemble voices mixed, offstage)


The 13 Clocks

The cold Duke of Coffin Castle has imprisoned Princess Saralinda until he can marry her. Per a spell put on him, enforced by the horrible Todal, he must offer princes a chance to win her hand; he sets them impossible tasks, and when they fail he feeds them to his geese. At the Silver Swan in town, the ensemble tells prince Zorn of Zorna, disguised as a minstrel, all this; he mocks the Duke in song. The Golux, a forgetful little semi-magician (and invisible servant of the Duke), offers guidance; the Duke’s guards take Zorn to the Castle. There he sees Saralinda, and the Duke, with his sarcastic servant Hark, sets him his tasks–bring him 1000 jewels in 99 hours, and restart all the stopped castle clocks (the Duke claims he slew time). The Golux remembers Hagga, who used to weep jewels. He and Zorn set off to find her and they tell their plight, but she says her tears are all gone. They notice some jewels there which she says are tears of laughter; these last only a fortnight, then melt. They try make her laugh, and fail, but finally she does; they bag the jewels and return to the Castle. Zorn fights the guards; the Golux and Saralinda start the clocks. The Duke is defeated, and, cheered on by the ensemble, Zorn and Saralinda ride off to the Land of Ever After.

A fortnight later, the Duke sees his jewels suddenly all melt–and the Todal gleeps him.


© 2018 David Avshalomov

Librettoview score

Full Score view score

To follow along, click “Full Score” link to open pdf in separate window; find page.
Click back to this window, start sound file, then back to .pdf window.
(Live-singer demo sound files are being added periodically.)


Once Upon a Time (Hark) [James Hayden]
Scene 4 [Dungeon]
The Todal (Guards, Captain, Zorn) [Elias Berezin, all Guards parts!]
Scene 6a [Outside]

The Ballad of Hagga (Golux, Chorus) [Jared Jones]
Scene 6b [Forest]

A Wand'ring Minstrel, I (Zorn) [Chris Hunter]
Scene 7 [Hagga’s House]
I Weep No More (Hagga) [Megan Gillespie]

Scene Change Back to Castle (flute solo)

Scene 8 [Castle, Saralinda’s Window]
Why Must I Wed This Duke? (Saralinda) [Tiffany Ho]
Scene 9b [Great Hall]
The Hand of Saralinda (Duke) [Gabriel Manro]

Scene 11b [Outside]
Ever After (Saralinda, Zorn, Ensemble)
Epilogue [Great Hall]
Come On, You Blob of Glup! (Duke, Todal)

© 2018 David Avshalomov

Trotsky with ice ax in head RED

“Trotzky in Mexico”–(In Work)

A satirical operetta about Trotsky’s last days in exile in Mexico, a tragic dialectic of the Russian Revolution Betrayed.

Libretto and lyrics by my longtime collaborator, Renaissance woman Meredith Kennedy. Current concept is a hybrid between operetta and music theater, with spoken dialog, musical interludes, songs–but also some sung recitatives. The musical style will range from light–occasionally almost  Russian cabaret-to operatic (Rachmaninoff/Shostakovitch knockoffs), with some Mariachi thrown in for spice. The story will be told and sung with grim humor. Accompaniment: small orchestra (piano and strings core plus a few single winds, brass, percussion). Currently in the intermediate concept stage, with a fairly complete song list. Some musical sketches and lyrics exist in draft form; libretto is currently in work.

The composer invites expressions of interest from companies for workshops and full productions.

For inquiries use the CONTACT form below.

Leon Trotsky (lyric tenor), older in Mexico, also younger in Leningrad.
Frida Kahlo (mezzo or dramatic soprano)
Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife (alto)
Cristina, Frida’s younger sister (lyric soprano)
Diego Rivera (baritone)
Lenin (baritone)
Sukhanov (bass), chronicler of the October Revolution
Martov, leader of the Mensheviks
Stalin (basso profondo)
Beria (icky tenor)
Other figures from the revolution (cameos)
Ramon Mercader (tenor)–the assassin
Sylvia Ageloff (soubrette), Ramon’s  girlfriend
Small male chorus
Casa Azul servants
Mariachi band


MEXICO (Casa Azul): Trotsky and Frida Kahlo physically initiate their affair in her bedroom in Diego Rivera’s house outside Mexico City. Afterwards she sings of her attraction to him and wants to find out what makes him tick, what made him who he is, what happened during and after the Revolution in Russia, how he ended up there in exile. (WHY DO I LIKE YOU, MY LITTLE BOLSHEVIK?) He tells his story as the story of the Russian Revolution (I CAME UP THE HARD WAY), the fine ideals they held, the amazing moment when democracy in Russia actually seemed possible, and the betrayal of the Revolution by Stalin, while she starts painting a self-portrait.

LENINGRAD (various): In flashbacks, each introduced to Frida by the older Trotsky, brief key scenes from the Revolution play out on a raised platform/diorama with its major players, a chorus at a typical Soviet meeting in Leningrad (WE WILL MAKE DEMOCRACY), the dismissal of the Mensheviks (THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY), the final overthrow of the Provisional Government, and the Bolsheviks’ seizing of power.

MEXICO (Frida’s bedroom): When Frida asks naïve questions, Trotsky mocks her as a socialist dilettante. He tells of his work after the revolution reorganizing the army and the economy, the terrible waste of lives in WW1. (Vignette: Soldier, WHEN THE HOUR COMES FOR ME TO DIE). He laments what the Bolsheviks could have achieved if they had stayed true to their revolutionary principles. (O MY RUS/WE COULD HAVE) Then, prompted by her questions, he recounts how it all went bad, the nightmare of the new economy (IT WAS A NIGHTMARE), the liquidation of kulaks, the starvation, even cannibalism (IT’S NOT FUNNY), the rise of the apparatchiki (THE NEW ARISTOS). How Stalin took over after the death of Lenin, tricked Trotsky into missing Lenin’s funeral, betrayed Trotsky as his rival for the succession, consolidated his power and liquidated his enemies and rivals–real or imagined: the purges and the millions of exiled, disappeared, and dead; the Gulag. (WHY, STALIN, WHY?) (Brief vignettes by members of a peasant family who went through it all. (Choral dirge: WE MISSED YOU WHEN WE HEARD YOU WERE GONE). He outlines his exile and peregrinations, his flight to Mexico and arrival, Rivera’s and Frida’s welcome. He still has hope for the Communist International and still works tirelessly to promote world revolution ([LEON] I BELIEVE THERE STILL IS HOPE / [FRIDA] I NEVER KNEW).

(Courtyard of Casa Azul): He leaves her painting, goes out into the house and encounters Rivera–embracing Frida’s younger sister Cristina too warmly; she exits after awkward introductions. Trotsky and Rivera exchange views on the role of the artist in revolution and socialism. Rivera sings of his self-involved hedonistic life (I PAINT WHAT I PAINT, I TAKE WHAT I TAKE). They drink some tequila, a nearby Mariachi band is invited up to join them, then Rivera teaches him a funny bawdy song (NO ME GUSTA)–they dance to it, hat dance versus Kazotzky (hopak), and fall down laughing. The new Trotsky assistant, Ramon Mercader (the assassin), brings news of Trotsky’s rigged “conviction” by the International on bogus charges of counterrevolution. Trotsky and his wife Natalia discuss how to respond with a mock trial here (IT IS OUTRAGEOUS). Mercader, alone, reveals his purpose (STALIN COMMANDS, I EXECUTE–THIS IS MY MOMENT!)

MEXICO (Casa Azul Dining Room):

The Casa Azul is machine-gunned by a band of GPU assassins led by Rivera’s rival muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros; Trotzky and Rivera are unfazed. (DUET: OF COURSE I CARRY A PISTOL!)
Trotsky stages a mock trial with invited American Socialists and labor unionists as the jury, to vindicate himself. In his summation at the end of the “trial,” he defends himself brilliantly (IT IS RIDICULOUS, I WAS NEVER EVEN THERE). They find him innocent (HE’S OBVIOUSLY INNOCENT).

MOSCOW (high Kremlin window): Stalin, his face a parody Nutcracker mask, hears of the mock trial and scoffs (DON’T TRY TO OUTWIT THIS GEORGIAN) He tells Beria to have Trotsky killed. Beria says he has a man in place, they work out the details (IT’S TIME TO LIQUIDATE THIS LITTLE TROTSKY MAN; DEATH SOLVES EVERYTHING [FUGUE]).

MEXICO (Frida’s Bedroom): She urges him to celebrate his vindication, offers a special favor . . . (LET US CELEBRATE ). Just then Diego and Natalia burst in, discover them together and confront them. All sing a classic quartet on betrayal (TRUE BETRAYAL). Rivera and Frida bicker, Natalia forgives Leon (YOU ARE THE REVOLUTION AND I AM YOUR RUS), Trotsky says they will leave, Rivera says no hard feelings, they should still have a farewell banquet to celebrate the mock trial verdict.
(Casa Azul Dining Room) In the final dinner scene all are uncomfortable, Rivera tries to make the best of it with Mariachi music (the band sing new corrida in honor of Maestro Trotchiki’s vindication) and an ironic toast (HERE’S TO YOU, AND THE REVOLUTION/WHEN POLITICS AND ART COMBINE). Suddenly Mercader attacks Trotsky with the ice axe, is restrained, and Trotsky, mortally wounded, sings his final aria of regret about what could have been in Russia (IF ONLY/WE COULD HAVE, WE COULD HAVE, reprise), then dies in his wife’s arms in a Socialist Pietá tableau, with Frida spurned to the floor, as the cast laments (HOW MUCH I LOVED YOU) and Stalin has the last laugh from his Kremlin window.

© 2021 David Avshalomov, Meredith Kennedy

Sources of information include Trotsky’s Autobiography, History of the Russian Revolution, A Revolution Betrayed, several bios, Voline’s The Unknown Revolution, and Sukhanov’s eyewitness memoir of the October revolution. Plus common sources on Rivera/Kahlo.

(Live-singer demo sound files are being added periodically.)
Scene 1 [Frida's bedroom, Frida]
Why do I Like You, My Little Bolshevik?
[Scene before battle, Young Soldier]
When the Hour Comes for Me to Die
[Peasant home, Family]
We Missed You When We Heard You Were Gone (instrumental version)
[High Kremlin window, Stalin]
Don't Try to Outwit This Georgian
[Final Socialist Pieta]
Ending; Stalin's last laugh