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A Wedding
PREMIERE12/11/2004
COMPOSERWilliam Bolcom   
LIBRETTISTSArnold Weinstein   Robert Altman   
 
Synopsis
Act I

Introduction. Dino and Muffin's wedding ceremony at a church in suburban Chicago.

Scene 1. Rita, the wedding organizer, gives orders to the bartenders working at the reception. A mysterious dog barks in the distance.

Scene 2. Nettie, the grandmother of the groom, has not attended the ceremony. She is in her bedroom in the family mansion. Her daughter Toni, with husband Jules, appear, followed by her other daughter Victoria with husband Luigi—the parents of the groom—and the unmarried third daughter, Diana. Jules, a physician turned art dealer, examines Nettie with a stethoscope. Victoria, too, is unwell and has missed the ceremony. Diana is in love with Randolph, the butler, who tells her that all the invited guests (some 200 of them) have sent regrets. Nettie closes her eyes and dies. Rita enters and discovers Nettie's death.

Scene 3. In the ballroom, the groom's family meets Snooks and Tulip, the parents of the bride, and their older daughter Buffy (a silent role) as well as Tulip's sister Candace. Jules is immediately attracted to Tulip.

Scene 4. The women make small talk in the powder room. Victoria's mysterious illness is mentioned again.

Scene 5. The men have drinks in the "grotto," Luigi's basement kingdom—a replica of a Roman trattoria. Snooks declines alcohol and tells the story of how he found God (or vice versa).

Scene 6. Jules and Toni in Nettie's room; Jules tells his wife that her mother needs rest.

Scene 7. In the ballroom. Enter William Williamson, the only guest at the wedding who is not a family member. It turns out that he was hired by Rita to attend the ceremony and shake everyone's hand. Jules discreetly tells Luigi that Nettie has died. The band strikes up a dance. Jules sneaks off to take care of Victoria.

Scene 8. Jules gives Victoria, a drug addict, her morphine shot.

Scene 9. The dance is in full swing. Buffy—a silent role—indicates to Dino in pantomime that she is pregnant and that he is the father. Jules woos Tulip with an aria about his glamorous art collection, and makes an advance that terrifies the mother of the bride.

Scene 10. In the ladies' room, Tulip meets Victoria and notices the sudden change in her demeanor. Left alone, she sings an aria about Jules, who has begun to sweep her off her feet. Jules enters the ladies' room. They agree to have a secret tryst in Tallahassee in two weeks. Tulip sings another aria, "a woman in love," and is almost late for the cutting of the cake.
Act II

Overture. The composer writes in the score: "The orchestra depicts a lone motorcycle coming from far away."

Scene 1. Enter Breedley, the best man who has missed the wedding because he spent the night in jail. Dino welcomes him and tells him about his predicament with Buffy.

Scene 2. In the ballroom, enter Aunt Bea (Nettie's twin sister, played by the same singer). Bea, also late for the ceremony, is an old socialist and shocks everyone with her wedding present, a painting featuring Muffin, the bride, in the nude, surrounded by factories and farms. Williamson, the hired guest, is the only one to defend the picture. Toni and Bea have a heated political argument. Then everyone heads for the cake table. Snooks wants to cover up the painting but Rita intervenes. He wants to punch her but Rita grabs his arm and bends it behind his back.

Scene 3. Breedley delivers an outrageous speech at the cake table. Immediately after, he spills the beans about Buffy's pregnancy to Candace, Tulip's sister. Tulip, who has just arrived after seeing Jules in the ladies' room, is horrified by the painting.

Scene 4. Luigi, alone in his grotto, feels homesick for Italy. Victoria enters. They reminisce about their past; Luigi doesn't get a chance to tell his wife that her mother has died.

Scene 5. Rita calls an emergency because of the appearance of a stranger, who turns out to be Donato, Luigi's brother, who speaks only Italian. Luigi, who has made a pact with his mother-in-law never to let any of his Italian relatives set foot in the house, threatens his brother with a knife. But Jules reminds him that, after Nettie's death, this pact is no longer valid. Luigi suddenly embraces his brother, who pulls a huge mortadella from a package. The two brothers sing a passionate duet in praise of Italian food, joined by the entire party.

Scene 6. Toni discovers that her mother is dead. The entire family assembles to hear the news. Aunt Bea, the last to leave the room, bumps into Mr. Williamson. They hit it off...

Scene 7. Dino complains to Breedley about how his irresistible charm has gotten him into trouble. Breedley drags his friend, who is completely drunk, into the shower to sober him up. Outside the shower, Muffin sings an aria about how she first met Dino. Rita enters and shows her affection for Muffin in a most inappropriate way. Muffin runs off. We see, through the shower door, Breedley and Dino naked in the shower, Breedley repeatedly trying to get Dino to stand up, and Dino falling down each time. Breedley comes out in a wet towel as Muffin arrives. She goes into the shower; she and Dino kiss.

Scene 8. Candace tells Snooks that Buffy is pregnant by Dino. There is a family conference at which Buffy, always in pantomime, reveals that she has slept with an entire military academy. Thus, Dino is not necessarily the father of her child.

Scene 9. Outside the mansion, Snooks and Tulip prepare to leave. Tulip says goodbye to Jules, till Tallahassee. An angry confrontation between the bride's and the groom's families is disrupted by the sound of a car crash. Dino's car was in an accident, and apparently the newlyweds were both killed. Brought together by common grief, all sing a chorale. But then, to general consternation, Muffin appears with Dino, freshly out of the shower. It was Breedley who had driven off in Dino's car and crashed it. Snooks, forgetting about his vow, demands champagne. Everyone dances in great joy.

Scene 10. Jules and Tulip meet secretly in the ladies' room. Tulip calls off the tryst in Tallahassee. Jules rejoins Victoria to give her one more shot of morphine. Diana goes off with Randolph, the butler.

Scene 11. Luigi leaves Victoria to return to Italy with his brother. Everyone says goodbye: "Weddings are the happiest events, but...when it's over, it gets real sad." The mysterious dog returns and wags his tail.
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This work ranks as the #281 most produced North American title since 2000.
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