Writing A Mini Opera

I can’t remember how I discovered the E.N.O. Mini Opera competition.I assume it was via a Neil Gaiman tweet,or from his facebook page,or through one of his blogs.I certainly wouldn’t have been looking,or googling,for anything to do with opera.Opera wasn’t something I was interested in;at all.My only experience of opera was the rock variety,& a 70’s “Gilbert & Sullivan” drag act called “Hinge & Bracket”.What I CAN remember thinking was,”if Neil Gaiman is going to be judging entries,he might actually read something I’ve written!”.How often does an opportunity like that arrrive? where a literary hero of yours,will actually read something you’ve written.If,by some freak of luck,I was successful,I’d know he liked something I’d created.If I was unsuccessful,I could sugar coat my defeat,with the simple fact that someone had been better than me;and I could easily live with that knowledge,and do,each & every day.It was an opportunity too good to let slip,and so I decided to enter.That’s when the mini opera took over.

The Sweeper Of Dreams

This mini opera is for 8 soloist and 2 choruses. There is a chorus on either side of the stage: creating a tunnel affect, to the back of the stage. Whoever produces this has carte blanche to go crazy with the costumes. The choruses represent Dreams. But they must include: a clown, a shrouded figure, a beast/dragon, a “maiden”, a soldier (of any era) a male and  female lover (who need to be in separate choruses). The remaining soloist is The Sweeper Of Dreams. The audience are our dreamers and we’re going to take them for a trip to the Graveyard Of Dreams.


“Moonscapes and Madness,

Splinters and fragments,

Dust motes and cobwebs,

Infinite numbers,

Deathwatch and cradle,

Firefly and fable.

Numbers and letters,

And languages lost.

In the mists.

Fragile and deadly,

Tread carefully.

Dear dreamer.

Fairy tales,

Lusty nights,

Lofty heights,

And endless flights of stairs.


Opening doors,

Spinning webs,

And off with your head.

Slip silently,

Through eternity,

And infinity,



The chorus fades out.



Don’t scare them off;

It gets lonely down here,

In this tomb:

This forgotten room.

They shouldn’t be here .

But we want them to stay.

And now it;s too late;

Too late to hide,

Here he comes!”


“With his brush!”


“Here he comes!”


“With his cough!”


“Now your stuck!”


“It’s too late”

The Sweeper Of Dreams dances onto the stage, from the side. His dance partner is his brush.

The Sweeper

“The Sweeper Of Dreams is here.

Step in,

through my ivory gate.

Welcome to the Dreamscape.”


“The graveyard”


“The lime pit”


“The cesspool”

The Sweeper

“The next one who speaks,

Feels the wrath of my brush!

So hush,

My dear phantoms;

Can’t you see,

We have guests;

And we’ve always got time,

To entertain.”

A clown tumbles out of the chorus. The Sweeper and the clown entertain the audience.

The Sweeper

“Were you their first dream?”


“I wonder”

The Sweeper

“Were you their first nightmare?”


“With my grin;

With my sin.

Licking my lips,

And inviting them in.”

The Sweeper

“You might have made them laugh.”


“Falling down flat;

Flat on my back.

Tumbling round;

A bumbling,

drowning man;

Drowning in tears.


“Crocodile tears”

Both choruses start to laugh. The clown and the Sweeper cut them off, with a glare. The Sweeper brushes the clown back to his place in the chorus. As this is happening, the other chorus is slipping into darkness, untill they can hardly be seen.


“Was it the shadow?”


“The phantom”.

The Sweeper

“The shadow you know,

Shouldn’t be there.

The eyes in the darkness;

vacantly staring,

Patiently waiting,

stealthy stalking,

Their warm breath.

A whisper.

There’s dread in that thought,

That you dare not let loose,

In your head.

That secret remains there,

Until you are dead;

Like a noose around your neck.

Yes I know your unspoken dreams;

The ones you keep,

deep inside your head.


Which do you fear more?

The despair?

Or is it the desire.

That destroys you?”

The lights come back up on the chorus and as it does, the other chorus starts to snarl, howl, shriek, wail; a nightmare, bestial cacophony.

The Sweeper


Forgive them;

They’re angry

Because you forgot them.

Those poor, hungry beasts,

With your blood,

Dripping from their teeth.

All those years,

Under your bed;




Ready to rip you to shreds;

Tear you to pieces,

Gobble you up,

fatten you up first,

With promises,




Dazzling days,

Kisses in the starlight.


It’s six of one,

Or a baker,s dozen.

There’s no saying,

Where a dream might lead.”


“Sweeper, please,

Someone is weeping”.

A maiden steps out of the chorus and comes to the front of the stage. The sweeper starts to dance.


“I weep with joy.

These are happy tears;


Salad days,

Summers’ haze,



Wandering and wondering.

Cuddles and kisses,

and wishes and

A sly smile.

A smile before we

Fondle and fumble,

And touch and taste,

And not waste a moment,

More than we have to.

Steal away with me”.



It’s all so very nice,


In paradise,

Don’t hesitate,

Your dreams won’t wait,

They’ll fade away”.

The Sweeper brushes the maiden back into her chorus.As he does so, a soldier marches out of the other chorus. He’s struggling though, because he is wounded and dying. As the soldier sings, his life is slipping away, but no one on the stage will help him.


“I believed in what I killed for.

I am not afraid to die.”

The Sweeper

“And the man who put the gun there,

Can he look you in the eye?”

The Soldier

“I uphold the dreams of others,

It is not my place,

To wonder why.

It is my choice to kill,

Or die for you.

You must hate me,

As much as you hate

Your own enemy.

Sending me off,

I understand.

But it’s then that both battles begin:


And the reason why”

The soldier falls to the floor. The sweeper shoves him back to his chorus and points at a couple of the dreams, who pick up the soldier.


“would you forsake,

This fallen hero;

This warrior,

This broken dream?

Could you leave him here,

All alone,

With these vapours?

With me?”

A man has stepped out of a chorus. A woman has stepped out of the other.


“Why didn’t I?”


“Why couldn’t I?”


“I should have known”


“better off “


“Without her love”


“Without his love,

I’m nothing.

but I’m tongue tied,

gagged and bound to turn away.

What would I say to him?”


“Without her love,

I’m empty.

I cry for the times,

I know I should have said,


At least.

Fear is a ferocious beast.”


“We get the picture,

See what I mean,

If you don’t dare act,

 on that dream,

You’ll only live,

to see the end,

With nothing there,

To remember you by.

So why not come along,

Right now.

I’ve got prophets,

making profits out of fools.

I’ve got users fooling losers,


Takers and keepers.

I’ve got the lazy hand of karma.

There’s unburied treasures here.

I’ve got magic beans,

Spun gold,

Untold ways to please yourself.

So what if you deceive yourself,

With a little lie,

Now and then.

They all love it here,

With the Sweeper.

Come join us.

We all float,

We all win.

We’re all first across the line;

Captain of the team,


Time to choose.


Did I mention?”


“The sweeper of Dreams,

Hates to lose.”

The Sweeper of Dreams starts to dance to the back of the stage, turning every so often to the audience; beckoning. He interacts with the dreams on both sides too; laughing with some, angry with others, disappointed; it;s an inspection if you like, mingling with his minions.