Back in my bright college days, I was a music major. I hung out on the quad with other wannabe musicians on warm sunny days where we planned projects which would make us famous. Symphonies. Great achievements as conductors and composers though my class never produced anyone huge. Medium is as good as we got.
My great project was going to be a full-length musical comedy based on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.
In the Grecian version, Zeus, having taken the form of a great white swan, rapes — Leda. I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing being rape by a swan. I mean — swans don’t have hands. But of course, he was (is?) a god, so who knows?
Zeus or not, swans are slow and clumsy on land, unlikely to successfully attack anyone or anything. Being heavy-bodied, they have trouble getting airborne and watching one try to cross a road from side of the pond to the other, I can personally say they are not in any way agile. All their grace is on water.
Without hands or arms, rape seems unmanageable but I never encountered a non-human creature in my wild youth. As far as I know, my lovers were supposedly human. It could be difficult to be sure at times.
Leda becomes pregnant and it’s no ordinary pregnancy. How could it be?
She bears Helen (of Troy, the great beauty) and Polydeuces. These are the children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra — the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.
Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that her extraneous pregnancy is not the result of a lover or (horrors) promiscuity. “No! Honest to Athena! Mom, Dad, it was Zeus. Himself! Not just any old guy. And he was a swan! A really big swan (NOTE: Swans are big,) Really.” Good performance, even for a god. And since it was Zeus, the big guy himself, Dad and husband aren’t likely to try to call him to task, right?
The first and perhaps my favorite scene would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending soprano rich with passion and despair, yet filled with love for her four children, including those born from eggs. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.
I could imagine another show-stopping moment.
Eggs. Her Zeus children are eggs. Who sat on the eggs? Did they build a nest on her throne? Did she get her ladies-in-waiting to sit on them while she did her Queen business?
Leda: “The swan didn’t fool me. I knew it was Zeus. You all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird? Mommy, Daddy, you know I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Tyndareus, King of Sparta: “I want to believe you, darling girl, but I’m having a few small issues.”
Leda: “Trust me. It was Zeus. As a swan. We all know how tricky he can be.” She spits out a white feather. Now that was convincing!
The All-Important Dream Ballet
In a brilliantly choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. Some of the technical aspects of the experience make interesting stagecraft.
How, exactly, did he DO it? It will make a heck of a scene! Without any hands?
By the final closer, the audience will be on its collective feet! I can hear the roar of the crowd, standing ovation, blown away by swanny sex. Not to mention the eggs. I see the royalties rolling in.
I’ve been away from music for too long now to give this kind of orchestration a try, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who has the musical energy to make it work. I will happily help with dialogue. It might launch multiple careers.
I may even know just the right singers for it! At least ONE of them is deeply in love with swans!