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the Complete Review
the complete review - libretto


Paul Muldoon

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To purchase Bandanna

Title: Bandanna
Author: Paul Muldoon
Genre: Libretto
Written: 1999
Length: 52 pages
Availability: Bandanna - US
Bandanna - UK
Bandanna - Canada
  • An opera in two acts and a prologue
  • Music by Daron Aric Hagen

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Our Assessment:

B- : modestly effective simply as a literary text

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
London Rev. of Books . 18/5/2000 David Wheatley

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The complete review's Review:

       It is generally difficult to separate a libretto from the accompanying music; few are successful in their own right. The operatic grandeur so many of them aspire to loses some of its appeal without the music and when the words are simply read rather than heard. Bandanna is a modestly effective text by itself, but little more.
       The story is Othello-like, driven by the lust for women and power and by jealousy, and with a red bandanna that gets into the wrong hands suggesting infidelity, with fatal results.
       The setting is the American borderland with Mexico, the time is 1968. Illegal immigrants try to cross into the US here, hoping to find a better life. The duty of several of the main characters is to keep them out. The chief of police of the "tiny town" on the border is Morales, a Latino. He has a white lieutenant (Jake) and an Irish-American captain (Cassidy).
       It is not Morales who helps the illegal immigrants, but rather Jake. And while Morales has a white wife (Mona), Jake's fiancée Emily is a Latino (and Mona's best friend).
       The frontier-town is a place full of passions and conflict. The immigrants want a better life, but even once across the border they are taken advantage of. A labor organizer, Kane, adds to the divisions, looking to improve the lot of the workers (though he too has ulterior and less noble motives). Not to be underestimated, Vietnam also weighs over the scene -- "Something snapped in you there, Jake", Morales says.
       Jake uses Mona's red bandanna to try to convince Morales that Cassidy "was putting the moves / on her." But he too is only being used, as Kane acknowledges:

It's my job to keep
things on the boil. The plot thickens.
I give it a stir. Morales will take
Mona and Cassidy for lovers
because I had that shithead Jake deploy
the thin red line
of a bandanna.
       The dramatic, tragic end comes as it must.

       A decent little piece, but certainly more effective on the stage than on the page.

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Bandanna: Reviews: Paul Muldoon: Other books by Paul Muldoon under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       (Northern) Irish poet Paul Muldoon was born in 1951. He has written several collections of poetry and opera libretti. He has become a citizen of the United States and currently teaches at Princeton University and at Oxford.

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