Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME UNDER)

Garrison Keillor: It was April in New York and (SOME DISTANT TRAFFIC, HORNS, OCCASIONAL) I was enjoying the sunshine in Bryant Park behind the public library, one of my favorite places anywhere. A little island of simplicity and green tranquility. I dozed off -- I guess I dozed off -- because I was lying on a beach (SURF, GULLS) and a slender olive-skinned woman was pouring oil (DRIPPING, TRICKLING) on my chest as she swayed to the music of the ukelele (UKE) and a peacock fanned its irridescent tailfeathers (PEACOCK CRIES) in the tropical sun-- except it wasn't a peacock (CRIES MORPH INTO CELL RING), it was my cellphone. -- Yes.-- Yes, ma'am. -- Of course. -- Right away. (BRIDGE) It was the boss. The lady who pays my per diem. She was waiting for me at a corner table in the lobby of the Allegro Hotel. The opera diva Renata Flambee. --

Renee Fleming: Mr. Noir. Have a seat. Rene!?? (FOOTSTEPS. TR FRENCH) Another pot of eucalyptus tea, please. (SHE WHISPERS) For my throat. (TR FRENCH MURMUR) And for lunch, bring me a lobster.

TR (FRENCH): Excellent choice. Thank you, madame. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

GK: Good to see you. I've been reading about you in the paper.

RF: Reading what about me in the paper?

GK: Oh, this and that -- your name was linked romantically with various people. The Crown Prince of Monaco.

RF: We danced together. Once. I was underwhelmed.

GK: Donald Trump --

RF: I fired him. Years ago.

GK: Brad Pitt--

RF: He wanted children. I didn't.

GK: Well, other than romance -- how've you been?

RF: Frantic. I just got back from a month on the road with The Three Sopranos. Twenty-five football stadiums in four weeks --two-point-five million tickets sold, top price $300 -- night after night, singing "Un bel di" and "O mio babbino caro" and "Somewhere Over The Rainow" and "I Did It My Way" and "Memories" --

GK: I hear they loved you.

RF: Of course. They had no choice.

GK: I'm sure it was great.

RF: Of course. When you go from "Un bel di" straight into "Ave Maria" and modulate up and into "Danny Boy" and from there to 'It's A Grand Old Flag" and wind up with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- people are more or less forced to give you a standing ovation. And then you do "Nessun dorma" for an encore.

GK: I thought that was a tenor aria.

RF: It was, but there aren't any tenors who can sing it. So I took it over.

GK: So who are the other two sopranos? Deborah Voigt? Jane Eaglen?

RF: Who?

GK: You do it with two other sopranos? Right?

RF: I do it with two boy sopranos. Josh and Kevin. I have them stand off to the side and wave palm fronds.

GK: The audience isn't expecting to see three female sopranos --.

RF: Once I come out, they don't need any other sopranos. They have me.

GK: Okay.

RF: What other sopranos would you want to see?

GK: None. Nobody at all. (FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

RF: Oh. Here's my publicist, Fafner. (MONSTER ROAR) Who wants to interview me? (MONSTER ROAR) Well, you go tell the New York Times that I'll call them later. As soon as I have my nails done. (MONSTER ROAR AND EXIT) --

GK: So-- Miss Flambe -- you said you needed my help with a major undertaking.

RF: Yes. I want to start my own opera company, Mr. Noir.

GK: Sort of ambitious, aren't you?

RF: The city is building me an opera house on the West Side. Part of the new football stadium. The first opera house that's combined with a shopping mall. Restaurants. People can eat during the performance. Something they've always wanted to do. --I want to revolutionize opera. Nobody's interested in those old stories anymore -- Carmen -- Mimi -- Tosca --Norma -- we need opera that's relevant to today. And that's why I've commissioned the first grand opera on the subject of real estate. It's called "La Romanza di Condo" -- it's about two couples bidding against each other for a beautiful apartment. Seven rooms with park and city views, a terrace, an eat-in kitchen, wood-burning fireplaces, and a Jacuzzi. The price of the house goes from $2.5 million to $4.7 and then they discover that they know each other. The wife of one man was formerly married to the other husband.

GK: And then what happens?

RF: I don't know. I've only read the first act. So far it has everything -- vindictive neighbors, tyrannical co-op boards, evil contractors -- but the Met refuses to stage it.

GK: Why?

RF: Because it's set in New York. It's a New York City Opera. So I'll stage it myself.


TR (FRENCH): Your tea, madame. (POURING)

GK: So where do I come in, Miss Flambe? I know very little about opera except that it arouses dark impulses in me that I don't fully understand.

RF: I need you to sell my Park Avenue apartment, Mr. Noir. I'm moving to the West Side.

GK: But I know even less about real estate except that it arouses dark impulses in me...

RF: Please. It's an unusual apartment, so real estate agents refuse to handle it. I need your help. (BRIDGE)

GK: I should've said no, but I was mesmerized by her beauty, so I went to her apartment and rang the bell. (DEEP GONG, REPEATED, TOLLING OF BELL) (PAUSE, THEN SLOW FOOTSTEPS ON OTHER SIDE, ONE FOOT DRAGGING) (SERIES OF LOCKS OPEN. DOG WOOFING) (BIG DOOR CREAKS SLOWLY OPEN. DOG SNARLING)
TR (IGOR): Be still, Hrothgar. Hush, or I'll put you in the crypt. (DOG WHINES AND IS STILL)

Sue Scott (WITCH): Who are you, my pretty? Whom do you seek here?

Fred Newman (DWARF): The mistress is not at home, but if you wish to wait for her-- (THEY LAUGH AN EVIL LAUGH) --


SS (WITCH): Watch your head, the drawbridge is descending!

GK: The apartment was done up in a forest decor -- old gnarled limbs of trees -- so if there was a wood-burning fireplace, there also was fuel on hand. I could see the entrance to a cave, or dungeon -- some sort of storage facility, another plus -- and fog drifted through it, so it had nice humidity. And it had fifty-foot ceilings. Another selling point. Six bedrooms plus living room, dining room, and a Hall of Song with a sword in a tree. (BOINNNNGGGG) And a terrace with a hut and peasants (TR SWEDISH). And a white horse. (HORSE) And a swan. (SWAN) -- The place was going to need renovation. The light was poor. (WATERFALL) And there was a waterfall in the bathroom. And enormous birds flying around (SHRILL CRIES). The master bedroom was enormous, but the floor was dirty. In fact the floor was dirt. And there was a bull (SFX) and facing him, a toreador. (TR SPANISH CRY, TRUMPET) That would need taking care of, obviously. (DOOR CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS) The next bedroom had some very sick people in it. (COUGHING) Consumption, by the sound of it. -- The next bedroom was the witch's. (CAULDRON BUBBLING)

SS (WITCH, CHANTING): An owl's toenails, a pint of moonshine,
Two strands of hair from James Levine.
The secret words -- as soon as I say em
There will be a spell-- on Susan Graham. (AN EVIL LAUGH)

GK: I walked into the next room and there was the dwarf and the hunchback. --


TR (IGOR): Hurry. Gandalf.

FN (DWARF): (A BIG SIGH) I'm trying to add up these figures!!!! now I have to start over from the beginning. (WHIP) (TR SHUDDER OF PAIN) (FN DWARF ADDING NUMBERS IN HEAD, THEN SECOND COLUMN)

GK: Excuse me-- what are you doing?

FN (DWARF): (BIG SIGH) Why do people keep interrupting me? I'm trying to get Miss Flambe's tax return done on time.

GK: Her tax return?

TR (IGOR): It's very complicated, what with the depreciation on the dragon and having to amortize the peasants--
GK: Excuse me? excuse me...

FN (DWARF): Yes? What is it?

GK: The tax return was due on the 15th.

FN (DWARF): Really. The 15th...

GK: At midnight.

FN (DWARF): The fifteenth of April?????

GK: Right.

FN (DWARF): You fool! Why did you not tell me???? Why???? (WHIPPING, TR SHUDDERING)

TR (IGOR): Please. I was so busy with the torches-- the villagers-- poisoning the goblet...

RF (OFF): Gandalf???? Igor?????

FN (DWARF): She's here. The mistress is home. -- Here. Fafner. (MONSTER) Take these into the cave. (MONSTER SNARLING AND CHEWING AND RIPPING AND SHAKING) No!!! No!!!! (HE STRUGGLES WITH DRAGON)

RF: What is going on in here? Gandalf-- what is he eating?

FN (DWARF): The dragon just ate your tax return, mistress.

RF: My tax return!!!! Oh no!!!! I'm ruined!!!!!!!!!!!! (SIREN OUTSIDE) Oh no!!!! Why are all these cars with flashing blue lights pulling up on the sidewalk? (STING) My career -- it's ruined! It's the IRS!!! I'm headed for Danbury prison -- two to five years eating bland food off steel trays and knitting ponchos. (SHE FAINTS) (DREAM MUSIC)


TR (GUARD): Flambe, Renata--

RF: Present.

TR (GUARD): I can't hear you!!!!!!!!!!!1


TR (GUARD): I'm assigning you to the recycling detail, Lady.

FN: Here's your jumpsuit--

RF: Orange? Yecchhhhh. Would you have something in a pale green?

FN: Orange. Take it.

RF: It's a little large.

FN: You'll grow into it. Move along.

TR: Here's your cellmate, Flambe--

SS (HALF-STEP FLAT): Hello. I'm Denise. What's your name? I'm in the prison choir -- why don't you join? It's fun. (FLAT, SINGS) "I'd like to teach the world to sing...in perfect armony..."

RF: No...no...no...(DREAM MUSIC) No...

GK: Miss Flambe--

RF: No...no...

GK: Are you all right, Miss Flambe? You fainted away for a moment...

RF: I heard sirens.

GK: It was a police escort.

RF: What?

GK: You have a special guest, Miss Flambe.

TR (BUSH): You can skip the Hail to the Chief-- I know that one now. -- Evening, Miss Flambe. This is your president. Came to see you about a job opening. How'd you like to be my ambassador to the United Nations?

RF: The United Nations? Moi?

TR (BUSH): Hey. You know French. That's good. You know how to say, "There is one superpower in the world today and it isn't the one that eats snails?" Let me hear you say it.

RF: I thought you already had a nominee for UN ambassador, sir--

TR (BUSH): I did. Mr. Bolton. He just seemed a little squishy and soft-hearted for the job. So I thought of you.

RF: I'd love to. Ambassador. I love the sound of it. Will there be a motorcade? Wonderful. I'm perfect for the job. I've sung in so many languages -- and I've dealt with conductors -- so the Russians will be no problem. But I have a problem, Mr. President-- my tax return. It hasn't been filed.

TR (BUSH): No problemo. We'll file for an extension. You got any illegal aliens working for you?

RF: Just a dwarf, a hunchback, and a witch.

TR (BUSH): They Republicans?

RF: I have no idea.

TR (BUSH): No problemo again. We'll just say they're intelligence analysts working undercover.

RF: One question, if I may--

TR (BUSH): Shoot--

RF: I'm honored, Mr. President, but-- why me? A mere soprano and opera icon to tens of millions?

TR (BUSH): Well -- I'll tell you. Back in those dark days before I became your president, back when the Supreme Court was meeting in the Sistine Chapel and we were waiting for the white smoke -- what gave me strength and comfort was watching opera on TV. It gave me a confidence that everything would be okay and made me feel good about myself.

RF: Opera did? What opera were you watching?

TR (BUSH): Opera. That black lady who interviews people and talks about being the best you can be and don't worry what anyone else says -- just be yourself. And that's what I want you to do at the U.N., Miss Flambe -- just be yourself--

RF: Very well. I shall. -- Gandalf!!

FN (DWARF): You called, mistress?

RF: Call my designer.Call my shoe person. My masseur. Get my nail person up here. My dermatologist. And my hairdresser, Mister Henri--

TR (KISSINGER): I am here, madame, at your service. How would you like your hair today?

RF: I'm in a new role where I have to kick other people around. I want my hair to be wild, dangerous. Acerbic. Slightly brutal. But not rough. Okay?

TR (KISSINGER): How about we dye the hair black and cut it very short on top and spike it with a heavy wax?

RF: Sounds like how I wore it in "Joan of Arc"--

TR (KISSINGER): It will look very good with a helmet and spear.

FN (DWARF): Your helmet, mistress-- and spear-- (CLANKING OF METAL) Your faithful dwarf has them.

RF: Thank you. -- At last. --I've found a role that is truly me.

SS (WITCH): A potion for you, my lovely -- (BUBBLING GLASS) Drink it and it will make you beautiful.

RF: "Make me beautiful"????? Is that what you said????

SS (WITCH): More beautiful. I meant to say MORE. You are beautiful, this will enhance your beauty.

RF: Fafner!!! To the dungeon with the wretched hag!!! (MONSTER, SS WITCH SCREECHING, FADE, STEEL DOOR SLAM)

GK: What about your new opera house, Miss Flambe?

RF: I have a new opera house, Mr. Noir. It's on the East River. It's called the General Assembly. People from all over the world -- a big stage -- and me. (SINGS) From the mountains to the valleys, to the oceans white with foam...(FADES) (BRIDGE)

GK: Well, I could see that I wasn't needed, so I checked out of the Allegro Hotel and caught a cab to the airport (TR ARABIC) and at Park Avenue the traffic was stopped (HORNS) and we waited there for fifteen minutes and then the motorcade came by -- and that was the last time I saw her. She was standing in the lead car -- with a helmet on -- her head and shoulders in the open sun roof (RF SINGS LIKE PARISIAN SIREN) -- and she was waving to the crowds and providing her own siren. Renata Flambe...a diva who knew how to play the role. (THEME)

TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME OUT)