It's opera, boyo - rugby with music

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The other day I suggested it did not really matter whether the Welsh built a new opera house or a rugby stadium, as there was not much difference between rugby and opera, especially the way the Welsh play both. I am saddened to say that people have written in from as far as Wales to protest, and I have even been pilloried in the Welsh Local Government Corruption News.

Well, gentlemen, I aim to prove you wrong by bringing you an extract from an opera I am working on. It is the first-ever opera written about rugby, and it is called Tristan und Gareth. It tells the tragic story of two friends, Tristan and Gareth, who grow up together in the Welsh valleys, attend the same school and aim to play side by side in the Welsh National XV, until cruel Fate intervenes to separate them ...

But you will get a better idea from a dip into the libretto. The first act shows the two boys coming to Cardiff as players in the Welsh Schools XV, which beats the English Schoolboys 15-9 (five penalties to three, no tries). In the second scene, Tristan and Gareth celebrate the victory by going out for the evening in Cardiff. Here they are, outside the Scrum Half's Arms in Pontnewydd Street.

Tristan: Well, Gareth, that was a famous victory and no mistake!

Gareth: Was it? But it only happened this afternoon. How can it be famous already?

Tristan: No, what I meant was ... well, never mind.

Gareth: You were always the clever one with words, Tristan. That's why you won the Dylan Thomas School prize for a rugby essay, on life as a forward.

Tristan: Ah, yes. "Hark! It is dark in the scrum, here in the dumb, boot- lined scrum, where feet rummage in the scrummage for the fall of the ball ..."

Gareth: Yes, yes, thanks very much, I've heard it all before, but there's more to life than culture.

Tristan: Is there? Like what?

Gareth: Like drinking after the match. (He sings.)

When the final whistle blows,

When it's time to end the game,

When you shake hands with your foes,

Then you always do the same -

In the shower and out again,

Neatly dressed and in the bar,

Downing pints of bitter Brain*

To show them what a man you are.

A game of rugby, win or lose,

Will leave you swaying but upright;

Eighty minutes on the booze

Will leave you flat out, tight.

Rugby players may come and go,

You may even change your club,

But there's one thing we all know

After the game, it's down the pub!

*Brain's is an excellent Welsh beer, not much seen in England. - Librettist's note.

Tristan: You're disgusting, you are. I didn't come into rugby to drink beer and sing songs.

Gareth: Then what did you come into rugby for, boyo? To beat England? To get the Grand Slam? Wake up, Tristan! Rugby is the quick route to oblivion!

Tristan: How do you mean?

Gareth: There are two paths to oblivion in rugby - one is to fail to catch the selectors' eye and the other is to drink yourself silly. I know which I'd choose. (He sings.)

Oh, once we had

A great Welsh side,

And Max Boyce joked

About them with pride.

Yes, poor Max Boyce

Went on and on

About Phil Bennett

And Barry John

But now that both are a memory

And Wales can barely

Beat Italy,

Max Boyce is left without an act.

And that's how Welsh

Comedians get sacked!

(Exit singing. Tristan is about to follow him when he is accosted by a young girl.)

Girl: Tristan! You looking for a good time?

Tristan: Well, I don't know ... How do you mean?

Girl: A trip up north! Three-year contract! Rugby League! Car, house and all the black puddings you can eat!

Tristan: Gosh! It certainly sounds tempting ...

Will he fall for it and lose his virtue? Find out into tomorrow's thrilling episode.

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