The Phantom of the Lottery

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The Independent Online
What's wrong with the National Lottery, it is said, is that the sort of people who buy the lottery tickets are not the sort of people who would want their money to be spent on opera. Ah, but what if there was an opera about the National Lottery? Wouldn't Lottery people flock to see that?

I certainly hope so, as I have been commissioned by the Royal Opera House to write a new opera set in the glittering world of the National Lottery, and I have just finished the first version. I bring you today an small extract from:-

The Phantom of the Lottery

Act One

The scene is a small newsagent's shop somewhere in London, owned by young Patorello. As the curtain rises, he is unpacking newspapers and singing a mournful aria in which he expresses his yearning to get out of poverty, out of the retail tobacco trade and specifically, out of Dollis Hill.


I rise at five

When the papers arrive

I take the mess

Called the British press

And sort it out upon the floor.

At six I stop

And open the shop

Sell cigarettes,

Take a few bets

And wonder what I'm doing it for.

When it gets to eight

It feels quite late

But I sort out the fags

And arrange the mags

(Sexy ones on top - quite a climb!)

All through the day

It goes on this way

And if I ever pause

From my endless chores,

I think: What a waste of time!

There enters Patorello's loved one, an Asian beauty called Rasha. Although she loves Patorello, she has an arranged engagement with a young boy back home in the great subcontinent, which she has not yet dared to tell Patorello about.

Rasha: Oh, Patorello, how are you this lovely morning!

Patorello: I am tired, my love, and so would you be if you had been up since dawn sorting out the papers for delivery, doing my VAT, and trying to find a copy of the Weightlifter's Weekly which one of my customers swore he ordered. He wasted my time for nearly half an hour.

Rasha: You should have sent him packing.

Patorello: You don't tell amateur weightlifters to do that sort of thing. It only leads to trouble in the long run.

Rasha: Maybe you are right. Incidentally, I have often meant to ask you. Your name, Patorello - where does it come from? Is it Italian?

Patorello: No, it's Irish. I was originally called Pat O'Reilly, but I had to change it to get into opera.

Enter a customer, who slaps down a pounds 20 note on the counter.

Customer: Sun, 20 Silk Cut, and all the scratchcards that money can buy.

Patorello: There you are, sir.

The customer frantically scratches all the cards, mutters an oath, whips out a pistol and shoots himself. Rasha bends over the lifeless corpse in tragic pose and sings to him.


Alas, poor youth,

Your time has run.You only came in

For some fags and the Sun.

But you were sold

On a crock of gold

And now your life's over

Before it's begun.

Patorello: Oh, Rasha, don't spare any tears for him. I get people like him coming in all day long, spending all their money on the Lottery, and then topping themselves when they don't get a fortune. People sometimes say that the Government devised the Lottery as a tax on the poor. I think they're wrong. I think it was designed as a population control measure.

Enter another customer, a housewife, waving money excitedly in the air.


I feel lucky,

I feel rich!

Give me a ticket,

I don't care which!

Give me a number

Out of the air

And I shall be a millionaire!

Patorello and Rasha:

Don't be stupid,

Don't be crass,

Don't behave

Like a stupid ass!

Don't waste your money,

Don't be a fool!

Just remember

The golden rule:

"Only one winner

Can hit the spot

And the name of the winner

Is Camelot!"

More of this trend-setting opera tomorrow!