Ig Nobel Prizes: mini-opera 2000 -- The Brain Food Opera

Libretto: "The Brain Food Opera"

A mini-opera in 3 acts, about intelligence

Words by Don Kater and Marc Abrahams

This opera premiered Thursday evening, October 5, at the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

[For more photos, etc., see the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of Annals of Improbable Research]


photo: David Holtzman

The Original Cast

Opera Director : Margot Button
He: Brian Nash
She: Margot Button
Pianist: Greg Neal
Narrator: Lisa Mullins
Laureates: Richard Roberts, Dudley Herschbach, Charles Clements


NARRATOR (spoken): Tonight's opera is an educational tale. It's about a man and woman who want to be the most intelligent couple on earth. But they disagree on how to go about it. HE insists they should eat nothing but fish. SHE insists on brains -- and nothing but. Let's listen as they discuss this intellectual fine point.

[MUSIC: "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" from "Samson et Dalila" (Saint-Saen)]

BOTH: My dream is just to be
The smartest person ever
SHE: I'll be wise and I'll be clever
HE: (melody is in accompaniment) I'll be wise and --- well, whatever
BOTH: I know just what to do
A very special diet
SHE: I am sure that I must try it
HE: (melody as before) I am sure it's time to try it
SHE: If brains are what you need
To make your life complete It only stands to reason
That it's brains that you must eat
So that's what I shall eat!

Brains -- I'll just eat brains -- No fruits or grains,
No variation
Brains -- No fast food chains -- Have what sustains
My cogitation

Medulla oblongata
Is bound to make me smarta
Cerebrum and cerebellum
And folks will do exactly what I tell 'em

HE: (first syllable (No!) simultaneous with "To" above, his melody is in accompaniment)
No! No! It's common knowledge
There's only one food that can feed the brain.
(back to melody of "Brains ---" above)
Fish -- I'll just eat fish -- My fav'rite dish
Though once I shunned it
Fish -- Yum, yum, delish -- I'll get my wish
And be a pundit.

Trout, cod, or barracuda
Salmon will make me shrewda
Broil, bake, saute or fry it

BOTH: I know at last I've found the perfect di---et!


NARRATOR: (spoken): When last we saw our happy couple, HE intended to stuff himself with fish, and SHE was planning to eat nothing but brains. Let's join them now, as they criticize each other's taste.

[MUSIC: "Seguidilla" from "Carmen" (Bizet)]

HE: Not if you paid me would I consider eating brains
They're gross and they couldn't be grosser
They look really awful and look even worse when you're closer
Would I dream of eating any? No, sir!
SHE (to melody of accompaniment): I must say that fish are slimy
On the whole they horrify me
Fish are scaly, fish are oily
Fish are smelly
HE: Brain-eating is insidious
They're positively hideous
If you're at all fastidious
You really can not disagree
SHE (to melody of accompaniment): Ick --- fish are so revolting

(HE: You must agree)

Ick --- fish are so disgusting
It is no wonder
They call it ick-thyology
HE: Brains are for testing
Not for ingesting
Would you run faster if you ate feet?
SHE: Fish have that yucky oily flesh
Smell fishy even when they're fresh
HE: How could you even think of eating any meat that's gray?
I say, no way!
I am the smart one, you are the dumb one
SHE: Nonsense, my dear, it's just the reverse
BOTH (to each other):
You're a moron to begin with
Eating [brains/fish] 'll only make it worse
Not if you paid me would I consider eating [brains/fish]
They're gross and they couldn't be grosser
They look really awful and look even worse when you're closer
Would I dream of eating any? No, sir!


NARRATOR: (spoken): Years have passed since we saw our happy couple. Perhaps inevitably, publicity for their simple diets has caught the public's imagination. Our couple became genuine celebrities. Unfortunately, the brains SHE ate came from mad cows, and she contracted Mad Cow Disease. The fish HE ate were contaminated with mercury, and he came down with Mad Hatter's disease. But their love deepened. Yes, they were mad for each other. Let's join them now as they find a way to reconcile their differences... and as they come up with the world's next big diet fad!

(There are two large stands nearby, with the NOBEL LAUREATES handing out fish and brains to a group of MINGLING CUSTOMERS. One stand has a sign on top saying "FISH." The other stand, just a few feet away, is topped with a big sign that says "BRAINS." At the end of this song, when the couple sing about "fishbrains," the stands are pushed together so they are topped by a single hybrid sign that says "FISHBRAINS.")

photo: Andrea Kulish

[MUSIC: "Libiamo" from "La Traviata" (Verdi)]

HE: It's clear
Fish and brains are not merely a fad
And if only the two of us weren't so intelligent
My dear Then by now I would surely be mad
As a hatter and you would be madder than a cow
SHE: The public seems to be wanting brains and fish
They always ask for the latest diet
And they don't stop, not until they buy it
Of course they must try it right away
BOTH: Our dream has come true
Both for me and for you
We could not bear it
If we don't share it with the world

SHE: I know
Now, my darling, it's you I adore
And your I.Q.
There's no one like you
In all the world today
And so
Minor side effects we can ignore
Like conniptions and heebie-jeebies and maybe death
HE: Perhaps these diets'll be passé some day
SHE: Perhaps we could re__ __ __ fine them
HE: Or better yet, com__ __ __ bine them [music slows and stops]
HE: .......Fish?......
SHE: .......Brains?....
HE: ......Fish...
SHE: ......Brains...
BOTH: (get the idea together) Fish brains!!!
BOTH: Hooray!
HE: You are brilliant, my dear,
SHE: So are you
BOTH: So let's stop singing
And begin bringing you [slow down] fish-----(hold the note)

(Everyone else on stage has been swelling the ranks of the MINGLING CROWD as the following happens: The two vending stands are pushed together, forming a single sing at the top that says "FISHBRAINS." The NOBEL LAUREATES, with the happy approval of the MINGLING CUSTOMERS, fling fishbrains into the audience.)
CHORUS: Oh, yes, please, for Godsake stop singing!

Please!! Now it's time to start flinging

Photo: Andrea Kulish

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