|Imaginary opera by Z. Leblat (fictional character)|
|Language||Slakan (fictional language)|
|Based on||Slakan folk legends|
|Premiere||1770 (revived 1982, or maybe 1984)
Cast'ullu Vlam, Slaka
Vedontakal Vrop (The Secret Unmasked) is an imaginary five-hour-long opera which features in two books by the English novelist Malcolm Bradbury (1932–2000), Rates of Exchange (1983) and Why Come to Slaka? (1986).
Slaka is an imaginary East European COMECON country, described by Bradbury through the character of its leader, Comrade-General I. Vulcani, as "a nation proud of its socialistik emulations." Slaka, which, according to the writer Lidia Vianu "reminds us of Bulgaria" is the subject of Bradbury's books Rates of Exchange and Why Come to Slaka?, the first of which is a novel relating the misadventures of a visiting British academic, the second of which is a pastiche guide book to the country. Slaka is also the name of the country's capital.
The opera is described in Why Come to Slaka? as "one of the highest treasures of the great Slakan tradition." The opera, which in Rates of Exchange was said to last about five hours, was composed (and the libretto written) by a Slakan named Z. Leblat, and was originally performed before Bishop 'Wencher' Vlam and his guests at the Bishop's castle in the city of Slaka in 1770. The score was then lost for 200 years but was rediscovered, missing only act 3, in 1970. In Rates of Exchange, the restored opera was premiered in 1982 but in Why Come to Slaka?, the premiere was said to have been in 1984. In either case, Bradbury set the event in the Oper Prole'tanuu Slakam, under the baton of Leo Fenycx, in a season which also included works by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Leoš Janáček. Bradbury goes on to describe the work to be considered by Slakan scholars to have been an important inspiration for the operas of Mozart and Rossini. The traditions of Leblat are maintained by the annual "Z. Leblat Musicology Festivi" which is held on a mountain near another Slakan town, Glit.
The role of the opera in Bradbury's book is seen by Vinod Gopi as symbolising the 'play with desire' seen by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer as a characteristic of mass culture. "The maximum play of desire is seen in the opera Vedontakal Vrop ... The characters appear on the stage wearing exotic and extravagant costumes. The plot shows a proliferation of characters who have dressed themselves in a way that obscures their identity...[presenting] a domain of decadence and excess."
According to the Slakan writer F. Plitplov, "the plot of Vedontakal Vrop is so laughable that no one can fail to take a delight in its immense confusions." Its characters include a magician (in some opinions an apothecary), a student disguised as an old man, a girl disguised as a soldier, a servant who is turned into a bear, servants of a Shah and villagers with a large cake. The resolution of the plot is not clearly outlined by Bradbury, one of whose characters explains "in the ending all becomes clear, if not in the way those people intend", adding that for an opera "such confusions are essential."
- Bradbury (1986), 9.
- Vianu (1999).
- Bradbury (1986), 70.
- Bradbury (1983), 228.
- Bradbury (1983), 228–31.
- Bradbury (1986), 70.
- Bradbury (1986), 67.
- Gopi (2010), 96–8.
- Bradbury (1986), 70–1; Bradbury (1983), 234–7.
- Bradbury (1983), 239.
- Bradbury, Malcolm (1983). Rates of Exchange. London: Secker and Warburg. Paperback edition ISBN 9780099340003.
- Bradbury, Malcolm (1986). Why Come to Slaka? London: Secker and Warburg. ISBN 9780436065064.
- Gopi, Vinod (2010). Chapter 3,"The Aesthetic of Pluralism", in The culture of excess in Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man, Rates of Exchange and Doctor Criminale, thesis submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University. Accessed 10 December 2013.
- Vianu, Lidia (1999). At the Gates of Commonsense – Malcolm Bradbury (1932–2000), in British Literary Desperadoes at the Turn of the Millennium, ALL Publishing House, Bucharest. Accessed 10 December 2013.