Shawna and Ron's Half-Moon
Duration: short evening
Libretto: Eva Salzman
In its original form, this one hour "opera for veteran diners" is set by three composers. McQueen and his colleagues Philip Cashian and Alasdair Nicolson, were commissioned quickly by the English National Opera Studio. The work was produced for the large and enthusiastic young "Knack" company and the piece was well received on its initial run in June 2000.
The six scenes are set in an American small-town diner on Veterans' Day, when the U.S. remembers its ex-servicemen. The restaurant is run by Ron, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife Shawna. On this day, each year, Ron's behaviour becomes bizarre and unpredictable - as does that of the diner's two chefs, who are both female, both widows and both very poor cooks...
The restaurant fills with other groups. An elderly lady friend of the couple's; a pair of trailer-trash rightwingers with their over-precocious baby; a group of blind-daters; and some scatty youngsters getting together for a High School Reunion, all play their part.
The sting-in-the-tail of this apparent comedy is the guilty secret Ron has been harbouring all these years. Suddenly, the building tension within him is released when a loaded gun is fired over the diners and he confesses that he was responsible for the deaths of the cooks' husbands while they were all on active duty in 'Nam. He breaks down completely. As closing time approaches, the widows confront Shawna. She defends herself; trying to retain a little dignity, while the blind daters who've been stood-up bring a whole new meaning to "one for the road"...
McQueen and Salzman are now working on a new version of the opera.
MP3 audio extract (1'13"):