Cosima’s Birthday: An Episode in the Life of a Genius

(Inspired by the well-known story of the origins of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.)

COSIMA WAGNER IS IN BED ON CHRISTMAS DAY. ENTER THE GREAT WAGNER.

WAGNER: My wife, I wish you a very happy birthday.

COSIMA: That was yesterday.

WAGNER: Was it? Ah, what do days matter? Yesterday, today, tomorrow, they are all the same in the great mythic scheme of things.

COSIMA: Whatever.

WAGNER: I have today a delightful surprise for you. You will be enchanted by it.

COSIMA: Is it chocolates?

WAGNER: It is a gift of surpassing beauty and loveliness.

COSIMA: Because you know how I like those pink truffles with the booze in them.

WAGNER: My sweetness, I have not brought you chocolates.

COSIMA: Okay, so not chocolates. Flowers?

WAGNER: Nor have I brought you flowers.

COSIMA: No chocolates, no flowers? Flipping heck, is it too much to ask for you to remember my birthday just this once in your life?

WAGNER: What I have to give is more enchanting than chocolates or flowers.

COSIMA: Want to bet?

WAGNER: What I have brought to you on this Christmas morn is… the gift of music. (CALLS OUT OF WINDOW) Hit it, boys!

A BAND OUTSIDE THE WINDOW STARTS PLAYING WAGNER’S SIEGFRIED IDYLL. THIS GOES ON FOR SOME TIME.

COSIMA (AFTER FIVE MINUTES): Well, that was very nice, thank you….

WAGNER: They have not finished.

COSIMA: Jeez.

THE BAND CONTINUES PARPING AWAY. PAUSE.

COSIMA: How long does this go on?

WAGNER: It is a very short piece.

COSIMA: When  you say short….

WAGNER: It is less than twenty-five minutes long.

COSIMA: Okay, wake me up when they’re done.

TWENTY MINUTES LATER. COSIMA IS SNORING GENTLY. THE MUSIC ENDS.

WAGNER NUDGES HER. SHE SNORTS AND WAKES UP.

COSIMA (SLEEPILY): What a delightful birthday present.

WAGNER: It is, isn’t it? It is called….

COSIMA: “Happy Birthday, Cosima”?

WAGNER: No.

COSIMA: “Merry Christmas, Cosima”?

WAGNER: No.

COSIMA: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?

WAGNER: Now you are guessing. It is called “Triebschen Idyll with Fidi’s Birdsong and the Orange Sunrise”.

COSIMA: Of course it is. It was very nice. Now, where’s breakfast? I’m proper in the mood for a full English, you know, with sausages, bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, the full works.

WAGNER: We have muesli.

COSIMA IS BEYOND WORDS.

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