Mysterious 44

Research output: Other contribution


"Mysterious 44" is a full-length opera for 12 characters, chorus, the pre-recorded voice of Professor Richard Dawkins, quadraphonic fixed media and digital video animation. Malone created the narrative and libretto from Mark Twain's posthumously published Mysterious Stranger stories.

Existentialism vs Absolutism, Individual vs Crowd, Ignorance vs Wisdom, Sacred vs Secular, Impact of Technology vs Blind Faith, Superstition vs Knowledge, Passivity vs Action, Patriarchy vs Feminine Free Will.

Act I In 1490, in the small village of Eseldorf, Austria, a crowd lead by zealous priest Father Adolf stones a citizen spuriously accused of witchcraft. Three boys who participated retreat to a riverbank to hang out. They are visited by a self-proclaimed angel who calls himself “44”. 44 performs small miracles which make the boys wonder and swoon. The boys' employer – the Printmaster – stumbles upon the boys while looking for his purse. When found, it is miraculously filled with money. The priest is jealous and, accusing the Printmaster of theft, has him arrested. The Printmaster's wife, Ursula, begs for work in town, but is shunned. Then a Luck Cat wanders onto her lap: food and money appear in her pockets which further infuriates the priest. She hopes to buy her husband out of prison.

Act II 44 reappears to teach the boys about evolution and how to make a miniature village filled with tiny living people. When the mini-people squabble, 44 destroys them because "they were not pleasing". He predicts Nikolaus' death.

Act III The Printmaster's trial, lead by Father Adolf, is a kangaroo court of false witnesses, designed to railroad the Printmaster to a death sentence. 44 enters August's body to present a successful defence based on evidence, not testimony. A few days later, Nikolaus drowns in a river, foretold by 44 who did nothing to prevent it. August is devastated by the inaction of someone in a position of supernatural power. Weeping alone at the riverbank, August comes to realise that the death was due to fearful and immature morality. Upon August's enlightenment, 44 appears only to bid farewell and demonstrate that August had created 44 all along. Having left behind the stranglehold of religious doctrine, August finds the power to be a fearless and timeless explorer in the Renaissance and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputopera
Number of pages294
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


  • Mark Twain
  • atheism
  • theatre
  • electronics
  • Dawkins
  • opera
  • technology
  • religion


Dive into the research topics of 'Mysterious 44'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this