A Night at the Operaby MeaPortia
Part 1 (2008)
Part 2 (2008)
Part 3 (2008)
Part 4 (2008)
Part 5 (2008)
Part 6 (2008)
Chapter 1Celes Chere had never really been one for the arts. In all her years in Vector, she had not once attended a play and she had never paid any attention to the public arts that Gestahl commissioned.
She'd certainly never tried to sing.
That was why she wished that she could strangle her three companions as she read over the score for the opera in which she was suddenly going to star. She couldn't read music and she couldn't carry a tune. The only reason why she was being subjected to this indignity was because she had more than a passing resemblance to some opera floozy named Maria who had the bad luck of being hounded by an obsessed fan. The Returners needed said fan's airship as a means to sneak into Vector, and voila. A halfbaked plot was formulated in the mind of the Returners' resident "treasure hunter," the underfed and overconfident Locke Cole.
If there was such a thing as poetic justice, Locke would be singing the damn opera.
Celes looked at the notes and tried again, attempting to make the words match the tune being halfheartedly plunked out by the opera house's pianist.
"Better," the pianist said, even though he had a painful look on his face. "It's sounding better."
"What's that note there?" She pointed at a note in the score.
The pianist adjusted his glasses and hit a key on the piano. "That's a D." He hummed the pitch and hit the key several more times for emphasis. "Deeeee. Deeee."
"And, ah, that one?"
"That's a rest. No music or singing there."
Celes tried to match the pitch of the note he had just played and her normally husky voice began to rise higher and higher until she was hitting high, creaky notes.
"Careful there," the pianist said over Celes' singing, "you don't want to blow out your cords. You're way too far out of the tessitura!" He stopped playing and sighed. "Let's try this. Drop your voice down an octave."
"What does that mean?"
"Sing lower. With your normal voice."
The former general tried again, this time with better results. At least now it didn't sound like someone torturing a violin.
"Better," the pianist repeated, this time sounding somewhat sincere. "You're singing in a minor key right now, but it's a lot better than that godsawful falsetto." He gathered up his music and motioned upward with his chin. "Go on ahead " our time's up. We'll practice more before tomorrow's sitzprobe. You're wanted on stage."
"You get to learn how to dance today."
Celes could hardly wait.
Harvey Federico, best known as Draco, the star of the Jidoor Opera House, looked completely put out as he bounded up the stage steps and into the middle of the wedding waltz in Act II of The Dream Oath. The other dancers moved to accommodate him as he strode up to where Celes and the actor playing Draco's foil Ralse were clumsily dancing.
"Maria! All during your aria you were a half-step flat! Couldn't you hear the wavering pitches between you and the orchestra?"
"I..." Celes wished she could disappear. The actor playing Ralse gave her a pitying look as they stopped the waltz practice. "I was?"
Ralse waggled his finger at Draco in mock reproach. "We're busy. Can't you whine somewhere else?β
Draco gave a sigh of great annoyance and headed for the backstage. "When can we get the real Maria back?"
Ralse rolled his eyes as he reassumed the waltz position with Celes. "Don't pay Harvey any mind,β he told her as he guided her through the steps very slowly. "He's just wound a little too tight.β
"Oren. But since you're new, the Chief said to stick to method acting around you. So that means I'm Ralse and he's Draco." The actor grinned in spite of himself. "And remember "you hate me!"
Celes gave a groan of frustration. "Can't you sing Draco's part?"
"Not a chance. Our temperamental star back there is the dashing male lead and I'm just the sleazy comic-relief villain. Besides, my voice is too high and I can't project like, uh, Draco can. Ever notice that the orchestra decrescendos when I sing? They play more softly, I mean."
"I thought that was a little odd."
"Yeah. That's not in the original score." Ralse looked down at their feet as Celes barely avoided stepping on his foot and ended up tripping over the hem of the dress Maria had lent her for authenticity. "You're on the wrong beat again."
"Have you ever danced before?"
Ralse grimaced and let go of Celes. "Okay. Give me a moment." He looked deep in concentration as he looked out at the stage. His eyes darted from one location, back, and then back to the original spot. He spun around slowly in place, eyes still narrowed in thought, and then he grinned. "I think I have an idea."
"Yeah." He turned to face the empty audience. "Hey, stage manager!"
The perpetually nervous and melodramatic opera stage manager turned away from the extra dancers and toward the back of the stage. "What is it now?"
"Your presence is requested on the dais."
Muttering something and shaking his head, the man quickly bustled over to where Celes and Ralse had been struggling through the waltz.
"I've got a brilliant idea," Ralse announced, "and it might solve a few of our problems at once."
"Do tell," the stage manager said dryly.
"Let's make the waltz just a simple little dance. Like so."
He looked at Celes and laced his fingers with hers as they assumed the dance position. "Follow me," he said as he stepped backwards three times. Celes followed him.
"Now reverse," he said as he pushed her toward stage left. Celes backed up the three steps that she had just taken. Ralse nodded.
"Good. Now I spin around you," he said as he twirled her on the beat of the triplet, "and I spin you around me."
He passed close to her, keeping their fingertips touching. Grins erupted on their faces as they successfully completed the elementary dance move.
The stage manager didn't look impressed. "Look," he said as he took the actor aside, "our patrons are paying to see The Dream Oath. Some of them probably know the opera by heart. The waltz is a big part of the show. We can't go changing even more things! We might not get those patrons back!"
"This young lady has never danced before. We have to make it easy for her or else we'll all look terrible."
Ralse knew which buttons to push. The stage manager looked uneasy.
"Amateurish, even," Ralse continued. "It'll reflect poorly on all of us, but especially on you."
The stage manager shook his head and glared at the actor, who was now smiling as though nothing was amiss. "Fine,"the older man said, keeping his voice low. "We'll change the waltz. But if I hear so much as a peep of a complaint from anyone, I'll get the Chief to dock your pay and make you the Chancellor's understudy!"
"Thank you," Ralse sing-songed as he returned to Celes and the stage manager left in search of something to drink.
The former general had the hint of a smile on her face. "I appreciate you helping me."
"It may not look like it, but in this troupe we watch out for each other." Ralse looked around as he led Celes in their modified waltz and then broke out in a grin. "Except for Draco. He can fend for himself."