From The Writing Desk: Stages, Chapter 12


[an opera novella]
[written as Daphne]



“Potrò dunque sperare?” –
“Sì, sì, sperate pur, che non v’è male.” –
“Ah questa indifferenza mi farà disperar!“

[Mozart, La finta giardiniera]


The last orchestra stage rehearsal comes and goes without much resplendence.

“The morning of the pre-dress rehearsal, this is insane,” Bennet complains, and Kelly says, “Junior production, remember?”

“And out here to boot.” Bennet kicks at a stray pebble. “I hope at least the buffet’s good later.”

Amanda snickers. “Who knows, there might be boar on the menu.”

“Sounds like a perfect menu for your boyfriend,” Bennet says thinly.

“He’s not my –“ Amanda stops, then she shakes her head. “You know what? Pete would love it, and so would I.”

Most of the singers and orchestra will stay out here for the day and the subsequent rehearsal in the evening, catering included. It is cheaper than driving everyone back and forth. Myka will have to hitch a ride with some of the crew, though, because she needs to be downtown, with her music at the ready, by three p.m. sharp.

“We’re lucky we get the stage this much,” Todd says. “It’s performance conditions!”

“We’re not doing The Fake Gardener At High Noon,” Bennet sulks. “I can barely see Hugo!”

“Better through sunlight than through pouring rain,” Myka points out. She is on edge today, at odds with a lackluster rehearsal that has Hugo frazzled. Twice he has called her out already for missing a phrasing they had agreed on.

Claudia had shot her a surprised look.

“I’ve got an audition later,” Myka mumbled, duly chastised.

“I still need you here one hundred percent!”

Even Claudia is tense, so close to opening night, and it echoes through most of the cast this morning.

Helena may be hung over. Myka is not sure what to make of the way she slumped into her bus seat with a monosyllabic “’rning” and her sunglasses in place. She would ask Abigail how the rest of the party turned out, but Abigail enjoys the morning off, now that they have the orchestra.

Hugo is putting them through all the finali – Artie still grumbles about the second one – and through some of the trickier arias and duets. At least there are no action-heavy recitative scenes on the schedule, something which Myka is grateful for both because of the temperatures and because she does not want to argue with Helena today. Even Helena lacks her usual fighting spirit, though, and sticks to Artie’s directions.

It is Sam and Amanda who shine in their big duet scene. He and Myka have only exchanged a brief “hello” in the morning, before he took a seat next Amanda for the ride out here, and Myka feels guilty.

She still does when she gets into the crew car later, as everyone else sits down for a picnic lunch, and tries to focus on her audition.

“Myka Bering,” Linda says. Her hand is cool when Myka shakes it and she is kind in a very professional way. It does not help Myka’s nerves. Myka starts with a Cherubino aria, and she knows she is off. Linda looks reserved.

“Well. What else do you have?”

With her heart sinking, Myka gets out Rossini’s Sigismondo, a bold choice because it is completely obscure. She gets into this piece a lot easier, something that cannot be said for the pianist Linda brought. Myka knows the aria well enough to work around that, her breathing paced better now, and she gets to show off perfectly tempered runs in the end.

“Well,” Linda says again, but it sounds different now.

She nods at Myka to continue, so Myka sings some Handel to show her Early Music range, but Linda calls out “Thank you” after the A part. And when Myka wants to round it out with a twentieth century song, Linda shakes her head.

“Can you do Romeo?”

More belcanto, then.

The pianist shuffles through his music and hands Myka a copy of “Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio”, which he clearly knows better than Myka does, but Myka squares her shoulders and soldiers through it with gusto. It is one if those pieces she has always been aware of, a standard for her voice type, even without having sung it anywhere in particular. And while she knows that she still needs to grow into it more, to match its refinement, she can already feel the perfect fit it will make when she allows her voice to take fuel from the lines in the stretta.

Linda does not interrupt, and then Myka stands silent, looking at Linda with bated breath.

“Well.” Linda nods and extends her hand again. “I cannot say anything definite until after I have seen the rehearsal tonight, but I think you may be a strong addition to our line-up.” She smiles when Myka shakes her hand, and it is the first time it seems genuine. “I really liked your Rossini.”

Myka watches the pianist shuffle out into the hallway behind Linda and wills herself not to break into a wide grin until the door has closed. She feels as if she could walk right through the closed door, and on air, and possibly fly. She is bursting with excitement, and she wishes for someone with whom to share the good news. Her colleagues are still out at Domaine de Grand Saint Jean, though, and most of the guesthouse lies quiet. Pete has opened with the Tchaikovsky at the Théâtre de l’Archevêché last night and everyone involved in that production is either still lounging in bed or at the beach, so Myka dutifully stores away her scores and checks her messages.

She writes to Tracy, “I probably just got myself an agent!”, just to tell someone.

It only takes a minute for Tracy to call.

“How did you probably get an agent?” She shakes her head at Myka, the movement blurry on the small screen. “For work or for fun? – What happened with the tenor?” Tracy holds up a finger and then two more. “And with Pete The Trombone, and with Miss Cardiff?” She cants her head to the side and listens after herself. “This is sounding very French all of a sudden.”

“An agent,” Myka repeats, too elated to care about the teasing. “From a big management agency. She still wants to hear me onstage tonight, but it looks really promising.”

“Congratulations on getting someone else to manage your agenda.” Tracy says. “Not that you’d need one.” Myka has always been the more meticulous of the two. Then she sobers. “That means you get to stay, right?”

Myka exhales, and the prospect of an actual future in Europe is slowly sinking in. “I guess so. For now.”

And because Tracy is Tracy, she adds, “…and with the tenor, huh?”

“Not really,” Myka admits. “I broke things off with him.”

“Miss Cardiff, then,” Tracy decides.

“What makes you say that?” Myka protests, although she knows that it will be pointless. They have grown up in close quarters and know each other uncomfortably well.

“I googled her,” Tracy says readily. “Very attractive. Stunning, even.”

“And difficult,” Myka says. “And she will flirt with everyone, if it does something for the staging.”

Tracy perks up. “So she does flirt with you!”

“No,” Myka says. “It’s her role flirting with my role, but she draws her role into everything.” Myka remembers last night, Helena reserving a seat for her, Helena’s tentative arm around her back, Helena bidding her an offhand goodnight. “I just… I don’t know what she’s getting at. It’s confusing. A mess.”

“You’re in France!” Tracy proclaims with glee. “Things are supposed to be messy!”

“I do not appreciate ‘messy’,”

Tracy disagrees, of course. “Just because you had that one crazy girlfriend –“

“I had others,” Myka tries to get in.

“That law student we only ever heard of doesn’t count,” Tracy says. “Or do you mean your mad undergrad crush on Adrianne Pieczonka?”

“Everyone crushed on Adrianne Pieczonka,” Myka says defensively. “The entire class did.”

“And now Miss Cardiff is crushing you.”

Tracy is having far too much fun at her expense, and Myka needs to head back out to the Domaine, to make this evening count. With two full rehearsals and her audition on the schedule today, she cannot risk putting any more strain on her voice, not when she has to be in her best shape tonight, but she still uses the half hour she has left in the practice rooms, surrounded by threads of sound while she goes over Hugo’s notes at the piano.

She barely avoids barreling into Pete and his trombone case on her way out.

“Whoo, slow down, tiger! – Did the audition put you that much off-kilter? How did it go?”

Myka nods and bites her lip to keep from smiling. “I think I’m in.” She says it quietly, afraid to jinx it. “If I convince her tonight at the rehearsal.” She looks at Pete. “I thought you had gone to the beach to sleep off your hangover!”

“I could tag along,” Pete says instead. “For moral support?”

“And to see Amanda?”

“I couldn’t find anyone for a duel all day long.” Pete sighs. “At least no one who’d make a worthy opponent. – I loved your opening night gift, though,” he hastens to add and snaps open his case. Nestled in with the mutes is a ridiculously disproportioned action doll, a woman with scant clothing and a sword and a handcrafted little paper shield.

“She’s fierce,” Pete says contentedly. “The whole section wants one! – Now if Costumes had gone there with our Joan of Arc…” He eyes Myka with speculation. “Your type, actually?”

Myka punches his arm hard enough to make him yelp.

“Ow! – Fine. So where are things with Miss… – with Helena?”

“Nowhere,” Myka says, and it should not hurt this much.

“Was that piano concert a bust?”

“No. No, it was perfect.” It has got to be nerves about Linda’s presence tonight, about the opening night, but Myka finds herself close to tears. “God, I’m too old for this.” She blinks furiously. “This is embarrassing.”

“It’s not,” Pete says immediately. “And even if, I say it isn’t. And I say Cardiff really needs to clean up her act. Is she into you or not?”

“I have no idea,” Myka says. “Sometimes?”

Pete looks at her warily. “Will you punch me again if I say ‘Women!’?”

“Perhaps,” Myka concedes. “Also, she told me she used to date a tenor, so …”

“So did you,” Pete points out. He snaps his trombone case shut again. “I’ll come along and figure it out for you. – To the Brassmobile!”

It is good to have Pete along. He keeps Myka from fretting about Linda on the drive. He sits in on Make-Up, to the delight of their make-up artist. And to the delight of Amanda, who is pretending to roll her eyes at his antics, but is smiling more freely than she has all day. Pete trades barbs with Kelly, until Helena comes in – she has the last slot – and even though she keeps her tone light, there is a sudden undercurrent of challenge in the room.

“Pete. Trading careers?”

“Sure,” Pete says gamely. “I just can’t decide between make-up and singing. – What’s less hazardous, lots of eyeliner or lots of sopranos?”

“Just beware of sopranos with eyeliner,” Kelly says and hops out of her chair.

Myka smoothes a careful hand over her straightened-again hair and stands as well, suddenly anxious to get out of here. “Come on, I’m all set.”

Amanda joins them as they walk across the patio towards the side stage, their steps measured in shoes still unfamiliar that must not get dirty, and mindful of tight seams and freshly-pressed costumes. The rehearsal energy is gone, in all its driven unpredictability, and replaced by a different kind of tension that is punctuated by nervous humming and scarfs and water bottles. As of tonight, they will only share performance hours and be set back to their own bubbles and schedules beyond that. They will not work together any longer towards building something, day in and day out.

Opening night is approaching fast, with all its vanities and superstitions. A first audience is milling about, mostly insiders from the festival, a select few from the circuit like Linda, and some early family members like Todd’s parents, who have already arrived.

The day’s heat has let up, leaving the air balmy and rich. Myka looks at the green of the woods beyond the stage and the audience and catches sight of Pete looking at Amanda, likewise at peace in the face of beauty. But Amanda suddenly stops walking.

“Wait. Look!”

She points at a figure that is just moving along an empty row among the tribunes.

Kelly squints across the distance, at the back of a tall woman with a fall of grey-blond hair, and squeals. “Oh my God, is that Dame Vanessa?”

Pete rises on tiptoes next to them. “Who is she, Batwoman?”

“Vanessa Calder!” Amanda says, any snarky retorts forgotten. “That’s like Marilyn Horne walking in here, or Flicka herself…”

“The reigning primadonna of Covent Garden,” Myka supplies for Pete, who still looks from one to the other without comprehension.

“She’s been stepping down for rather a while,” Helena corrects from behind them, every hair in place and her austere posture mimicking the aggressive slant of her costume. “Only very select roles any longer, more small recitals and teaching…”

“Right, now that we have you to take over Covent Garden,” Amanda says dryly, but Helena looks back at her without blinking.

Amanda groans. “Dear God.”

Myka is inclined to agree, but no matter how arrogant it is, it is entirely possible that Helena G. Wells will sing at Covent Garden someday.

“It can’t be her,” Amanda wonders, turning back to the figure who is now settling into a seat. “What would she be doing here?”

“Perhaps she saw the Tchaikovsky and still has a day to spare?” Kelly suggests. “Didn’t she have a student in that one?”

Myka is only half aware of the gossip.

One of the people moving along the seats at the other side of the stage is Linda, even though Myka cannot find her right now. Myka may not go on to Covent Garden, perhaps, but the next few hours will play an important part in where she will go in the next few years. She glances at Helena, who stands stubbornly to the side and who is not aware of the importance of this rehearsal for Myka. She is likely just as nervous about Frederic & Frederic watching her tomorrow, and the realization makes Myka relent.

From the cubicle of the stage manager, they can hear Claudia shout out a curse, then two members of the tech staff hurry past with a ladder. From somewhere above them, the high-pitched whirr of an HMI powering up cuts through the air. First strings of the orchestra warming up carry over from beyond the stage and Myka nods to herself. This is it.

Hands land on her shoulders and when she turns, it is to face Pete. “You’ll do great,” he promises and kisses her cheek before he wraps her in a tight hug. “Knock’em dead.”

Over his shoulder, Myka finds both Amanda’s and Helena’s eyes on her.

“I would tell you to knock’em dead, too,” Pete says to Amanda, still holding onto Myka. “But I don’t want to give you any further ideas.”

Now Amanda smirks, but she leans in to kiss his cheek. Helena turns to Myka.

“First the tenor, now the trombone?”

Myka shrugs. “What’s it to you?”

Helena looks on as Pete slides off the stage podium to high-five a few of his colleagues in the orchestra before he disappears among the audience. Then she glances at Amanda’s retreating form. “Or is this turning into a threesome with soprano?”

Myka blinks at the dig, understanding a moment too late that Helena is angling for a fight to feed off it for the show.

“You know,” Myka says and she looks after Amanda, too. “That’s not the worst idea I’ve heard today. I guess I’ll have to ask after curtains.”

She leaves Helena standing there, and of course Helena chooses today to be impossible about things. She changes positions in the first finale and gets in Myka’s face, resulting in a moment where Myka is unable to catch the small screen with Hugo’s beat and has to take her cue from Helena’s intake of breath instead. It works without a hitch, but Myka is still angry.

In the second act, Helena adopts a different dynamic entirely when Myka charges after her.

“Don’t run away from me, you cruel, ungrateful woman. Stop!”

“What do you allow yourself?” Helena does stop, but she extends the pause, enough to have Abigail fit in two extra chords. “What do you want from me? What do you hope to gain?”

Myka wants to throw Helena against the wall as it is staged for the end of the scene, and she wants to do it right this instant. Helena cannot go around and shift details on a whim, no matter how seamless her performance.

They grapple a little more forcefully for the prop sword, and then Helena slides it right across Myka’s bound breasts in another unstaged move. She is pulling every stop to rile up Ramiro, or perhaps to rile up Myka, too, and Myka is as annoyed that it is working as annoyed by the changes.

“Oh, don’t rub that hated rival in my face!”

The wood of the set wall shakes when Myka pushes Helena against it and Helena looks up at her with glossy eyes. Myka glances past her at Hugo on the sidestage monitor, catches Abigail at the cembalo from the corner of her eye, and she feels in command of the moment, until Helena – Arminda – slides a foot along the inside of Myka’s ankle, pushing her legs apart just a bit. Myka bites the inside of her lip. She has no idea who is gazing up at her now, whether Helena or Arminda or a confusing blend of both of them. The movement is so small that Myka doubts that the audience even catches it, but Helena has always been more about what is in character than about what is directly visible, and this fits the moment perfectly.

It still makes Myka want to hit the wall with her other hand in addition.

And Helena is relentless as she stretches Arminda’s wings and forges all the rehearsed moments into a story that does not look studied, but that simply falls into place. She kisses Sam in a way that was not scripted, either, in a desperate attempt to keep him from Sandrina, and Myka can hear Claudia groan from the stage manager’s post just as a low whistle sounds down from the light bridges.

“Arminda, darling, you should know –”

Myka is not sure whether she is more nervous or more excited about what Helena might do with this next scene of theirs.

“Shut your mouth, you liar!”

There is so much fury in Helena’s eyes that Myka, for a moment, is afraid that Helena might actually strike her, but when she comes to “I am burning with rage”, it is with clenched fists and trembling shoulders, a zigzag between ire and tears. It is precisely what could keep Ramiro enthralled and Myka is determined to be just as good. She delivers her most confident “Dolce d’amor compagna” yet and there are approving murmurs among the audience.

“That aria was something!” is the first thing Pete says to her in the break. “It’s lacking trombones, though. – How could anyone write an opera without brass?”

“Mhm,” Myka agrees distractedly. She is trying to make out Linda among the crowd, but it is of no use. Dusk is turning shirts and jackets into muted specks of color against the seats and the courtyard.

Helena saunters past them still in her garden outfit from the second finale, eyes sparkling and not quite yet Helena again. “Lovely rendition of Dolce d’amor.” Her gaze trails up Myka’s body, across Myka’s hairdo, and only then she brushes past her, cloth against cloth. “A little on the straight side, though. A shame.”

Her heels resound on the floor when she walks away.

Pete clears his throat. “I think it’s safe to say that she is flirting with you.”

Myka scoffs. “She’d flirt with a brick wall if it furthered her role portrayal.”

Pete stares after Helena and nods. “She probably could pull that off.”

“Not helping, Pete.”

Helena herself is not helping, either. Myka is alert at every moment, ready to react to any idea that might suddenly strike Helena, which in turn drives Helena even farther towards the next new detail. It would be exhilarating, if tonight did not carry quite so much weight for Myka. She finds herself out of breath when her third aria draws near because Helena and Bennet have turned the staged assault of him into a veritable jungle-gym performance, a push and pull that Myka has to meet or she will be bowled over.

The scene works well, drawing laughter even from the small crowd of insiders, but Myka’s lungs feel too tight when a battered Bennet finally crawls away. Helena smiles, assessing Myka where she is sprawled next to her. She is already hunting for the next moment of intensity and Myka looks in alarm at the scene ahead.

“Could you tone it down a little?! I’ve got an agent out there, I need to sound my best!”

“Then you should focus on the story,” Helena whispers back, as haughty as ever. When the laughter has already died down and she is moving into position, she keeps her back to the audience for a moment longer. “You do,” she adds quietly. “Sound your best. – Ramiro, let’s be real.”

She is back within the scene immediately, but she eases up a little in the minute before Myka’s aria. Their exchange is languid now, a little slower, which extends all the touches and also the moment where Helena is stretched out beneath Myka, her hand moving up Myka’s thigh.

In the end, the aria is not Myka’s strongest showing, but she is in control of it. The last minutes of the performance pass in a blur after that, now that she only has the short last finale to sing, with Helena leaning lightly into her arm. Out there, beyond Hugo, Linda will have come to a decision.

Only when Myka is back in the dressing rooms and catches sight of herself in the mirror, the nerves return and for a few seconds, she is convinced that she will throw up.

A knock on the door cuts through the haze and she sounds shaky when she calls out, “Yes?”

Linda steps into the room.


Her expression is nothing if not sober and Myka’s heart is beating in her throat.

“A strong performance,” Linda allows. She pulls a big stack of paperwork from her briefcase and drops it onto Myka’s dressing table. “We would like to represent you, Myka Bering. And we will be happy if you sign with us.”

“Yes,” Myka manages. And, once more, “Yes.”

She shakes Linda’s hand and she is unable to stop smiling in relief, enough to make Linda smile in return.

Kelly breezes in at that moment, Helena on her heels.

“Secret girlfriend, Myka?”

Behind her, Helena’s eyes narrow.

“No,” Myka says quickly. “She… she’s my agent?”

“Yes, she is,” Linda says with amusement. She has business cards at the ready and introduces herself, a bit more intently when it comes to Helena.

“Contact the office with any questions about the contract,” Linda says, and she shakes Myka’s hand again when she leaves.

“So, your agent, huh?” Kelly grins.

“I’ve got an agent.” Myka is still in a daze.

“Whooo!” Kelly, despite her smaller size, picks Myka up around the middle and whirls her around. “That’s fantastic, girl!”

Helena gives a measured nod. “Congratulations.” Her smile looks a little forlorn.

“Now don’t be too enthusiastic, Wells,” Kelly reproaches her. “Just because you still have to run the gauntlet tomorrow…” She turns back to Myka. “Come on, this calls for drinks!”

“We’ve got the dress rehearsal tomorrow,” Myka reminds her, but Kelly waves her protest away.

“In the evening! Besides, you’ve got your contract!”

Myka looks at the papers on her table, reassured by the size of the manila envelope. She keeps it under her arm on their drive back to town. Claudia has informed Artie that rehearsal critique will take place in a bar again and he only puts up moderate protest. He seems lost in thought, much like Helena, while Myka is surrounded by well-wishes and congratulations. Sam accepts them right along with her, very content with the outcome of his recommendation.

“See? I told you to call her, I knew you had a chance at getting in!”

Pete tags along and tells brass jokes until Amanda elbows him hard enough to make him yelp.

“What? I am staying clear of soprano jokes!”

Amanda lifts a brow. “I am sure I know better soprano jokes than you do.”

Claudia groans. “Please don’t let them place a bet on it. We still have work to do.”

Todd looks at the folder in her hands, and at the post-its sticking out of the directing score.

“Just how many notes are there?”

“Enough,” Claudia grumbles as they file into the bar. “Although half of them are on Helena changing things.”

Helena rolls her eyes in mock annoyance. “You want me to change those back, or you want to jot them down?”

Claudia huffs. “Let me get my pencil.”

There is laughter, even as Artie begins to go over the directing notes, but Helena does not seem to be part of it tonight. She has sat down away from Myka and she keeps to herself, the rehearsal’s impulsive mood gone even as everyone around her is livening up.

“Fine,” even Artie allows, with all notes addressed and still on his first and only beer. “Perhaps you are a halfway bearable lot. But that does not mean you can slouch your way through the second finale!”

He excuses himself early, muttering something about work just as Kelly and Todd spring a round of drinks to celebrate Myka’s management contract.

“Will you be okay on your own?” Pete whispers when Amanda wants to leave shortly thereafter. He nods at Helena, who is moodily staring at her phone.

“You go ahead,” Myka says. Tonight, with the comforting weight of the contract in her bag, nothing can intrude on her mood.

Two more seats empty, then Bennet stands in search of the bathroom and leaves just one unoccupied chair between Myka and Helena, whose face is bare of make-up and oddly somber.

“That worked out rather nicely for you, didn’t it?”

Helena nods at the edge of envelope peeking out of Myka’s bag and there is an undertone to it that Myka cannot place.

“You sure kept it interesting.”

Myka is not feeling as magnanimous as she could be about the changes, and perhaps it is also about the empty chair between them that always seems to be there, unless they are on stage, or somewhere in the dark at a recital, where nothing comes with a clear meaning.

“I beg your pardon.” Helena is immediately defensive. “We were better than ever tonight!”

“You still could have given me a hands-up.”

“I didn’t know beforehand,” Helena says imperiously. “I follow the role!” When Myka glowers at her, she relents, if only a little. “And I didn’t know you were auditioning.” She takes another breath before she adds, “I am sorry.”

It does not sound as if she is sorry, however.

“Are you – “ Myka blinks and shakes her head. “Are you angry that I got an agent?!”

“No. Yes. No!” Helena sighs. “That contract has been long overdue.” She gestures at herself and grimaces. “Just a case of unappealing envy.”

“Of env –“ Myka does not know what to do about Helena any longer. “You are jealous? You do remember the part where Frederic & Frederic will be at Dress tomorrow? Because of you?”

“Of course I do, and so does everyone else!”

“You really are nervous,” Myka realizes.

“I bloody well am,” Helena bites out. “It is Frederic & Frederic!”

“They will…” Something else occurs to Myka. “Wait, did you just use tonight as a test run for tomorrow?”

“No!” Helena responds a little too quickly. “I have no idea what I will do tomorrow,” she admits.

“Let’s hope that it is something we actually staged,” Myka says coolly and she does not understand why she is so easily angered, not when tonight has gone so well in the end.

Helena pauses, but then she smirks. “I’ll do my best,” she promises and reaches out to tug at a loose strand of Myka’s straightened hair. “Madam Lawyer.”

Bennet returns before Myka can react and Helena moves away. She makes no attempt to say anything else to Myka, instead drawing Bennet into a conversation. Myka runs a finger over the contract papers and struggles to understand her own confusion. She turns back to Kelly and Todd and Claudia, but twice she catches Helena looking at her over Bennet’s shoulder, her gaze dark.

Myka tries to motion her over, but Helena dodges her glances and pulls out her phone again. It tastes like rejection and Myka finally gives up and takes her leave.

Back in the guesthouse, she finds Amanda and Pete lounging on the couch at the back of the common room, with the game console hooked up to the projector and a line of carry-out boxes around them. A score screen on pause is covering nearly an entire wall, and underneath its colored glow, Amanda sits with her feet across Pete’s lap. She wears a robe over a pair of sweatpants now and just as Myka enters, she shifts the controller into one hand to run the other through Pete’s already disheveled hair.

Myka is hit with the same fierce envy she has earlier begrudged Helena, but when she tries to tiptoe past the door, Pete catches sight of her face.

“Mykes? – What did she do now?”

Next to him, Amanda straightens and picks at her robe.

“Nothing,” Myka says glumly. She has no idea of gaming, but she wants to sit on that couch with Helena, bones tell-tale at ease and cheeks still flushed, a controller in one hand and the other winding through Helena’s hair.

“What’s going on?” Amanda asks and wiggles bare toes.

“Soprano drama,” Pete supplies.

“Dear God.” Amanda groans. “Sopranos!”

“You are a soprano,” Pete points out.

“But I wouldn’t date one!”

“Nobody is dating anyone,” Myka says and glares at Pete, who throws up his hands in defense.

“I didn’t say anything!”

“It didn’t take a genius to figure out,” Amanda says, and pauses. “No, actually it did take a genius.” She looks rather pleased with herself. “We share a dressing room, and you never, ever look at her. It makes sense now!” She eyes Myka with amusement. “Helena G. Wells. Well, you sure like to live dangerously.”

“Not a word,” Pete says to her before Myka can.

“Oh no.” Amanda lifts her hands, the controller dangling from her fingers. “I like to live a little less dangerously than that, thank you very much.” She slides deeper into the couch cushions and pokes Pete with a toe. “Pass me the chips, please.”

“You finished the dip already. Despite my protests.”

“Whining,” Amanda corrects him.

Myka looks at the two of them and yearns for carry-out and sweatpants and endearment veiled in barbs and the easy familiarity it implies. With Helena, she does not even know what will happen onstage during dress rehearsal tomorrow and it is little comfort that Helena apparently does not know yet, either.

Operatic Cliff Notes:

  • – Chapter Quote:
    “So I may hope?”
    “Yes, yes, hope anyway, there is nothing wring with that.” –
    “This indifference will drive me crazy!”
  • rehearsals: I have never worked at Aix, so the organizations and locations of the final rehearsals are all guessing work.
  • On Myka’s audition pieces: The Cherubino aria (from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”) could have been this one: (there are two); the virtually forgotten “Sigismondo” by Rossini has a showpiece called “Alma rea” (starts at 4.30 here:, and Bellini’s “Capuleti & Montecchi” is basically Romeo & Juliet with both roles written for female singers (don’t you just love opera?) and the entrance scene “Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio” is well worth a look and listen here:
  • Adrianne Pieczonka is an A-list Canadian soprano who specializes a repertory in the jugendlich-dramatische corner, particularly Strauss and Wagner (and, yes, some Puccini). She was based in Munich for a few years and is now living in Toronto with her family. And while this fact has no bearing on her voice or the story, she is also openly queer. Also, some of her repertory requires lounging in bed with mezzo-sopranos (treat yourself to the first few minutes of this – starting at 3:30 if you are in a hurry:
  • “The Maid of Orléans”, a telling of the Joan of Arc myth, is a not-very-well-known opera by Tchaikovsky. Aix staged another of his lesser-known works, “Iolantha” in 2015.
  • The exact locations of dressing rooms etc. are fictional. There is a virtual tour of the site via the festival website (Grand Saint Jean, here:, and you can drive past the estate vith Google Street View, and get a feel for the layout with the bird’s eye view (,5.3695485,795m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x12c9f361a4be4455:0xcc2b9885a04929ed!6m1!1e1). The Domaine also has a small Wiki entry (
  • Covent Garden / ROH (Royal Opera Hosue) are designations for the major London opera house (it’s one of the most ones internationally, too).
  • Marilyn Horne and Frederica von Stade, nicknamed “Flicka”, are two important and much beloved U.S. mezzo-sopranos of the later 20th century (particularly 1970s and 1980s), who have both more or less finished their active (stage) careers and are now very involved in teaching and mentoring.
  • This chapter turned out to be really long, with too much packed into one, so I split it up in two as per beta’s recommendations. Chapter 13 should be up soon, since it is only missing minor edits. Chapter 12 has been betaed by The Duchess, with additional input from Paula.

on to Chapter 13

2 thoughts on “From The Writing Desk: Stages, Chapter 12”

  1. You were a bit mala here, at the end. Poor Myka. It is hard to understand Helena’s back and forth attitude (forward, backwards? sorry. Lost in translation). Anyways, great tension that keeps growing & growing. Can’t wait to read the next chapter.


  2. Uhm, no, not at mala stage yet. You will recongize that one when you see it 😉
    And yes, poor Myka, but since we only see Helena through her eyes so far, we don’t know what is going on inside of Helena. She might have received bad news, she might be really nervous, she might not know how to sit next to Myka and not take her hand in the dark?
    For once, you will be in luck about the next chapter since it is already done and edited. I only need to format it.


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