Stages – Chapter 15

[an opera novella]
[written as Daphne]

15

141610

ah qual tumulto
provo nel sen allor che m’è vicino.

(Mozart, La finta giardiniera)

141610

They take the back staircase, Myka in the lead and standing as tall as possible to shield a disheveled Helena behind her. The corridor is deserted as they take clandestine steps past costume racks that are already heavy with the wardrobes of their colleagues.

“Where on God’s green earth have you two been?!”

The lights of the dressing room are as harsh as the voice of Jeannine from the wardrobe department who regards them with her hands on her hips before she lifts them in horror.

“The silk! What have you done to the silk?!”

Myka chances a glance at the mirrors as she and Helena stand duly chastised. Helena’s eyes are still wide, touching slower upon the things around her, and Myka herself has to suppress a smile born of giddiness and nerves. Both their shirts are creased beyond recognition, her own with stains of gray along its sides. Helena’s hairstyle has lost all severity, her own ponytail is mostly undone and when it comes to their make-up, Myka is not sure whether she is looking at last remnants of lipstick, or the visible marks of Helena’s insistence.

“What have you…” Jeannine rounds them, still aghast while she takes in the damage and their skittish gazes. “Oh no, you did not!”

Myka is mortified and, no, there is not much foundation left on her features to conceal her blush. Helena tries to stare down Jeannine in defiance, but Jeannine suddenly breaks out in laughter.

“I cannot believe you two!” She shakes her head. “Quick, get out of these. I need all the time I can get to put them back into shape!”

She points an imperious finger at the hamper in the corner and tuts when she leans forward to inspect a small tear on Myka’s shirt.

Over Jeannine’s head, Myka looks at Helena, who mirrors her embarrassed grin. Jeannine keeps muttering to herself when she leans in to unfasten the bindings around Myka’s chest with professional efficiency, and Myka flinches at hands that are not Helena’s, that do not move against her skin with seamless impatience.

“On the first night of the run!” Jeannine rifles through hangers on the rack behind them. “They do not pay me enough to work on junior productions.”

Helena shoots Myka another complicit glance and Myka has to bite the inside of her cheek to silence the giggle that is threatening to spill forward. They form a counterpoint to Jeannine’s complaints, and both their bodies still brim with sensations of a darker, quieter space.

Those fade with the brush of fresh clothes against her skin and Myka sits down and reaches for the bottle of oily lotion that will remove the remains of her make-up. They sit apart, with Kelly’s and Amanda’s seats in between them, and the room seems bigger than ever before.

Myka scrubs at her face with a wet towel and when she brushes it along her neck, the lingering echo of Helena’s lips catches her off guard. She takes an uneven breath and hurries to slip her dress – the little black one – over her head, with her back turned to Helena. Although she has conditioned herself sternly not to look at Helena in here, she startles at the minuscule sound of cloth against skin behind her and her eyes betray her. She catches Helena tugging a sheath of violet silk into place along her thighs and Myka’s palms unhelpfully remember crinkled silk of a lighter shade, remember pushing it out of the way and having it fall against the back of her hands while her fingers move against Helena’s skin.

When Jeannine finally slips out of the room, they could speak, but they do not. Myka reaches for words and finds none. Yet the silence does not feel empty to her, it is rich with the cadence of Helena’s breathing, which Myka’s ears are still attuned to, accompanied by the muted scrape of a hairbrush and the snap of a compact.

Myka gazes at her reflection and struggles to cover up the sensuous knowledge looking back at her. She applies foundation to cheeks still flushed, meticulously colors eyelashes above pupils still large and smoothes color along lips still kiss-swollen and without need for it.

From the corner of her eyes, she sees Helena raise her arms to twist her hair into a softer variant of Arminda’s style. Then Helena stands and clears her throat, just as Myka finishes dusting powder onto what she hopes will look like regained composure.

“Ready to face the music?”

Helena’s voice still rings with intimacy and Myka does not want to leave this room, where the crumpled shirts on their hangers are tangible reminders of what has happened between them.

Myka nods, brushes her palms over the smooth fall of her hair, and stands. When she turns to face Helena, the air leaves her lungs without any volition.

Helena is, indeed, breathtaking.

Her dress shimmers softly, the gloss of her hair borrows from the night that has followed them in here. The curves of her arms, slender as they are, conceal a strength Myka intimately remembers now, and the pale red of her lips does not look like lipstick, but like the imprint of all the kisses they have shared earlier.

Myka opens her mouth, tries to remember how to draw breath, and Helena takes a small step closer.

“You…”

“Bering! Wells!!”

Claudia’s voice cuts between them and steps clatter along the hallway outside.

“I swear if they are not in there right now, I will find them and rip their heads off!!” Claudia tears the door open, in black pants and a pair of heels for once. “….Ah, there you are.”

She rushes them outside, down the staircase, with her shoes punctuating every step.

“Where the hell have you been? We have been looking for you all over the place!”

“Is the chairman of the board getting antsy?” Helena asks instead, slow amusement coloring her tone.

“No, but his wife is on her fourth glass of champagne already.” Claudia pushes them out of the building and into the crowded courtyard, where mild applause swells at their arrival. “And she knows far too much about everyone present.”

They are herded over to their colleagues, whose gazes range from curious to annoyed, and there is the ring of metal against glass.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, now that everyone finally has a drink, let us raise our glasses in celebration of tonight’s production!”

The chairman launches into the prepared laudation. He does not even need flashcards, Myka notes, while she is handed a glass of champagne. She has to applaud around it when Hugo is being called forward and she quickly takes a few sips so she won’t spill any of it onto her dress.

Hugo is still formally dressed, but his hair has returned to its customary state of disarray and Myka finds herself thinking that she will miss this, that she will miss all of them.

“….and our exceptional cast of young singers!”

“I’m older than your wife,” Bennet mutters under his breath, but he smiles broadly as he is called forward and takes a small, sketched bow among the applause of the audience members and officials that fill the courtyard.

Kelly is handed not one, but two bouquets of flowers and squeals with delight when she is presented. As a blushing Todd steps forward, no one applauds harder than his parents.

Myka’s gaze wanders along the line and finds Helena, touches upon the sight of her as one would behold a blossom in a barren landscape: with reverence and, more than looking, hearkening as though being addressed, moved to the core at the generous presence of beauty.

“Oh hell, no,” Claudia grinds out next to her and Myka is startled out of her reverie. “Myka Bering, don’t tell me you’ve held out until opening night, only to do something stupid now! – With the entire run ahead! Why did you do this to me?!”

Myka is relieved of the need to answer because at that moment, Artie gets called forward and motions for Claudia to take the bow with him, even as the chairman insists on mentioning “…the added pleasure of welcoming Lady Vanessa Calder, although we could, sadly, not convince her to take a starring role this year!”

“But that is not the point,” Lady Vanessa says, smiling like an iceberg. Myka hopes that Lady Vanessa will never look at her the way she looks at the chairman now. “We are here to praise the wonderful young colleagues who have made this evening such a success.”

“Of course we are also hoping to have Artie back with us for another summer,” the chairman tacks on. “Perhaps we can talk about titles later tonight, Artie?”

“Forget the titles, can we talk about a better ballet floor?” Artie says, also loud enough to be widely heard.

“That depends,” Claudia mutters as she nods at the applause surrounding them. “Do we still want to work here?”

Sam is the next one to be introduced and Myka is surprised to find her glass of champagne already empty. Catering is quick to give her another one, just in time to toast Helena, who accepts the wave of applause with a warm smile and a hand to her chest.

It is her uninjured hand, and Myka is still transfixed by the sight of it, the length and slight curve of the fingers, when she herself is called upon.

“…I myself was surprised to see such a convincing and, dare I say, dashing young man on stage tonight,” the chairman announces jovially. “We are delighted to welcome Myka Bering, who, as you can see, is just as much a revelation out of those trousers!”

Myka’s smile falters when she steps to the center of the courtyard and she tries to cover it by half a bow, tries to concentrate on the friendly faces and the applause around her.

“Sexist creep,” Claudia mutters when Myka lines up next to her, but what comforts Myka even more is Helena’s furious glare, at Claudia’s other side.

“Now that’s just bollocks!”

The attention shifts to Amanda with the final call for the leading lady of the evening. Myka takes another sip of champagne and wishes for a glass of water instead. They have tomorrow off, but she needs to be careful and the alcohol is already warming up her throat in a way it should not.

“Wells!” Artie barks with the pleasantries laid to rest. “There are notes! And guess what they say, not in the script.”

“Which scene now?” Helena asks.

“Have your pick. I am sure it will fit.” Artie points an accusing finger at Helena. “You asked me to put you onstage for the third Ramiro aria!”

“Yes,” Helena says, and nods demurely. “But you were right. It works better with me storming off, I know everything I need by then.”

At Artie’s side, Lady Vanessa is smothering a smile, while giving Helena a knowing look. Then, to Myka’s surprise, she offers, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” and steps closer.

“To me?”

Myka still feels as if she has to look up when she talks to her.

“I am teaching a master class in the fall,” Vanessa says without further preamble. “At the Royal College of Music. I thought you might like to apply. I would enjoy working with you.”

“Of course,” Myka stammers and holds more firmly onto her glass of champagne. “I will have to talk to my agent,” she remembers to say then. “But that would be fantastic. Of course!”

“Where are you under contract?”

“Berg and Rosen,” Myka says and it does not yet fall smoothly off her tongue.

Vanessa nods thoughtfully. “I don’t think that will be a problem. Perhaps they can organize you a little thing on the side. I think Tony is doing a small-size Elijah at Royal Albert Hall, and last I heard, he was still complaining about casting the second solo quartet.”

Myka’s head is swimming.

“Oh, and did Artie mention that he’ll be doing Grimes with ENO? I’ve already told Helena –“

Helena has been drawn into another conversation, but next to Vanessa, Artie clears his throat. “I would work with you again,” he allows. “But if it’s both you and Wells, my cardiologist will have a word with me.”

I will have a word with you,” Vanessa says and gently places a hand on his arm.

The gesture makes Myka glance again at Helena, who is beleaguered by people brandishing program books among excited chatter and the high clank of the champagne glasses.

As if sensing her attention, Helena turns and meets Myka’s eyes, and Myka is back in the chapel, Helena’s breath against her throat. She curls her hand into a fist, overwhelmed by the memory, by the noise around her, by desire and doubt.

“Myka?” Artie studies her face with concern. “About you checking with your management, about 2018?”

“It’s been quite a night, hasn’t it?” Vanessa intervenes while Myka hastens to apologize. “I am sure Artie has your contact data.”

“It can be a little overwhelming, hm?” Sam appears at Myka’s shoulder and hands her a glass. “These receptions, I mean.” Myka takes a small sip and tastes yet more champagne. “It’s normal to feel spent,” he says generously and Myka is not sure whether she wants to bristle at him or laugh at him.

“You did really well tonight.”

He sounds sincere, and now Myka does bristle. She knows she was good.

Sam waves over his agent for a toast – “To Berg and Rosen and their roster!” – and Myka takes another, polite sip from her glass. She is constantly aware of Helena at the edge of her vision, beyond Sam, and now she wants to laugh at herself, at how she tried so hard to will her attraction to Sam into something more, when it all it takes is Helena saying her name to dissolve into desire.

She looks at Sam, and her body does not remember ever feeling drawn to him. Even as she tries to recall it, she has to will her eyes to stay on him and not move to the deep violet across the courtyard.

Then Myka is whisked away by a few admiring audience members and is glad to sign program books instead of continuing conversation with Sam.

“We’ve been here every year since ’83,” an elderly lady tells Myka proudly. “Jessye Norman, you know. In Hippolyte.”

Myka nods and does not know what to say to that, so she takes another sip of her drink. Exhaustion is catching up to her, yet she is still tossed back and forth by nerves and excitement. She knows she should eat some of the hors d’oeuvres that go past her, but she is not hungry. Her stomach is in knots.

Across the courtyard, she catches a flash of violet silk and she is caught up in another kind of hunger, her mouth dry and her tongue heavy with champagne, her skin still singing with Helena’s touch.

A group of admirers, and one or two people that Myka remembers from the festival office, surround Helena, who laughs.

“And there was June Anderson, in Armida,” Myka is told. “In ’89.” She cannot stop looking at Helena.

“In ’88,” the woman’s husband corrects, and Myka hums in polite agreement, noting with alarm that her throat is beginning to feel numb. She looks around for a bottle of water but sees none. When she turns back, the violet centering the landscape of her vision has disappeared and Myka searches for the color around the courtyard before she can stop herself. Flashbulbs go off, and Myka shuts her eyes, dazzled.

A hand curves along her shoulder, and when Myka turns, Helena is standing before her, bearing a glass and a bottle of water.

“You look like you could use some of this.”

It is a staged gesture, for an audience of one, and Myka is breathless again, her cheeks aflame with more than champagne.

Helena presses the glass into Myka’s hand, ignoring the conversation continuing around them – “And the Orlando, in ‘95. Handel, of course. Not Vivaldi. ” – She balances the plastic bottle against her bandaged wrist and unscrews the cap with her left hand.

Even the brief, sharp fizzle of air escaping the bottle plays against Myka’s heightened senses that swim with the nearness of Helena. Their fingers brush as Helena takes the glass again, pours, and hands it to Myka. The action turns into a gesture in the way Helena moves, solemn in comparison to the champagne chatter.

“Here you go.”

Helena’s eyes roam over Myka’s face, while Myka thirstily tips up the glass, but Helena’s expression is gentle now.

“Still, the oddity of trouser roles…” One of Myka’s reminiscing admirers shakes her head.

A newcomer next to her agrees. “And the things they have them do these days! – It worked better when they still left some things to the imagination. Now all you see is girls… “

Their attention returns to Myka with curiosity. “Just how do you prepare for these roles?”

Myka blinks in disbelief. “Just as I prepare for any other?” She turns the empty glass in her hands and tries not to look too closely at the mirth dancing in Helena’s eyes.

“Yes, but you have to pretend to be a man,” a woman with a flattened head of elaborate coiffure says. “Being in love with a woman!”

Helena moves closer to Myka’s shoulder, her proximity and her smile equally distracting, so that Myka struggles to keep a straight face and find a diplomatic answer.

“We have to pretend being in love in many roles.”

The coiffed woman seems to realize that she has crossed a boundary. “And now, like this…” She gestures awkwardly at Myka in her black outfit, the neckline of which pushes a modest amount of cleavage into view. “That is a lovely dress.”

“Yes, it is,” Helena agrees with a nod. She turns to Myka, as if she were assessing her for the first time tonight. “Lovely.” She leans in casually, her lips suddenly close to Myka’s ear. “But lovelier out of it, I imagine.”

She straightens. Her fingers come to rest at the small of Myka’s back, moving in small strokes, out of sight of the debating audience members.

“And I have imagined that.”

Myka’s glass hits the paving stones and splinters. The sound scatters the group around them.

“I am so sorry!”

Myka looks down at tiny splinters across her shoes, and at larger shards along the stones and gravel. The only one who has not flinched away is Helena, who is still looking at her, still smiling.

“I’ll get a dustpan,” Myka says, looking around for a waiter. “Or alert the catering, at least.”

She hurries away from Helena’s smile that is threatening to unravel her. When she returns with a waiter at her heels, she finds both Helena and the pieces of glass already gone.

Myka shakes more hands; she makes sure to drink more water and nibbles methodically on things proffered to her on trays. By the time the transports arrive for them, Myka is ready to call it a night. She leans against the car window and absently listens to Amanda pulling it together for one last, persistent journalist from one of the bigger classical music outlets. He insists that he is not there on business and Amanda plays along, but he is still talking by the time the cars spill them out onto the lawn of the guesthouse.

“One last drink?” Kelly suggests. “I’ll just get these flowers into water -”

She walks ahead and nearly collides with a shadow sitting on the stairs.

Pete, a hoodie drawn over his head against the chill, stands and shakes out his legs.

“You waited up?”

Myka is touched, even though she knows that it is not about her.

“Nah, I just wanted to get some air,” Pete says, but he looks past her at Amanda, who is still talking to the journalist. “You go on in, you must be beat.”

Myka moves up the stairs, with Kelly ahead of her.

“I still have a bottle of tequila,” Kelly announces and she edges sideways into her room, mindful of her flowers. “See you downstairs in a minute!”

Myka turns, and Helena is there, opening the door of her room, with only a stretch of dimly-lit corridor between them.

Myka hesitates, then she catches the small yawn that Helena tries to suppress.

“The adrenaline is wearing off, hm?”

It’s a soft throwaway line, fitted to the low light around them.

“I guess it is.” Helena chuckles ruefully. “I don’t think I’ll be heading down again.”

“You want to skip that last drink?” Myka asks, even though she feels a yawn tug at the edges of her own jaw.

“I’ve had enough champagne,” Helena admits, tired and gentle and beautiful. “Another drink, is that what you want now?”

“I want to kiss you goodnight,” Myka hears herself say.

Helena does not say anything at all. She takes a shaky breath – Myka can see the uneven rise and fall of her shoulders – and only when Myka looks down, uncertain of what she is given, she hears Helena sigh, “Please.”

Exhilaration flares along Myka’s tired limbs and sends her forward, yet the touch she intends is awkward. Both her hands are full of bouquets, as are Helena’s, and when she leans in, above the fragrance and the crackle of paper and cellophane, she reaches only the corner of Helena’s mouth.

Helena’s eyes close regardless, and Myka longs for more, for Helena beyond the delicate barrier of flowers. She leans back. When Helena opens her eyes, her gaze is melting, and its warmth reminds Myka of hands in the chapel, reaching for her in the dark.

Now, Helena does not move.

Myka needs sleep, her voice needs rest, but her body is overriding itself, aligning around a deeper need.

She shifts her load, and reaches for Helena.

“Come.”

Myka pushes the door to her room open with a foot and maneuvers them both inside, kicks it shut again. Her flowers, her jacket, she shrugs onto the bureau in the corner, casts the glow of the small desk lamp upon the assortment and themselves. Then she reaches for Helena’s coat, her bouquets. She takes a single, decisive step into Helena’s space to uncoil the scarf around Helena’s neck, sees that step echo in Helena’s widening eyes, in the upward tilt of her face, but Helena has run out of bravado.

The scent of the flowers behind them is loud when Myka raises her hands, cups Helena’s face, and brings their lips together.

It is the third time she is kissing Helena, all within a span of hours, but it is now, in the exhausted quiet of her room, that the world tilts on its axis, rights itself to a new North, and Myka wants it never to shift back again. She does not believe it could.

In the chapel, in the dark, Myka has remained standing with Helena’s hands on her, has met the urgency of that touch, yet it is the tenderness of Helena’s kiss in this moment that undoes her. Helena’s arms wind around her neck and Myka’s knees buckle. She sinks back onto the bed, and Helena keeps kissing her.

Fingers smoothe around the side of her neck, along her collarbone, follow the steep curve of her neckline.

“The dress truly looks lovely on you,” Helena murmurs. “I had hoped you would wear it again tonight.”

Myka looks at her, and her world begins and ends with Helena’s eyes.

Those eyes look down, follow the path of Helena’s hands as they drop to Myka’s waist and then slowly upward again, along Myka’s ribs, until finally they graze the sides of her breasts, now yielding to her touch.

Myka’s breath catches along with Helena’s.

“I also still hope to be the one to take it off of you tonight.”

Helena leans forward and brushes her lips just to the inside of the neckline, slides the fabric out of the way with her tongue, and Myka is wide awake.

She reaches out to tangle her fingers in Helena’s hair, sees her hand and pauses its path. Her fingertips just need to stretch a little more to touch, yet they hover, lingering on this threshold she knows she is about to cross.

She knows she should say something, but she has no words to match this. And it is easier to tip Helena’s head up and kiss her again, to revel in the slightly sore softness of their lips and lose herself against her, than to wonder whether Helena will still want to undress her tomorrow.

It is easier to lean into Helena’s hands, to push her into the bedding with her own weight, than to admit that she wants this beyond tonight, that she wants to keep kissing Helena tomorrow, and the day after that.

Helena’s lips move along Myka’s neck and Myka cannot fathom a reality beyond this.

Fingers slide through her hair, then find the clasp of her dress. It takes Helena two tries to get it open, limited as she is with her bandaged hand, but when the fabric falls away, she reaches up for Myka mindless of her injury.

Myka’s head falls forward on a whimper when Helena cups her breasts, and when Helena’s mouth follows the path of her fingers, her arms give out.

Long minutes pass before she remembers to finish undressing, to find herself clad only in the smolder of Helena’s gaze. Her own hands move to brush violet silk up Helena’s legs, blindly at first, until the sensation draws her eyes to it and Myka watches the smooth fabric gather between her fingers, follows its path around the curve of Helena’s knee, and when Helena props up a leg, the silk slides down the length of her thigh on its own, pooling against her hip.

Myka stills, taken with awe. She does not dare to look up into Helena’s eyes, afraid to give herself away. For it is Helena whose skin she is revealing, but it is Myka who feels laid bare to the core, and she has to move to escape the magnitude that is tugging at her senses.

Her hands are clumsy with need, trembling when she pulls at last layers of cloth and finally sinks into Helena, skin against skin. One thigh comes to rest in between Helena’s and she tenses its muscles again, feels Helena strain into the pressure, and it is already something she remembers, fitting her body to Helena’s like this.

Helena sighs and it is too much. Myka hides her face against Helena’s neck; her teeth are starting to chatter, tears prick at the corners of her eyes, and if Helena does not put her hands on her right now, she will pass out. But when Helena’s arms wrap around her back, Myka feels she will pass out either way.

It is listening, really listening, to the Mass in B minor Sanctus for the first time, to lose gravity in the soprano line: floating, suspended. It is singing Voi che sapete for the first time with an orchestra and understanding that her voice is made for this, that she is made for this. And now, Helena: she is made for Helena, too.

Helena’s mouth searches her face, finds her mouth and opens it, and then her hands move again, drawn across Myka’s skin in a boundless array of possibility. She pushes Myka up, struggles to rise on her own elbows, unguarded and undone by Myka’s touch, and she seems, impossibly, even more beautiful.

Helena’s fingers curl into Myka’s arms, her eyes growing yet a shade darker, and Myka rocks her hips, slow and insistent, enough to topple Helena, who falls back onto the pillow with a breathless laugh.

It turns into a moan when Myka’s lips move along Helena’s throat, when her tongue follows that same path, tasting the first hint of sweat, and Helena archs her neck in response. They are beyond speech, before speech, in a place before feelings have names.

Myka tears herself away for one second, for one look that sears itself into her memory, and all the moments that will come will be measured against this: Helena’s hair has come undone; it spills across the pillow like a polished shadow. Her skin is flushed with renewed promise, her make-up smeared once more, and her breath has already shifted to a new rhythm, anchored by the movement of their hips, the pressure of Myka’s thigh.

Myka raises herself on one arm and trails her fingers down Helena’s chest, the slope of her belly, watches transfixed at the ripple of skin under her touch. Her fingers dip lower and Helena’s eyes lose focus.

Then Helena’s right arm comes up, wraps around Myka’s neck with decisive strength and pulls her down into her body, into the pace of their hips.

It has only been hours, but it has been too long, insufferably long already. Myka’s body becomes its contact with Helena’s and her only knowledge is the touch of those hands.

She pushes deeper, and Helena’s breath flutters against her neck.

“Myka – ”

It comes out as a moan, and Myka wants to hear it again.

And she does.

 

Operatic Cliff Notes:

  • Chapter Quote:
    “Oh, what turmoil do I feel in my chest now that (s)he is near me”.
  • On a more general note: I have re-uploaded all chapters with minor edits (mostly typos, some narrative corrections).
  • Payment on junior productions: the junior singers, also at Aix, are, as far as I understand, not paid at all – you do it for the honor, and because it’s publicity, and if you say no, someone else will do it and get the publicity (not so different from being an untenured academic, really)
  • Opening night receptions: I have heard every argument and sleazy comment surrounding singers of trouser roles detailed in this chapter in person over the years. This still happens (not everywhere, thankfully).
  • Royal College of Music: one of the best Music Schools of the UK (some would say the best, but I’m particular to Guildhall myself), situated in London.
  • “Tony”: Dame Vanessa is likely referring to conductor Sir Antonio Pappano.
  • “Elijah”/”Elias”: huge romantic oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-wsKU-N8dY)
  • “Grimes”: “Peter Grimes” is a 20th century opery by Benjamon Britten, surrounded by (male) queer themes and with an ample cast of smaller roles.
  • ENO: English National Opera (London), known for performing international repertory in English. (https://www.eno.org/)
  • “Hyppolite et Aricie”, a 1733 opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau – staged in 1983 in Aix with Jessye Norman.
  • “Armida”, a 1817 opera by Gioacchino Rossini, performed in Aix in 1988 with June Anderson in the lead.
  • “Orlando”, a popular opera sujet, also for George Frederic Handel (1733), performed in Aix in 1995, and for Antonio Vivaldi (as “Orlando furioso”, 1727).
  • “Arabella” by Strauss (in relation to gender and a few other things highly problematic, even for opera) ends with the title heroine, Arabella, sealing her engagement to Mandryka by offering him a drink of water (a tradition linked to his culture), which he accepts, to then smash the glass to seal their engagement: “As sure as no one will ever drink from this glass again, you and I are linked forever.” For more actual lyrics (culminating in “Take me as I am”), check here as of minute 8:00 (English subs): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbl3r6pBneg or here, more recent (German subs), as of minute 4:45: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy9JsdTWOAk&list=PL7yWJyiMaKzaneObyW02bmuJQFSfVwrDg You bet Helena knows “Arabella”, even if it will probably never be her fach
  • Mass in B minor, by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the most important oratorios. “Sanctus” and its floating triplets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FREW-OboB2A
    I had a reference in there to the descending bassline as of 1:03 – but, as my beta pointed out, no matter how much it sounds like purpose found, it took away from the moment, so it’s not in the story. But it’s still amazing music and would fit with Myka’s perception of self at that moment.
  • “Voi che sapete”. THE mezzo trouser role signature aria from Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” (1787), all about falling in love with women. Have your pick here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22Voi+che+sapete%22
  • A thanks from Richard to Hugo: On this chapter, more than on any other so far, my wonderful beta, The Duchess, has left a notable imprint. We discussed this one back and forth for weeks, pouring over word choices and phrasings and moods, and I can never thank her enough.

on to Chapter 16