Stages – Chapter 4


[an opera novella]
[written as Daphne]



Oh, che umor, che donna strana,
io mi perdo in verità.

(Mozart, La finta giardiniera)


Come morning, Myka still has no management, although she does have a fancy business card to show for her evening – an evening that consisted mostly of Sam discussing his upcoming solo recital at the young artist forum here in Aix, at Hôtel Maynier d’Oppède, and about his contract options for autumn.

He did invite Myka to dinner, but the representative from his agency paid the entire bill in the end, so that does not quite count. The representative did not seem all that interested in Myka – he said that he only handled male voices, and Myka is not sure whether that was merely a professional or also a personal assessment. He has given her the contact for women’s voices, though. He has also remarked that the line-up is competitive, but Myka is competitive, too.

Sam did invite her for a nightcap afterwards. Aix is a student town, and the bars and clubs are nestled close to each other, with squares of light and strings of music spilling out into narrow streets at night. It was just one modest drink, both of them mindful of the rehearsal day ahead.

“You should call my agency, absolutely,” he told her. “They have a strong focus on belcanto, and I think that is where you are headed.”

Now, there is no music in the street. The morning sun is throwing the lines and corners of the house fronts into sharper relief, and in hurrying past, the steep slope of a roof tower or a red and white brick pattern remind Myka of the old quarters of Québéc. But Aix looks more worn, showing its layers. At the first chance, Myka wants to see the amphitheater of Arlès, and the thermae, the Cathedral – 14th century – and Saint Jean-le-Malte, 13th century. So far, she has only seen, from outside, the swung metal and concrete of the new Théâtre de la Provence, which is not where the Giardiniera will take place, and on her first evening, she has snuck into the famed courtyard of L’Archevêche, the heart of the festival. Their Giardiniera will not happen there, either. That will be out at the Domaine de Grand St. Jean, a twenty minute ride out North into the countryside, in a 16th century mansion with a park.

“And wild boars,” Bennet muttered when he complained about it, and about the fact they will only do their last week of rehearsals at the actual site, where they will have to be carted by bus on a dusty country road. “Because there is literally nothing else out there!”

‘Nothing else’ amounts to an old chapel and an open air stage and the chance to sing next to an actual renaissance palace, and Myka is looking forward to all three. It is a bit more open than a courtyard stage – which she has done before, on a Purcell project in Toronto, where she’s sung Dido – but Myka knows her voice carries well.

She is early, again, and Claudia raises her head and winks at her while she has a phone pressed to one ear, a finger stuffed into the other, and barks at whoever it is at the other end of the line.

They do have a ballet floor now, which Nielsen has called “ratty” in a huff, and he did not protest when Kelly and Bennet asked for knee protectors. Myka is grateful about her pair, too. She does not mind the physicality of the production, although she would prefer to be given a reason or a motivation before Nielsen starts a scene. His approach of letting the singers figure out their stance onstage – “organically,” as Claudia echoes in staunch defense of Nielsen’s methods – is time-consuming and leads to most of them standing around a lot while Nielsen works one-on-one on a detail. It gives Myka very good insight into the other roles and how she will relate to them – if one listens in and does not text home, like Todd, or make eyes at the cute wardrobe intern, like Bennet – but it is lengthy and exhausting.

The only one not wearing knee protectors is Helena.

“I cannot move authentically when I work with something that I have to take off again for the actual performances.”

Myka had rolled her eyes at the method acting approach – in opera, of all places – and had not bothered to hide it. She wonders just how authentically Helena will move, for a socialite of the 1920s, with sore knees.

“Did you secretly get into Mixed Martial Arts over there?” Myka’s sister Tracy asks when Myka sends her a snapshot of her gear.

“At least I can still run in the mornings,” Myka replies.

Helena does not run, but despite Sam’s observations on Europeans, the way her body seems to run at a higher voltage eclipses all of them – even the statuesque figure of Amanda – as soon as she steps onto that ballet floor, ratty as Nielsen may deem it. Myka has to admit that she envies Helena’s physical presence, even as she finds it unnerving.

It only gets worse when Nielsen starts to work – or rather, lets them work, she corrects herself surly – on the scenes between Ramiro and Arminda.

“No, this does not work,” Helena declares, yet again, and her bluntness is another thing that unnerves Myka. It is not that Helena does not have a point – she does, most of the time – but she does not take the time to be polite about it. Or to be polite, period. Helena has a habit of ordering people around, much like her Arminda, or perhaps that is a byproduct of her acting approach.

“I need to see your struggle,” Nielsen insists, who wants Helena to fall to her knees mid-scene. “You just caught your future husband fantasizing about the gardener, and then Ramiro here shows up gloating, and he has just dug up more dirt on your Count.”

Myka looks on as Helena frowns.

“It’s the image.” Nielsen gestures at Bennet in the background. “He is upright, he signifies the law – he is about to suspend your wedding. And Ramiro is standing because he has the upper hand right now. And I need you not to be upright here, to signal the imbalance of the moment.”

Helena’s frown deepens. “It still does not make sense for me to fall to my knees.”

“Would you like my knee protectors, perhaps?” Myka asks politely, but it is not polite at all. If Helena drags her stage attitude into every personal interaction, Myka can practice Ramiro’s gloating a little bit. For authenticity.

“No, thank you,” Helena says with disdain, and it is very much Arminda. “I just tore into Belfiore and cried – but I would rather drop dead before he sees me weak.” She points at Myka, but she does not look at her.

Nielsen nods, slowly. “Then offer me something else that takes your axis out of the game.”

Helena thinks for a moment, then she takes a chair, sits down as one would sit down on a throne, and Myka does not know when the scene actually starts.

“Un sogno sarà questo.”

Helena’s back is to Myka, her pose rigid. She maintains Arminda’s pride, her head held high, but it is obvious that she struggles to do so. Her shoulders are hunched up, and her voice contains too much air.

“Oh, unfortunately it is true, my dear Countess.” Myka nonchalantly leans against the wall, places a foot flat against it. She fans herself with the file she is supposedly carrying, until Bennet snatches it out of her grasp.

“Well, it says here that the Count has allegedly killed a marquise Onesti…”

Helena tries to get to the offensive piece of paper. “Nol crederete -“

“Ah, non credete,” Myka corrects automatically.

“What?” It takes Helena a moment before her head snaps around and her irritated glare is enough to make Myka blink. “Did you study Arminda, as well?”

“No.” Myka can do haughty, too. “But after a while, you simply remember all the parts.”

“Unless you are focused on your own part, even when there are no words to sing.” Myka has hit a nerve, and Helena still sounds like Arminda when she adds, “Also, you could simply know that it means the same thing.”

“It’s not what’s in the score,” Myka retorts, and she manages not to add that she holds an advanced degree in Italian, thank you very much.

“Right, why would we care about the spirit of a phrase when we can worry about the philology of it?!” Helena circles Myka. “I thought it was Cavaliere Ramiro, but perhaps you are better cast as Bibliotecario Ramiro?!”

“You’re not supposed to get an MA in literature on my rehearsal time!” Nielsen yells from beyond the stage line. “Neither of you! – But keep that energy, and start from the top. – Bennet?”

Bennet makes a show of looking between Helena and Myka, and Abigail already supplies the chords to start the scene once more.

“Ah che son stato un sciocco!”

Helena hurries to her mark, the image of hopeful energy, with all trace of anger wiped from her expression. “Uncle, the Count already regrets having upset me…”

And Myka now breezes onto the scene, though not quite as cockily as before. She can still feel the tension echo along her spine. “Sir, I’ve received notice from the Magistrate in Milan…”

“Myka, good!” Nielsen comments while he motions at Abigail to keep playing. “Keep that bit of reluctance.”

Helena’s knuckles are white on the armrests of her chair when she whispers, “This has got to be a dream.”

Nielsen keeps Myka onstage during the next aria – it is Bennet’s – and has her watch as the bailiff blusters and poses and cancels the wedding, while Arminda tries in vain to get in a word and glowers at Ramiro, or perhaps at Myka, in between.

“This way, it is a show put on for Ramiro.” Nielsen seems satisfied. “Because the Podestà does not really want to cancel this prestigious wedding, but now that Ramiro is waving around a warrant, he has to pretend he cares.” He takes a few steps and Myka is, again, impressed by his speed. He waves her aside. “You want revenge, but when you see Arminda vulnerable here…”

“I’m a pushover,” Myka supplies without much enthusiasm.

“Try it.” Nielsen nods.

Bennet grandly walks offstage as Abigail finishes the postlude to his aria, and Myka squares her shoulders and approaches Helena.

“Arminda, darling, you should know-“

“Shut your mouth, you liar!”

Helena is instantly in Myka’s face, eyes ablaze.


Nielsen’s soles squeak softly against the floor, and Myka takes a deep breath. She hates to be interrupted like that, when she has barely started a scene.

“Just what do you want her to know, Myka?”

But Myka is prepared for Nielsen’s questions this time. “That I am not a cheating, spoiled Count who kills his girlfriends when he is through with th- “

“I don’t care what you know!” Helena interrupts, her voice sharp. “I don’t care if it is true, I simply do not want to hear anything you have to say.”

Now they are shouting, improvising their scene. On the other side of the rehearsal stage, Abigail takes her hands off the keys.

“That much vulnerability in front of him?” Nielsen challenges Helena.

“I am desperate!” Helena throws up her hands. “If I don’t have to hear it, I don’t have to know it, and I can make it go away.”

“Very mature,” Myka mutters.

Helena leans closer and cants her head to the side. “Oh, really? Who is the one with the petty revenge schemes because he cannot accept that I have moved on?”

“To marrying a murderer who is making eyes at the gardener?” Myka scoffs. “You really traded up there.”

“And it kills you that I still want him more than I want you, doesn’t it?” Helena is standing very close to her now and her silky tone makes Myka want to hit her, or do something else entirely.

“You just want his money.” It comes out a little breathless.

“You keep telling yourself that.”

“Then why are you still talking to me? – Because indifference looks different.”

Helena balls her hands into fists. “Shut your mouth, you liar!”

Abigail hears her prompt and segues back into the recitative.

“You don’t understand, I am -“

“…hated by my eyes.”

Helena turns away, turns her back to Myka, and Myka imagines that Ramiro would be dogged enough to run after her and try to get Arminda to face him again.

“About your love -“

“You don’t deserve it.”



Still Helena refuses to look at her, she wipes Myka’s hand – a gentle touch, even in its insistence – off her shoulder, once, twice.

“Listen to me – “

Helena lifts one hand, high, and stills for a moment, but she will not turn around.

“I’m burning with rage!”

“No, no!” Nielsen calls after Helena, who has stormed off the makeshift stage. “No storming out!”

“But I need to get away from him!” Helena protests before she has even made her way back to where Nielsen and Myka are standing.

“Away, yes, but not like this.” Nielsen shakes his head, his brows furrowed in what Myka has come to read as perfect concentration. “I need cracks in your veneer. Not a grand royal exit. You are still shaken, and we need to see it.”

Helena points at Myka. “But he does not have to see it.”

Myka curls and uncurls her hand, brushes her fingers against her palm where she can still feel Helena’s shoulder, bone and warmth through the thin top the wardrobe assistant has given her as a rehearsal outfit.

“Yes, he does,” Nielsen says.

Myka nods. “There needs to be something there to make Ramiro sing a five-minute aria on hope after this, or I will look like a complete idiot.”

Helena crosses her arms over her chest. “Is that so.”

Myka glares back at her. “We need to sell being in love by the end of the opera.” Unprofessional, that is how Helena is acting, and it irks Myka that she depends on her to make her own role portrayal work.

Helena gives her a cool look. “And I am attempting to find an authentic reason for that very happenstance.”

Quickly, Nielsen steps in, before Myka can knock Helena’s arched brow back into place, verbally or not. “You two can figure that out over a beer after hours,” he decides. To the group, he calls out. “Break! I need some coffee, and then we’ll go into the second finale.”

Sam is waiting for Myka at the line that marks the edge of the stage and holds out a cup of coffee. “I find it always helps to know the entire scene.” He says it loudly enough to make Helena halt her steps.

“Thanks,” Myka says, and she is not sure whether she only means the coffee.

“I called my management again.” Sam takes a sip of his own mug, something with the scent of herbs. “I put in a word for you. Linda wants to meet with you, you just need to set up a date.”

“Thanks,” Myka says again, slightly overwhelmed. From the corner of her eye, she can see Helena brush past them.

Sam winks at her. “It’s the second act finale now. You will get a break and she can launch herself at me for a while.”

“I can handle her,” Myka declares and then she burns her tongue on a sip of too strong coffee.

But even the caffeine has worn off though by the time Nielsen pushes them through the finale for what has to be the tenth time.

“Once more from Via amici, correte a volo. – Myka, your entrance!”

Myka’s entrance, in this case, is driving a pretend car with bright headlights into a nighttime garden, where everyone is making out with someone whom they believe to be someone else in the darkness. Arminda has ended up in the arms of her of her own uncle – by the looks of if, Bennet is not objecting to having Helena draped across him – and the Count is trying to seduce the maid.

“As if I’d look anything like Amanda,” Kelly protests. “Particularly if one is looking with their hands!”

Nielsen is unperturbed. “Such is the power of desire.” He nods at Myka. “You, in contrast, are the arrival of reason and order.”

“Of course she’s the one to kill the fun,” Helena mutters under her breath.

Bennet chuckles at that and Myka rolls her eyes at both of them across the hood of her pretend car. At least in a minute, she will get to berate Arminda – or perhaps it is Helena – again for causing all that nighttime chaos. She has done it about nine times tonight already, but she will enjoy doing it a tenth time, even if her limbs are sore, and her breathing takes a lot more effort to control.

“Perchè tiranna cotanta asprezza?”

She does not reach out to touch Helena, keeps her hands balled into fists as she yells at her.

Helena holds her gaze with that unnerving crackle, even on the tenth try. “Oggetto odioso tu fosti e sei.”

She is still burning with intensity even as everyone else is becoming mellow with exhaustion. Myka feels stiff in comparison, disconnected from the scene, even before Helena mutters, matter-of-factly, “This does not work.”

What most annoys Myka is that Helena is right – her Ramiro feels off in this moment, without a link to the energy on stage that Helena commands so effortlessly.

“Myka, too whiny.” Nielsen comments from off the scene. “Bennet, too smarmy.”

When Myka walks into the dining hall later that night, she makes a beeline for the table that Claudia and Pete, who puts a protective hand over his sandwich as he sees her approach, have claimed as theirs. Usually, a few of Pete’s brass colleagues and some of Giardiniera crew join them, but so far, it is only Pete.

“Are you worn out in a good or in a bad way?” he asks around another bite as Myka drops onto the bench next to him.

Myka just groans.

“Nielsen or Miss Cardiff?” Pete continues.

Myka closes her eyes. “Both.”

Pete sighs. “You want some of my sandwich?”

“I want a hot bath and ten hours of sleep,” Myka says. “And chocolate.”

“What did I tell you about Pete and chocolate?”

Myka blinks one eye open to find Claudia staring down at her.

“In her defense, she did have to deal with a vengeful ex-girlfriend all evening,” Amanda points out as she reaches the table. She holds onto her water bottle, but eyes Pete’s sandwich. “So is there actual chocolate?”

Pete springs to attention. “I…”

“Don’t even think about it.”Claudia pushes him back into his seat. “And you don’t get to put it on Helena Wells.”

“Did you know she changed the billing to Helena G. Wells?” Kelly asks, with Todd and Bennet and even Sam in tow. She chooses the free chair next to Myka. “I heard it this morning in the festival office.”

“She changed her billing?”Sam scoffs. “Did she win an extra initial in Cardiff?”

“But shouldn’t that be a C, then?” Todd wonders.”For Cardiff, I mean?”

“She got her degree at Guildhall,” Myka points out. “If you’re looking for a G.”

“That would be quite a G,” Amanda agrees, and she is still eyeing Pete’s sandwich.

And not only has Helena graduated from Guildhall, London, she has also attended masterclasses with the all the Dames that matter: Dame Felicity, Dame Kiri, Dame Vanessa, even though none of them start with the letter G.

“Or perhaps she simply likes Gatorade,” Pete says. “Which would make sense, with Myka being this worn out.” He looks as if he would not mind that much if Amanda asked him for his sandwich.

“Who is worn out?”

Helena is standing behind them, her hands on the backrest of an empty chair.

A moment passes in awkward silence, then Kelly speaks up. “We are. We’re wrecking our brains over a question only you can resolve.” She gestures for Helena to pull up a chair. “What does the G stand for? – We noticed you changed your billing.”

“My middle name.”

Helena pushes a chair in between Myka and Kelly, so Myka can see up close how she draws a breath before she speaks. The entire table is looking at Helena expectantly and Myka wonders what it might be, perhaps Grace or Gwyneth or Gertrude.

“I won’t tell you,” Helena says with amusement. She pours herself a glass of water and takes a small sip. “In fact, I will never tell.”

Kelly rolls her eyes, and Sam mutters something about Helena only wanting to make herself interesting.

“Most singers try to make their names simpler instead of more complicated,” Amanda says, but Helena shakes her head.

“It’s personal.”

Myka can’t help herself. “So you put it on the billing?”

Helena merely takes another sip of water and Myka is sure she hears Sam use the word ‘pretentious’.

“A few of us still want to head out, try the beer downtown, perhaps go dancing,” Pete says and points a thumb at a few of his orchestra colleagues. “Any of you want to come along?”

Todd and Kelly perk up, but Myka shakes head. “No thanks.”

Helena leans back in her seat. “Well, I think it is a lovely idea.”

“Great!” Pete rubs his hands together. “Sure you want to stay behind, Myka?”

“I’d much rather catch some sleep.”

“Of course you would,” Helena says.

Myka gives her a testy look. “Some of us have to produce an amenable sound with their throats in the morning, in case you forgot.”

“Oh please, as if you’d have any trouble with that,” Helen scoffs.

“I don’t think we should –” Myka tries to say, but Helena does not let her finish.

“You really make a perfect Ramiro: all rules and no fun.” To Pete, she says, “Count me in.”

Myka cannot really tell whether Helena is teasing her or whether they have turned to preschool patterns now. Nearly everyone around her stands, so does Helena, but then she leans down again. “Come if you dare, Ramiro.”

Myka rolls her eyes, again, because perceiving one’s colleagues through their roles is definitely preschool. “Fine,” she says then and grits her teeth. If the only way to work with Helena is through roleplaying, she will do that. And she will excel at it.

So despite her exhaustion, she is tagging along, like most of their group. She is not feeling that weary any longer by the time they are all nestled into a booth at a small pub and she nurses a tonic – Sam has lined up at the bar for her -, and listens to Pete arguing about food.

“Without pepperoni, it is not an actual pizza!” The colleague across from Pete – bassoon, if Myka remembers correctly – merely waves him off, but Pete is undeterred. “We can take this to the Xbox!”

Next to the bassoon player, Amanda chuckles, and Pete amends. “Then again, anything tastes pretty great when it comes with grilled cheese on top.”

Amanda draws her brows together and one corner of her mouth curls upwards. “You’re a deep thinker, for a trombone player.”

Pete puffs out his chest. “Trombones are the stand-in for the numinous. How’s that?”

Helena’s laughter is among the blend of voices now, a new tone in the chord that is becoming a familiar sound on Myka’s evenings. Perhaps this is what she will remember most of Aix, in years to come: the ebb and flow of the voices, mingling after hours.

Amanda leans back in her seat. “I’m more impressed that you know how to spell numinous.”

Pete, in turn, leans forward. “You know what they say about sopranos.”

“That this one could hit you again?”

Amanda looks at Pete, and then she looks at Myka.

“Oh, don’t mind me.” Myka reacts a moment too late, and Pete tries to kick her underneath the table. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Too relaxed to be your type?” Helena asks, close to Myka’s ear as she reaches to place an empty glass on the table, but her tone lacks the venom of their rehearsal exchanges.

Myka rolls her eyes, but only a little. “Right, because I take so well to the high maintenance types.”

Helena hums in amusement, she is still close enough to have Myka hear it, while Pete seems intent on defending the honor of trombone players at large. “We can take this to the Xbox,” he challenges Amanda.

“You’re on,” Amanda agrees without a blink.

Pete, however, does blink. “I am?”

“Did I mention that I have two younger brothers?” Amanda reaches for her water glass, and now she smiles fully. “Prepare to weep, trombone.”

Pete exhales slowly. He keeps glancing at Amanda, who has returned to a conversation with Bennet. “I am oddly excited,” he mutters.

“You are whipped,” Myka corrects him.

“What happened to going dancing?” Kelly wants to know.

“At this hour?” Sam asks. “I am slated for 10 a.m.!”

So are Myka and Helena, but Myka takes one look at the challenge in Helena’s posture, and makes her decision. “Sure, why not?”

Helena uncurls from her seat. “Aren’t you already up past your bedtime?”

Before Myka can reply, Claudia sighs. “And that means I will go, too.”

Todd adds himself to the group, and Claudia complains to Myka on their way out. “It is definitely past my bedtime, and I should be paid extra for governess hours!”

“Governess?” Myka slips her arms into her jacket, but the night is mild, and she takes it off again.

“One.” Claudia holds up a finger. “I think Todd likes Kelly, and production romances are messy, so I have to keep an eye on them.”

“I think Todd likes you,” Myka says, but Claudia holds up another finger.

“Two, I don’t trust you and Helena not to kill each other, given the chance.”

Myka thinks that this would not differ much from their rehearsal routine, and perhaps that is Helena’s angle in all this: to recreate the plot’s tension to feed off it onstage. Claudia reaches for a pack of cigarettes and Myka lets her go ahead, trying to stay away from the smoke.

“Perhaps we should try to get to know each other better.”

Helena has fallen into step next to Myka, the rhythm of her feet on the cobblestones a little quicker than Myka’s. “For the sake of the show.” She sounds tired now, mellow.

Myka looks ahead into the night as they walk on. “Shouldn’t you be trying to get to know Sam better instead, then?”

Helena does not look back at her, either. “And here I thought you were doing that already.”

That crosses a line, and Helena notices it. She amends quickly, “I am supposed to barely have met him. That works.” Now she glances at Myka. “You, however, I am supposed to know.”

For a moment, Myka wonders just how far Helena is willing to take this. “You could try this thing called acting,” she suggests, and she does not sound as arrogant as she intended to. “Or don’t they teach that at Guildhall?”

Helena sighs. “I simply want this production to work. – I need it to work,” she admits, somewhat more subdued. “Don’t you?”

Myka thinks of Toronto winters and underpaid extra classes, she thinks of the business card from Sam’s agent in her pocket. Helena has walked up to Claudia meanwhile and then Myka sees her throw her head back as they pass a street lantern, and Helena is exhaling tendrils of smoke into the muted glow above.

The sound of soles against cobblestones is soon replaced by the thump of a bass that ricochets inside Myka’s ribcage and drowns out the rehearsal day and its worries and sore knees.

Sam has not come along. The air is thick with sweat and the late night, and the exhaustion returns with a vengeance. Myka watches the throng of bodies on the dance floor through heavy eyelids.

“Don’t fall asleep on me, Bering.” Next to Myka, Claudia stifles a yawn. “Why did you say yes to this? Why did you have to say yes?”

Myka shrugs and nods at the bar, where Helena has lined up for a drink. “She started it.” She has to yell to make herself heard, and her throat is protesting.

“Your version of Anything you can do, I can do better?” Claudia shouts back. “And just how many verses are there?”

As many as it takes, Myka wants to reply, but then neither she nor Claudia say anything else because Helena has entered the dance floor, where Kelly is already happily whirling around.

Helena moves differently, less exuberant. Her body seems to take on more gravity with the music, sinking into it rather than skipping along on its surface. Myka takes in a slow roll of hips, turned to a set of stills by the flickering lights. It is a sequence of flashes: the slope of Helena’s neck, the length of her thighs, the outline of her torso, everything a nonchalant fraction behind the beat. The tune is vaguely familiar, synthesizer and a scratchy saxophone phrase: rising fourth, rising fifth, falling third; rising fourth, falling tritone, and a male voice calling to the dance floor in laid-back French.

“Earth to Bering!!”

It is clearly not the first time Claudia has yelled it, and when Myka turns to look at her, she realizes that her mouth has gone dry.

“Where the hell did you just go?” Claudia wants to know.

Myka is saved from having to answer when Helena stands before them, slightly out of breath.

“I believe you said something about dancing earlier, Ramiro?”

She has to lean in close to be heard above the beat. Heat from the dance floor radiates off her body, and along her temples, Myka can see a fine sheen of sweat when the lights turn to white every couple of seconds. Helena’s stance is challenging and Myka still wants to strangle her, but right then, she also just wants.

Helena takes a hold of her wrist, Myka claims it back, but she follows Helena onto the dance floor anyway and claims a space for herself. The beat pulses along her sternum, her spine, and she allows the music to carry her.

It is not singing, not as close as being the bow of the ship and cutting through the waters, blending into the music with the force of the rhythm. It is not the sheer power of being the sound.

The sound is running through her now, but she is not its source, she is not at its helm. She can simply let it take over. Her limbs are heavy with exhaustion, her mind already drowsy, and everything is smooth.

Among the maze of bodies that move around her, Myka singles out the curve of Helena’s jaw, outlined in a flash of light, the silhouette of her shoulders, the tilt of her hips.

Helena turns her head, then. Her eyes are half closed, but she smiles at Myka, and Myka can feel herself smiling back.

For a moment, truly everything is smooth.

Operatic Cliff Notes:

  • Hôtel Maynier d’Oppède in Aix houses smaller festival concerts and recitals.
  • Myka singing Dido refers to Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” (there is also an Aix production of it on YT: Most well-known aria: Dido’s Lament, “When I am laid in Earth”.
  • The festival of Aix-en-Provence has various sites for productions and concerts, most famously the courtyard of the old archbishop palace; you can take a look at the sites (including the Domain de Grand St. Jean) here:
  • Since there is quite a bit of opera text being quoted, I translated most of it for better reading flow and only left a few lines in Italian:
    “Un sogno sarà questo.”: This has got to be a dream.
    “Nol crederete”: You won’t believe… vs. “Ah, non credete”: Ah, don’t believe…
    “Ah che son stato un sciocco!” – Duh, I’ve been an idiot.
    “Via amici, correte a volo!” – Come on, friends, hurry, quick.
    “Perchè tiranna cotanta asprezza?” – Why so harsh, you tyrant?
    “Oggetto odioso tu fosti e sei.” – I still hate you. (“you were and are a hateful object/object of hate”)
  • Guildhall (Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London) is one of the best singing schools, period. Personally, I’ve never worked with a Guildhall alumna who wasn’t downright amazing.
  • Dames: Dame Felicity Lott (*1947, England) and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (*1944, New Zealand) are famous lyric sopranos, both mostly past their active stage careers, who are a also teaching.
  • Singers streamlining their names for easier international access is an actual thing: a few years ago, baritone Boje Skovhus turned into Bo Skovhus. More recently, soprano Alexandrina Pendatchanska changed her billing to Alex Penda.
  • Club music: I went with Stromae’s “Alors on danse” ( , which was a 2009 billboard hit in several countries, including Canada. It’s very simple, which is probably why it works so very well for certain purposes..

on to Chapter 5

8 thoughts on “Stages – Chapter 4”

  1. I *love* this story and the authentic details within. Thank you Anik – take care with your Life commitments – your readers will be here, grateful for any postings you can manage and if there is some time between chapters, well, that’s a good excuse to reread and re-enjoy.


    1. And I’d probably have messed up schedules or worse if she had been in one of my productions 😉
      (seriously though, I’ve yet to meet a Guildhall alumn who was not absolutely stunning in their artistry. And most of them also great colleagues overall.)


    1. She would!
      And Prof. Dr. Darhayne might be a wee bit jealous, but she would never admit to it.
      (Alice Coote could sing a song cycle based on the phone register and make it riveting. Have a great Thursday night!)


        1. Thank you, dear Count – a wonderful read, not only well-informed, but also very trans-sensitive. Definitely saved away for further pondering! (Ps. I’m on gmail under aniklachev)



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