Ch 6 – Cadenza
A/N: This is called "Cadenza" because Christine performs one at the end of "Think of Me." Now we are caught up to the beginning of the action in the movie. I'm thinking of possibly ending this piece here...
Christine was ready. Her voice was at its peak. Antoinette and I began discussing how to go about bringing her abilities to the attention of the public.
During one of these discussions, we were face to face, for once. I was feeling oddly secure and perhaps complacent at the time, and had become a bit more careless about letting myself be seen.
Antoinette, I think, noticed that I had been taking trouble with my appearance. I caught her looking at me with a glint of amused speculation in her eye.
"What?" I asked, but she shook her head, smiled, and waved the question away. I was annoyed. Surely I had the right to dress as I pleased.
The ballet girls were a bit different, as well. When they caught sight of me, they still ran, but I began to catch the words, "dark," "mysterious," and "tragic," in their conversations about the Opera Ghost more often than I heard "horrible" or "fearsome". Who can account for the nature of gossip?
That idiot Buquet soon put a stop to such talk, anyway. He loved to try to make himself important by spinning tales to the girls that made me out to be even more grotesque than I actually was.
Of course, he also told them that I had the ability to remove my head, set it on fire, and throw it at people, so I took his remarks for what they were worth. I daresay some of the girls actually believed him.
The reigning diva in those days was, to put it bluntly, a piece of work. I had begun to take especial delight in inflicting small indignities and torments upon her – all of them richly deserved. Besides, she exploded so satisfactorily. She was highly unpopular with most of her fellow cast members and the Opera House staff, yet highly popular with the theatre-going public.
It was a commonplace at the time that society people attended the opera to see and be seen rather to listen to the music; and indeed, the popularity enjoyed by La Carlotta is difficult to explain in any other way.
She certainly got on poor Lefevre's nerves, so much so that she drove him into retirement, and so the Opera House changed hands.
I didn't like change, and I hated the new managers. They had been in trade; this venture was, for them, a clear bid for an increase in social standing. They cared nothing for music, but only for ticket sales, receipts, and crowned heads: I had heard some of their discussions and negotiations with Lefevre. They also had no respect at all for theatre traditions, and that included the Opera Ghost. Me.
Nevertheless, I had decided to be polite. I was prepared with a note from O.G. on the day when the change was to be announced, welcoming them and explaining their responsibilities. The day turned out to be more eventful than anyone had planned.
Carlotta was in one of her perennial moods, Buquet had deserted his post (again), and Madame Giry and I seized the opportunity that presented itself.
Christine won everyone over with her singing, as I had known she would. Who else could deal so beautifully with being unexpectedly plucked from the chorus and thrust into the limelight? She was rare indeed.
Not that she wasn't nervous. It would have been strange had she not been.
On the night of the gala, Christine had been given La Carlottas's dressing room. Before the performance, she asked for a little time alone in which to compose herself.
She addressed me: "Maestro – Angel – I don't know whether you are listening right now. I don't' know whether you will be there to watch me tonight. I hope you will.
"But I want you to know that everything I am, I owe to you. Tonight, though I sing in front of a crowd, I sing for you and you alone." She bowed her head.
I was overcome. I could think of only one thing to say in return.
"Tonight, after the performance, you shall meet me, if you wish."
Her face flushed excitedly. "Tonight?"
Of course Christine performed magnificently, charming everyone. All of Paris fell in love with her that night. And she had told me that she was singing for me.
…But I, her teacher, who should have been by her side, sharing her triumph; who should have been in heaven – was, instead, in the basement.
I decided that I hated this new patron, too. He had taken my box, when he could easily have seated himself with the managers. Or anywhere. He would have been welcome to the basement. Anywhere but my box.
And then his behavior after the performance! Though she was clearly happy to see a childhood friend, I heard Christine tell him "No," at least three times as he pressed his supper invitation. The boy refused to listen. I don't believe that Christine had any idea of the implications of an invitation to supper alone, yet she refused him all the same.
I locked the door, not to keep her in, but to keep him out. He didn't seem as if he was going to take "No" for an answer – and an arrogant puppy with a title is still an arrogant puppy.
The time had come. I was trembling. I had to appear calm. I had decided to wear gloves, because I was unused to the touch of another human being, and Christine and I were so aware of each other that the idea of touching her bare flesh – even just her dainty hand – with my hand ungloved seemed like far too great a liberty.
I sang to her. I had not meant to mention the boy, but my anger got the better of me. Christine was contrite.
I beckoned to her. The mirror opened. We were breathing the same air, in the same space. The look on her face when she saw me was everything I could have hoped for, and more. I could tell from her expression that she was undergoing a pleased yet confused reassessment of her relationship with me, the way I had two years prior, Christine was much more adaptable and quick to accept and incorporate change than I.
I saw the whiteness of my mask reflected in the deep brown pools of her eyes, an expression of awe on her face.
She took my hand for the first time. But my heart had always been in her keeping.