La canzone della Bella Cigna
Summary: A famous voice teacher. A mysterious piano prodigy. Backstabbing classmates. Music school is competitive, and aspiring singer Bella Swan is determined to succeed. Hard work she can handle, but who expected music school to be so dangerous?
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. I may own a pitch pipe.
Dr. Emil George
Professor of Voice
I'm standing outside the door of the world-famous tenor, trying to control the shaking in my knees, but they are wobbling so hard that my stocking begin to fall.
Stupid me- I knew I was going to feel vulnerable today so I took advice from a silly magazine and wore some racy lingerie in order to feel powerful. Silly Bella. And now we're talking about ourselves in third person, great.
My morning had been rough. My first day of my first semester at the conservatory, and I make a total jackass out of myself.
My first class, Music Theory, had been a confusing disaster. Judging from the conversations going on before class started, it seemed like I was one of the only singers in a class full of instrumentalists. The professor, an intimidating older man, had the whole class singing rapid-fire scales on the note names according to some pattern called "The Circle of Fifths." I knew what a scale was, and note names, and could even read music a little, but my scales had always been sung on Do Re Mi, or just "Ahh". While the rest of the class seemed to know exactly what to do, I felt completely unprepared.
Unprepared on the first day. How can you be chapters behind in the first lesson of Beginning Music Theory? Apparently, all it takes is being a voice major.
I had approached the Professor after the lecture was over, sure there was some scheduling error.
"Excuse me," I said with what I thought was polite determination. "I know that this Syllabus says 'Freshman Theory' but isn't there a level down? I feel like I'm already behind."
Dr. Coppa looked at me over the rim of his glasses. His wild white hair was in disarray.
"What's your instrument?" he sighed, clearly annoyed.
"I'm a voice major," seemed to be a more respectful answer than 'my voice, and why do you ask it that way?'
"Of course you are," he replied, even more annoyed. "Just do your work, and you'll be fine."
He breezed out of the classroom, leaving me stranded. I was devastated. I'd been third in my graduating high school class at home in Forks. I've always been an A student. Suddenly I'm a moron and everyone knows it as soon as I say I'm a singer?
Beginning Group Piano class wasn't much better, but I at least could figure out how to study for that. I wasn't so clueless about musical notation as to not have a general idea about what I was supposed to do. I was even able to follow along for the first half of class. After that I just tried to play softly enough so that the other twenty four pianos in the class wouldn't clash too much with the wrong sounds coming out of mine. I wish that they had told us to find a piano teacher and cram like hell over the summer, but all I did was ride bikes with Jake. Jake, who is still in high school, and suffering the boring kind of hell, not the scary kind. I wished we could trade places.
Now I'm anxiously hesitating at my Voice Professor's door, trying to calm the shell-shock. Well, they can't treat you like a moron here. Anyone who comes in here is a voice major.
I knock, and wait.
"Come," a highly resonant tenor voice calls from the other side of the door.
On the other side of said door is the reason I wanted to study at this conservatory: Dr. Emil George. One of the most famous tenors in the world, now retired for close to fifteen years. The last time I had seen him was at my audition. He had smiled at me after my art song, but not too much. He seemed more interested after my aria, and had asked me questions about the text, nodding in approval when I answered correctly. He had written something down, and I started to have a glimmer of hope.
Looking at him now, in his luxurious office of Persian rugs, opera memorabilia and highly polished wood, I'm torn between feeling intimidated and just excited to be here. There are pictures of him all over the walls: in costume, with other famous singers, with world leaders. Even though he's sung at the Metropolitan Opera house, La Scala, and most of the famous opera houses in the world at one time or another, he seems like a real person, but a real person you don't ever want to disappoint. He's serious, and seems kind, but not gullible.
When I had requested him as my voice teacher on the conservatory application form, I didn't expect him to choose me. He was one of the two most sought-after voice professors on faculty, and only took on a fraction of the students who requested him. I'm not sure why he chose me over some of the other students who sound just as good, if not better, but if was knowing the text, as I suspect, I prepare to work extra hard so he won't regret his decision.
He holds up an MP3 recorder.
"Get one of these," he says, letting me hold it for a second before taking it back. "You'll be recording every lesson and every practice session. I'll send you an email containing today's recording, but I expect you to bring your own from now on."
He hands me a syllabus, with a short list of books and the music I need to have. Among the selections are:
24 Italian Songs and Arias, medium/high voice, check. Everyone who's ever taken classical voice lessons has this one. It's the beginner book.
Schubert Lieder, vol. 1. Ed. Peters, sopran oder tenor. Thank Google I don't have to ask. I've never studied German before, but according to my orientation packet, I'll need to before graduation. I'll have to take Italian, too, but thankfully I have all the French I need.
There are other books on the list, but those are the ones I need for the first month, according to the syllabus. I'll be learning the same songs as the other Freshmen in Dr. George's studio.
There's another page, with a long list of rules for staying in Dr. George's good graces. They include getting eight hours of sleep per night, avoiding weight gain, dressing up for performances and lessons, and other things I wasn't sure were any of his business.
"How well can you play the piano?" he inquires.
"Not much. I thought I could play a little by ear," I apologize, "but I'm afraid today's first piano class was something of a rude awakening."
"Do you have a job?" he peers at me seriously over his glasses, and it feels he's looking right through me.
"No, but I was planning on getting one to supplement financial aid."
"I don't recommend it," he shakes his head. "It's sink or swim time, little girl."
He sits at the piano and starts to play some relatively rapid scales. I realize just in time he means for me to sing, and I take a deep breath and find myself keeping up, much to my relief. This is the first time today I haven't felt completely inadequate. We go through some other vocal exercises, some of which I already know and some I've never heard before.
"Not bad," he says, writing in a binder. "I'm going to level with you right now, because it's the right time to do it. I took you on as a student because you have a very good instrument, and when I say that I mean your voice. You had a good GPA in High School and placed out of all the general undergraduate requirements for music majors. Now for the part you don't want to hear: in High School, music was easy. You memorized a solo and a few songs with your choir every semester, won a couple of medals, and everyone told you how talented you are. But your parents weren't musicians, and you have no idea what's expected of you. So you need to get serious, do anything we tell you to do, and get tutors to catch up where you're behind. Some other voice teachers will accept sloppy musicians as voice students, but I'm not one of them. Fair warning."
He stands, walks over to me and folds his arms in front of his body, not entirely unlike Yul Brenner in The King and I.
"You understand?" he commands. "Slack off and you'll find that there are more sopranos than there are people in the world, and every time you compete for a role you'll be up against most of them."
I nod, a little terrified.
"Good. In the future, the pianist I have assigned to you for lessons and practices will come at the thirty minute mark, after we have finished our scales and arpeggios. Today, he'll just come in for a minute so you'll recognize him the next time you see him. Edward is in the doctoral program, and he's a musical genius, but he's about your age. He's easy on the eyes, but very hard to impress. Don't slack off and you'll learn a lot about music just by watching him in action."
He keeps on talking, and a moment later we're interrupted by a brisk knock on the door.
"Come," intones Dr. George.
The door opens a little and my knees start wobbling again. I hadn't noticed that they'd stopped until the hose start inching down again.
Easy on the eyes, my ass. This guy... he's beautiful, like a work of art. Well, the part I can see of him, anyway.
He stands halfway in the door, this breathtakingly pretty guy who does seem to be my own age, if not a bit younger, but tall and really serious. He seems barely old enough to be in college, let alone a doctoral student. Then I remember he's a prodigy, so he's probably just as young as he looks. At first he looks like he might come in, but he never gets further in the door than head and shoulders before he narrows his eyes at me and scowls at Dr. George.
"Bella Swan, this is Edward Cullen. You'll be working with him."
Edward stares at me with that same gimlet eye I got from Dr. George. Just when I think I can't take any more scrutiny, he turns his head.
"Sorry, Dr. George, I need to run. Standard operating procedures for Freshmen, right?" Edward asks, glaring from me to Dr. George and back again, like elves are playing some kind of invisible tennis game in front of our faces. Maybe he's a genius and he's nuts.
I look down at my shoes. The only good thing about today is that I wore a really long skirt, and it's probably not noticeable that my hose are down around my ankles from all the knee wobbling. My face is pretty hot, too, but when I look up, the door is closed, and he's gone. I start to calm down.
"Yeah, he's kind of moody," Dr. George observes with a Gallic shrug. "But he's the best. And you need the best. Look, I'm glad you're scared right now. You should be intimidated. But here's what I want you to do. Go to a practice room, do your work, and think about what you really want. Make up your mind, and then don't be scared again. You can be angry, or frustrated, or sometimes stressed out, but once you make that decision, tell fear to go to hell where it came from. Fear is a liar and it has no place in my studio."
This guy gives good drill sergeant. I nod again, and square my shoulders, wishing my mouth weren't as dry as Arizona.
"Good. Now let's look at your assignment for next week. I think Per la gloria d'adorarvi, Giovanni Bononcini…should work for now. You need to work on flexibility."
Between music theory and voice, I'm wondering if my coursework will require me to read more than a few words in English.
Sink or swim. I'm going to need some floaties.
Per la gloria d'adorarvi: (Italian), means "For the glory of adoring."
Thanks to Eccentric Shadow, You can find a playlist for music for this story here: playlist/60658611