Story for the Day: The Beginning of the Opera
Here is the next part in "Tales from Frewyn: the Opera", soon to be released as a novella! Enjoy!
The jerkin was donned, the Cuineills were got, the mantles and redingotes were fastened, and everyone was soon arrived at the Royal Theatre. The commander, however, broke from the party for a few moments on account of a most necessary call to Diras Delights. The Frewyn bakery was just closing for the day and therefore had little to recommend its usual excellent stock, but she declared herself prepared to take away anything that was tolerably fresh and not the least bit wholesome. She was given a few of the chocolate toffee butter biscuits for her visit, and though she was warned that they were from yesterday, they must do for now. If a play was to be sat out, it would not be sat out in penance, for an opera was the most excruciating sort of entertainment in the world and could only be borne by eating more insalubrious yet delicious items than is good for one. The procurance was chiefly made for the Den Asaan, whose lenience for mainland singing was not always favourable. He accepted his tribute when it was given him with a sudden excitement but was warned to save his treats for the performance where they might keep him from shouting his aspersions until the end of the production.
They waited together for a few minutes before being greeted once again by the director, who was certainly pleased to see the majesties, and less so to see his captains and commanders and some of his yeomanry. He denied the play’s being absolutely ready. It would be well enough for one of inferior taste as the Den Asaan but ought not be acceptable to a Frewyn King, one whose noble blood was surely more refined than that of a grunting giant’s despite the Den Asaan’s unconquerable achievements. He bowed to the majesties, made nervous smiles, and begged them to return tomorrow for a proper showing of his opus, but the sight of so dignified a jerkin as the one on Alasdair had dazzled him and made him reconsider his refutation. As the king seemed inspired and enthused by the opera, perhaps he would allow for some errors in stage direction, some flat notes in the songs, some improvisations in the slender playbook. He was a forgiving man, and one so young for a king might betray some inexperience when speaking of Marridon’s finest entertainment. Perhaps some mistakes might be gotten away with, and as any wrinkle in the performance would be smoothed for tomorrow night, he could show the play now without any fear of critique to harangue his attempts. As for the rest of the party, there was little need for him to vex himself over what a cook, a leatherworker, a blacksmith, an old woman, four captains and a wry farmer should think of his art. Fortunate he was that the writer of the playbook was at home nursing a sore throat and could therefore not repudiate the changes he had made in the lines over the last few days. As it was, the royal party might even receive a better performance than could be expected, and upon the whole he was inclined to invite them all into the theatre, knowing that there were only two of the party whose opinions truly mattered.
There was a general bustle when the royal party entered the orchestra tier of the theatre. The company murmured amongst themselves in a trepidatious hush, passing glances first to the commander and Den Asaan and then to the king and queen who were all being seated in the front row. Whispers of what was to be done and how they should act with regard to the majesties, two of such superior musical understanding, were uttered until the Frewyn Players were called out onto the stage to greet their guests accordingly. They crawled out from their caches, the men bowed and the women curtsied, and they could not but agree to performing the entire opera from the beginning for the royal party. As only the Den Asaan for an audience had been hitherto pronounced, this was a most distressing and unwelcome addition. They knew their director had no notion of the majesties’ musical tutelage and refined ear, and though the Players had undergone the requisite training, they were no Marridon opera. They felt themselves only a pale imitation of what a company with many years’ experience could provide. They were a comedic and dramatic troupe which borrowed its singers from the Frewyn choir, but here there would be no choir to support them. They were on their own to be judged and rated against everything they had been used to perform, but the butter biscuits in the Den Asaan’s hand and the king’s jerkin were enough to influence them into a more blithesome state; these were marks of the forbearance with which they ought to be treated, and the instant the director called the play to begin, they were at their places, crossing their fingers for luck and saying their prayers that no one should trip over and break the sets this time.
Tinley took his place to the left of the audience and waited for everyone to be in place to call for the lights in the house to be doused. Once there was the silence to signal everyone’s preparation, the candles on the stage were lit and the orchestra began its symphony. The overture was long and grand, as the title of the opera recommended it should be, and the moment there was a lull in the stridency of music, Carrigh and Alasdair glanced at one another in grim confusion.
“This doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a happy tale,” said Alasdair softly.
Carrigh’s eyes crinkled with smile lines. “I told you, sire, that all Marridon operas end in tragedy.”
“Then they might very well kill me after all.”
“No, sire. You’re the king. They might make you lose your sword arm, which I understand is popular in Marridon operas, having the hero lose an arm to show that no glory is obtained without sacrifice.”
“I need my arms, especially my right one,” said Alasdair, glancing at his limbs with chariness. “Can’t they take a toe or a finger instead?”
“No one can see a finger being cut off from the balcony,” Carrigh giggled.
The overture was suddenly finished, and the king and queen were obliged to be silent once more as the curtain drew up into festoons and the sconces on the back wall were lit.
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