Posts I guess


Traffic was so bad I had the cab stop ten blocks downtown and just ran the rest of the way myself. I didn’t care that I’d burned bridges with Manny; he wouldn’t have understood that when you get a call like the one I’d just gotten, you don’t wait around and finish out your shift pulling half-caf caps. Manny would deal, and if (no, when) this fell through there were any number of other crappy coffee shops in New York City where I could spend the rest of my life as a barista and not a baritone.

But I was so fucking late, and it had been the last day of auditions, and I knew they’d all be back on a plane in the morning. I was worried the rehearsal space they’d rented for auditions would be locked up; it wasn’t, but all the lights were off, and I was out of breath by the time I got up to the third floor and barged into the room where they’d been held. I must have looked ludicrous, wearing jeans and a winter jacket and knitted cap and a green fucking apron with my nametag—I pulled it off quickly—and standing all alone in the middle of the empty rehearsal room. Well, not empty, and not alone—Albert Sommer, youngest artistic director in the Staatsoper’s history, whose rise was so meteoric to have been a portent and sign of a sea change in the art, was leaning against the piano with a score open to his side.

“I’m… I’m so sorry, Mr. Sommer.” I stammered, out of breath. “I got here as quickly as I could. Did the other members of the committee—”

“No, no, do not worry,” he said, and gave a smile that didn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t worry. He hadn’t said anything during my audition that morning (I thought I’d bombed until I got the call they wanted to meet with me again), so this was the first time I’d heard his voice. It was heavily accented, and he spoke in clipped, precise, musical syllables.

“It is just I. The committee was very impressed with your audition, Mr. Shannon.” This wasn’t real. I must have banged my head in the shop, and I was hallucinating, dreaming. “We did though, have some concerns about your Figaro. Well"—and here gave another tight, pained Teutonic smile—"I had some concerns about your Figaro.”

So no, not dreaming. Fuck. I knew it was a reach. I knew I shouldn’t have tried it, should have chosen an easier piece than Largo. I said it was cliched, I said it wasn’t ready, but my vocal coach knew that the Staatsoper was doing The Barber of Seville in two seasons and thought it might make an impression. Stupid, stupid, stupid—whoever they picked as their baritone artist-in-residence wouldn’t even be singing a major part, would just be some third villager, anyway; why had I been so stupid?

“If you’d like, there are other pieces I’ve prepared that better show my voice. I’d be glad to—”

“No, no, no. Your singing was more than adequate. Quite nice.” From anyone else, it’d have been crushing; from Albert Sommer, hearing my voice called “nice” made me wish I had something to lean against. “No,” he continued, moving to sit at the piano, “it was your interpretation.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, as if I’d said something worth assenting to. “Barbiere is a misunderstood piece. It is comic, of course. And Figaro is the most comic of its characters. But he is not—wie sagt man das?—broad. No. He is not broad.” He paused, thinking. “Ah! The opera might be buffa, but Figaro is not the buffoon, yes?” The smile he gave his own joke was still just as tight as his earlier ones had been.

His fingers began to move over the keys, not looking like they were pressing them hard enough to play, but  I heard bars from the middle of the aria. He closed his eyes for a moment, catching Rossini’s rapid pulse, and then began to hum bits of the libretto; I followed along under my breath, both of us jumping lightly, in tandem, from phrase to phrase, both of us lost in something we knew deep in our bones. “Yes, yes, everyone wants him, everyone wants his services—’tutti mi chiedono, tutti mi vogliono.’ He is describing his customers—‘donne, ragazzi, vecchi, fanciulle’—and his services—both so varied!” His playing trailed off, and he looked at me again. “He does so many things, yes Mr. Shannon? Whatever is needed! He is a barber, but one di qualità. He wants something more from the world, yes, and so he advertises”—he put the stress on the second syllable and shortened the ‘i’, pronouncing it ‘adVERTtisses’—“himself as factotum. Ah, the factotum! The man who can do anything, yes? The man willing to do anything, yes?”

I nodded.

"And this is why the count feels he can trust him so. Why he can put his faith in him, yes, with all the delicate matters of the plot. Figaro is not some bumbling servant. Figaro is not a stupid man. He knows the way the world works. He knows his place in it, and he knows the—the advantages of that place, yes? And he knows how one uses that place to his advantage.” He’d stood up from the piano, and was slowly walking toward me, his heels clicking on the parquet floor. I heard one of my sneakers squeak as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, and I took in the crisp lines of his suit, his tie, the one strand of hair that’d fallen out of place during his playing and hung down over his forehead. “I need that in all of my singers, Mr. Shannon. And the baritone who is to one day successfully sing the role of Figaro must be able to communicate that when he sings. He needs to be able to make it very, very clear how much he—Figaro, natürlich—understands what he must do to get what he wants.”

By then he was right in front of me, far too close; I could smell his cologne, which was strangely both clean and dark, full of scents mysterious and easy to place at the same time. I realized I was trembling and looked down, which was a mistake; those crisp lines of his suit were barely restraining it. “Per carità,” I whispered, or wanted to, but a perfectly manicured thumb came up to run over my beard and down my jaw, lifting my chin so my eyes met his again.

"Now. Perhaps you would you like to try singing for me again, Mr. Shannon, yes?”

A unique bit of work from captionstojerkby, well done! I hope they put that piano bench to good use.


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