Friday 19 October 2012

#FridayFlash - Phantom of the Opera

Cunard Queen Victoria Royal Court Theatre Boxes
By Gary Bembridge
Wishing I could hear your voice again, knowing that I never would, dreaming of you won't help me to do, all that you dreamed I could...

Edith sat in the box, gazing down at the stage. A young woman in taffeta stood near the footlights, her throat straining as she sought the higher notes of the piece. Edith searched her memory for the singer's name, but the amnesia of the passing years robbed her of the answer.

She folded her hands in her lap and risked a wan smile, although she knew no one could see her in the shadows of box five. The Phantom's box. Even after all these years, she could still appreciate irony. Henry kept the box free as a gimmick, but she knew it was because he still considered it to be "her" box, the place she'd sit to watch any performances in which she had no role.

Her mind flitted away from the empassioned singer on the stage, and skipped across thirty years. Her last performance on those very boards, her soul wrapped up in the tender arms of Mozart, her voice occupied by Voi che sapete. Henry, then just the son of the theatre's manager, watched from the wings. The success of Marriage of Figaro seemed to herald their own impending wedding.

Edith frowned at the memory - only days later, the illness had set in. Weeks later, a white-faced young woman with black hair and eyes of midnight arrived with promises of a better tomorrow, but Edith refused to leave. She returned to the theatre, reliving her romance as Henry mourned. Months turned into years, and even the rumour the theatre was haunted couldn't improve its fortunes. Henry became the manager, and took the difficult decision to forsake opera in favour of musicals.

"We need to bring in patrons, Edie. No one wants opera any more," Henry had told her as they sat in her box. The Phantom of the Opera was his compromise with the owners.

A high C several shades too flat brought Edith back to the present. The young singer continued to strangle the life out of the song, and Edith shook her head. She would have given her eye teeth for such a role, but instead the managers now cast teenage television stars instead of seasoned singers. Henry called them "attention seeking brats".

Edith looked down into the stalls, watching the audience below. Most were wrapped up in the drama unfolding onstage, but some hunched over their strange glowing tablets that they operated with their fingers. So rude, she thought.

The song ended to rapturous applause. Edith rose, allowing her outline to flicker in the shadows of box five. Several heads in the grand circle swivelled in her direction, and furious whispers broke out among the patrons, with fingers jabbed towards her.

Edith smiled; the rumours would live a little longer yet. She passed through the door and drifted down the stairs. The Phantom of the Opera would find her Henry, her maestro.


Helen A. Howell said...

Ah Edith, what changes have you seen! Full of atmosphere Icy.

Anonymous said...

You've been to the West End recently I see. But i still love the theatre: it suggests the possibilities you have written about here. You capture that romanticism and mystery that our theatres still offer, if only they could tear themselves away from 'liking' it to SEE it.

Anonymous said...

Love your atmosphere here. I can't imagine what the true stars of yesteryear would think of the "attention seeking brats" of today!

Anonymous said...

"Her mind flitted away from the empassioned singer on the stage, and skipped across thirty years." Love this line. A great read as always, Icy.

Tony Noland said...

Ah, there's nothing so sad as someone reaching for a note that's plainly outside their range. I've done it myself, and have always been disappointed.

Great ghost story, Icy.

Larry Kollar said...

You've captured quite a few dynamics in this short piece: the plaintive spirit, haunting the opera house; the shifting fashions; the dingdongs live-tweeting the performance; the half-trained TV personalities "strangling" (love that word) the song. Great sketch, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

John Wiswell said...

That was a heck of a quote to read fresh off of my grandfather's funeral. Fwew.

I love her motivations! That was quite an amusing plot, and you deployed it so succinctly, while still having you hallmark voice and fictional inhabitance. Top work, Icy.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Helen - And I do like my atmosphere!

Justin - I've made a resolution to go to the theatre more in 2013. I went to see The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Theatre Royal and it was far more engrossing than a cinema trip.

Aaron - I think they'd be horrified!

Jack - Thanks!

Tony - Oh it can hurt. I once sang a Kiss song on karaoke and just chickened out of the higher notes.

Larry - It's my subtle dig at a lot of things.

John - It's from Wishing You Were Here Again which Christine sings to her late father. On YouTube It's a great song.

Cat Russell said...

Oh, that was so lovely. Beautiful, with a great twist!

Anonymous said...

Icy -- another beautifully executed atmospheric piece - you are so adept at bringing us into another time and place. Loved your gentle ghost.

Anonymous said...

to echo the others, there is such beautiful atmosphere in this story. You have a wonderful way of drawing the reader into the tone and sentiments of the story. A lovely piece.

Steve Green said...

Oh Icy, a wonderfully atmospheric tale, I do feel for Edith, and the professionalism that is lacking in the performances she has to endure.

Katherine Hajer said...

I liked this a lot, but isn't Edith in a sort of hell, having to watching these starlets butcher material she could have strolled through?

I especially liked how Death was of the Gaiman Sandman type.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Cathy - Thanks!

Brinda - Thank you! I do try.

Danni - I still maintain you need to focus on sound as much as sight to create atmosphere.

Steve - She has got a bit of a hard lot, hasn't she?

Katherine - The Death in this is also a nod to one of my versions of Death who's popped up in previous stories.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

As so many others have said, this is beautifully atmospheric. Nice one.

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