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I am working on the revision of  The Mary Sue of the Opera. I will probably take the original down and post the revised edition when I have more of it completed. The story went through multiple solutions as I was writing and it shows from time to time. I am making some cosmetic changes and some pretty significant changes in order to improve the pacing and overall quality of the story. When I am finished I will most likely remove the old version of the story. Since I don't want to delete the old version on FFN just yet, I'm going to update here until I'm comfortable deleting the old version. Right now, it's easier to copy chapters from there rather than finding the current versions on my computer. Anyone who feels like volunteering themselves as a "beta" is welcome to offer input. I'm just happy if anyone reads this stuff.

The Mary Sue of the Opera

Chapter One: Murder Spelled Most Fowl Foul

It was the day before the Paris Opera was to hold it gala, celebrating the retirement of the old managers, Debienne and Poligny- for us, a day that occurs within that nebulous space known as back-story. The reader would not join us until the night of the gala, when Christine Daaé would take my place and make her triumphant debut. However, like most novels, ours was based upon a series of events that must take place with any audience present. Somewhere in the basement of the opera house, Joseph Buquet was breathing his last, while the opera ghost arranged for my inexplicable absence from the evening’s entertainment.

I passed by the doorkeeper’s table as I entered the opera house, and lightly brushed my fingers across the horseshoe that Sorelli had left to protect us all from the evil eye. Granted, Sorelli was a typical dancer, and by that I mean that she was about as intelligent as a chipped brick, so I didn’t share her faith in the power of cold iron. All the same, when you for a fact that there is not merely a ghost present, but a ghost with homicidal tendencies and a twisted sense of humor, you don’t risk offending the spirits. Although I felt foolish every time I did it, I touched the filthy, rusted metal each time I passed it.

It was business as usual at the Paris Opera. Of course, when you’re trapped in a detective novel about a disfigured lunatic who falls in love with your understudy, usual is just another kind of strange. I left my wrap with the doorkeeper, since I would not be singing tonight and had no need to go tromping through the corridors to my dressing room. I would not be wearing a costume tonight, so there was no need to put one on now. There was a small pier glass at the side of the doorkeeper’s box, which showed enough of my reflection for me to assure myself that my hair was still neatly in place and my dress was smooth and tidy. I am not as young as Christine Daaé, but I am not so very old either and one does not become the reigning diva of the Paris Opera by looking as bad as all that. I may not be twenty, but I am still attractive enough to please a Parisian audience.

The new opera directors had scheduled a rehearsal for the gala tomorrow night- the gala I would inexplicably fail to attend. No one really knows why I don’t show up, but it’s absolutely critical that I’m absent. I usually spend the evening having a nice long bath and reading a good book. Not this book of course. I’ve had about as much of this book as I can stand. As I understand it, the reader is meant to assume that the opera ghost has somehow arranged my absence. However, Gaston Leroux never saw fit to specify precisely what happened, so we’ll never know whether or not I am recovering from some mischief of the ghost’s devising, or what form that mischief might have taken.

Up until the gala evening, most of the characters in The Phantom of the Opera are at liberty to do as they please, provided it won’t interfere with the events of the plot later on. For example, Joseph Buquet cannot opt out of dying by torture, nor can I chain myself to my dressing room in protest. Rather than rock the boat, so to speak, we always spend the time before the gala having rehearsals, supposedly make sure that there won’t be any problems other than my disappearance and subsequent replacement by Christine Daaé. If you ask me, we’re just looking for a way to pass the time. It’s not really very pleasant to think that you’re just milling around, waiting for someone to get around to dying in a horrible and unnecessary manner.

I walked down the dimly lit corridors, on my way to the stage via the wings. It’s no wonder that rumors of ghosts flourished in a place like this, without or without help from any flesh and blood phantoms. The gaslights provided dim light that flicked in the open areas and cast ever-moving shadows in the corners and out-of-the-way places. I passed by property rooms where a menagerie of plaster animals stared at me with malevolent glass eyes and by the costume rooms where seamstresses added the final details to Marguerite’s rather sumptuous peasant dress. The costume was supposedly mine, but I was not the one who would wear it onstage, that privilege was reserved for La Daaé.

The wings were crowded with people, although I didn’t think anything of it. The Palais Garnier is always teeming with human life. There was a time when the government saw fit to dispose of a good portion of the unemployed populace by creating work for them at the opera house. They are known as the door-shutters. I’m sure I don’t have to explain what they do. You never know when you are going to run into someone who has been hidden away in some out of the way corner for the last several years, just in case someone might absentmindedly leave a door open. From time to time, they open the doors themselves, so that they can go back and shut them again. I suppose it passes the time.

For whatever the reason, the corps de ballet had decided against rehearsing in the ballet room. Apparently, they felt that more could be accomplished by standing about in the wings and getting into everybody’s way. The sceneshifters were beside themselves because it seemed that whichever way they turned, there was a dancer loitering about where she ought not to be. Although I’ve never had a high opinion of the ballet rats, they were usually somewhat more professional than this. I had been under the impression that, at the very least, they knew how to dance ballet. I threaded my way through the throng and took center stage.

I greeted the other principal singers, who will remain nameless because Leroux could not be bothered to name them, and gave a nod to the maestro. Tonight, Gounod himself would be on hand to conduct his Funeral March of a Marionette, as well as excerpts from Romeo and Juliette and Faust. Romeo and Juliette is not part of the repertoire at the Paris Opera, but it was to be transferred to us from the Opera Comique and La Daaé had been assigned the page’s song, since the selections from Faust did not include her part, Siebel. However, for the time being, the rehearsal would be conducted by the chorus master, Gabriel. Well, you can hardly expect a famous composer to make a cameo appearance in an episode that doesn’t even appear in the finished book.

At Gabriel’s signal, we began the “Jewel Song”, just as we had done innumerable times before, but something happened that had never happened before- something that would initiate a series of events that would change the course of our plot, perhaps forever! Before I could complete the opening line of Marguerite’s famous aria, a backdrop fell from above, nearly knocking me senseless mid-trill. Luckily, Little Jammes saw it first and cried out. I stumbled out of the way, tripping on my heavy skirts, before the heavy set piece struck me, and it was a lucky thing I did. Had I not moved out of the way, I could have been seriously injured or killed!

I crawled out from under the fallen scenery and Little Jammes helped me to my feet, as innumerable people came running from the wings. I looked up into the grid above us, where a jungle of ropes, pulleys, rollers and bridges controlled the mechanisms that transformed the stage from a little German village, to a beach in Africa to a street in Florence or to any other location a librettist could dream up. I thought I saw a shadow flicker across one of the bridges, but it was gone so quickly that I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t a trick of the light or my own imagination.

The stage was now packed with choristers and ballet rats, which was also very odd, since the chorus is not involved in the gala at all. Nor had the chorus bothered to dress for the occasion. Most of them were wearing costumes, but they weren’t costumes from Faust. It looked like they had mistakenly dressed for a production of L’Africaine, which to say that a kind person would have called their dress ‘exotic’ and I was inclined to call it ‘garish.’ They looked like they had mugged a caravan of affluent gypsies.

“Does anyone know what’s going on?” asked little Jammes, who is fifteen years old and more than a little precocious. The rest of the ballet rats were twittering and squealing in supposed consternation- completely feigned in some cases if you want my opinion. La Sorelli tells me that most of those girls are far more amused by the Opera Ghost’s antics than you’d think proper.

Christine Daaé emerged from the wings, looking flustered. Her long, golden hair was all in pins and her dress hadn’t been buttoned properly. “I’m not supposed to be here, am I?” The conductor shrugged, declining to take an interest. Well, one could hardly blame him. “I’m not even Carlotta’s understudy yet! You don’t think Erik is responsible, do you?”

This is also true. Christine Daaé was never my understudy and would not have been selected as my replacement without the opera ghost’s intervention. That ghost does get around, doesn’t he?

Without warning, the angel of music’s voice floated up from the basement, “I’ve been down here minding my own business all morning. Can someone please explain why I can hear everything that happens onstage through the vents? It’s horrendously irritating.” The tone was somewhat less than angelic. More mystifying was that fact that the opera ghost was making his voice heard by anyone other than Christine. He isn’t known for being particularly social. Something was clearly very wrong.

Luckily, the new managers had just arrived. They would surely know what was happening. They looked at me, and then looked at each other, “Carlotta? Aren’t you supposed to be leaving in a huff?”

“Why on earth would I do that?” I asked. “If I leave in a huff now, then you’ll have time to call some other diva to sing the gala, instead of having Christine Daaé make her debut.”

Monsieur Montcharmin knit his brow for a moment, and then relaxed, “You’re right! How silly of us. Quite a relief to know that you’re here and everything is following the plan, as it were, ahem! I don’t suppose you remember what our names are?”

“The last I checked, you were Armand Montcharmin and Firmin Richard.” I told them, but they didn’t look at all convinced.

“You see,” said Monsieur Richard, “We’ve been calling one another Firmin and Andre all afternoon. We’re not quite sure if those are our first names or our last names--”

“Or which one of us is which!” Montcharmin chimed in.

This bizarre revelation made me pause for thought. These changes were likely to undo the entire plot of The Phantom of the Opera, in which case what would become of all of us? Without our novel, we didn’t exist, and it seemed that our plot was starting to fray at the edges.

“I think we’d better gather the principal characters and have a conference about this,” I said. “But first, we should send word to the De Chagny estate to make sure Raoul and his brother are alright.” I’d hate to think what would happen if Raoul and Phillipe lost track of which one of them was which. For one thing, Christine Daaé would likely have far more to fear from La Sorelli than the phantom if Phillipe’s started mistakenly pursuing her.

As I turned to leave, a voice piped up from the chorus, “Christine Daaé could sing it sir!”

It was a ballet girl that I didn’t recognize, in a costume that made me blush several shades of scarlet. Even a prostitute has more modesty than that.

“Christine Daaé could sing what?” asked M. Montcharmin looking even more perplexed than usual. He never did learn a thing about opera. The child had to be talking about Faust- the opera we had been rehearsing not two minutes ago.

“I don’t know,” admitted the new dancer, “I just needed to tell you that Christine Daaé could sing it. That’s what’s supposed to happen isn’t it?”

“Well, thank you for your input, but I think we’re all well aware that the heroine of our novel can sing. We cast her as Siebel, didn’t we?”

“Let her sing!” cried someone else, “She has been well taught!”

M. Montcharmin was getting very upset indeed, “Yes, we know she’s been well taught. She went to the bloody conservatory! Well taught what and by who—“

“Whom,” filled in M. Richard, forgetting that an editor could always fix the grammatical error at another time.

As M. Montcharmin sputtered and M. Richard quietly began to consult The Elements of Style – which he always had on his person- one of the ballet girls stepped forward. She clearly was in no way ashamed of her interesting costume. I expect that ancient Sumerian whores weren’t ashamed of those get-ups either but this was hardly the place for it. She stepped to the very front of the stage. She couldn’t have been more than 16, with the kind of thin birdlike bones that hinted at a want of food. Her hair was her one great glory, and she wore it loose in a cascade of chocolate curls down her back. I’m almost certain that some of those curls were false.

“Let’s begin from the aria, shall we?” said Gabriel, before he glanced down at his score and made a face. “Wait a minute, where is the aria? I thought this was Faust! All I have here is a sort of overwritten music hall ballad with limited range and a highly uninventive cadenza at the end.” He and the concertmaster compared scores.

“This isn’t opera at all,” said the concertmaster, furrowing his brow in consternation, “Just listen to this, it isn’t even scored for an orchestra.” With that, he got up, walked over to the rehearsal piano and began to play.

The strange girl began to sing in a voice that was tremulous and difficult to hear. It wasn’t a bad voice, simply the voice of a child who had never been trained at the opera. She struggled with the higher notes, her little, frail body twisting with strain as she fought to get the pitches out.

“Oh dear God, it’s horrifying. The audience won’t be able to hear her and when they do hear her, they will riot and kill us all. How are we supposed to star Christine Daaé in the gala when she can’t even be heard from the first row. The audience will riot and kill us all.” moaned M. Richard.

M. Montcharmin raised his hands in a gesture of supplication, “Please Opera Ghost, you must help us. If Christine Daaé doesn’t sing tomorrow, we’re doomed! We’ll be lynched by enraged Parisian opera patrons! Drop another backdrop and hurry!!!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, “This isn’t Christine Daaé. Christine Daae is a blonde opera singer not a half-naked, brunette ballerina.”

“But,” the child insisted, “I am Christine Daaé!” Tears welled up in her crystalline eyes.

“That’s impossible!” cried little Jammes. “The real Christine is right here!” Little Jammes turned to point to where the Swedish soprano has stood and uttered a piercing scream.

Christine Daaé was lying on the floor, dead as a doornail, with a Punjab lasso around her neck, a dagger in her heart, and strange footprints all over her clothes. The heroine of our novel had been murdered and murdered repeatedly and then the murderer has stomped on her… or possibly danced on her corpse, it was hard to tell.

A note was pinned to Christine’s blonde hair. As Meg fell fainting into her mother’s arms, I pushed my way through the crowd and knelt beside the body. The note read:

OMG I totally did it because I am bad artistocrat rapist and evil boring and she totally loved Eric and I wear pink panties and stuff OMG! –signed, Raul, the Visconter of Change

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Tytania Strange

April 2017

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