Thursday, 1 January 2009

Salle de Spectacle

The interior of the theatre, built principally of enormous timbers blackened by two centuries of soot and lit by tallow candles, was a gloomy blackness made dangerous and labyrinthine with ropes and pulley blocks, rolled canvas drops, ladders, chairs and massive gilt stage properties that gleamed with sullen life in the candlelight. Monsieur Biancolelli led us between papier-mache giants, demi-horses with frozen manes, dusty fountains, burnished suns and spangled arches, bowers of paper roses and painted forests, leather harnesses and calfskin wings, rows of unfashionable wigs from the last generation powdered with soot, and everywhere the smell of turpentine and wood shavings. I wanted to study every treasure: it was unlike my uncle's bookshop whose glories slept tidily between covers in their categories and shelves. I had fallen into a living book, a chaotic assemblage of cast-off dreams, lacquered vanities and slumbering desires; a precious jumble of some gargantuan imagination, a glimmering dollhouse for fairies and sprites.

"Yolande, allons-y, you must see the stage!"

Monsieur Biancolelli stepped forward and disappeared into the velvety blackness of the biggest wall of fabric I had ever seen; my uncle vanished in a similar fashion, winked out of sight. I walked in the same direction, hands before my face feeling the heavily napped curtain and inhaling its musty darkness, then felt the movement of air on my face. I opened my eyes to the most splendid view of all my eight years. A vast platform before me was bathed in sunlight falling in brilliant rays through the heavy air from windows a hundred feet above us. It was of course the stage and it raked away toward the pit and the parterre, with an undivided gallery, the paradis, hanging beyond it in the gloom. I stood facing a vast space that made me think only of the nave of a cathedral, but instead of windows it was divided into loges, or boxes, each one stuccoed and gilt with cherubim and cornucopia. These rose up in an endless repetition, stretching down the left, arching around behind the paradis and returning on the right. On either side of the stage were columns entwined with figures who smiled down as if they were my own parents and brothers and sisters welcoming me home. I blinked in the light and then sneezed. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen, dressed in a gown of pale green and a beribboned cap, stepped lightly toward me and sang in the sweetest voice,

"Felici l'alme e fortunati i cori,
Ove con lettre d'oro Amor l'imprima
Nell'imagine vostra, et in cui s'adori."

I looked toward Uncle Adraste, but he was busy being introduced to an older gentleman by Monsieur Bianocolelli. The woman extended her hand and I saw she had a green ribbon tied about her round wrist. I happily placed my hand in her white fingers as soft as down and tinged with pink. She smiled and spun around me lightly, laughing gaily as a bird and shaking the curls that escaped from her cap when she tilted her head, causing the motes dancing in the sunlight to swirl and fly. I lost my balance and sat down rather heavily.

Monsieur Biancolelli bustled over and lifted me off the floor. "What are you doing sitting here by yourself, little princess?"

"I was dancing with the pretty lady in the green dress."

Monsieur stopped and looked up at me with an astonished expression on his face. "Pretty lady? Where?"

I looked around me from the height of my tall friend's shoulders. Uncle Adraste and the strange man had stopped talking and were looking in my direction. Two musicians were tuning their instruments in the pit. But the rest of the stage was empty. The woman had disappeared.

"Well, well, perhaps you saw a Sylph," Monsieur Biancolelli said. "How interesting."


Enjah Mysterio said...

Encore! Encore! Brava!!!!

Young Geoffrion said...

Thank you, Enjah, I shall continue as long as circumstances permit. For now these are the pleasurable memories, and it is a shivery delight to recall them. But other buried things that I must resurrect to tell my tale will make my skin crawl.

Osprey said...

Brought to life with all the sights and smells intact - you are generous, dear Yo, to share these memories.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

A sylph? But what was her name? How did she come to reside there? Your public look to you for more... :)