The Cardinal Diaries Pt 1
Photo: Opera Canada

Introducing Lauren Margison‘s new series on Opera Canada, The Cardinal Diaries! The series follows the fictional adventures of the titular songbird soprano. In Chapter 1, Cardinal struggles as she prepares for opening night…


The blistering heat radiating from the lights burned my eyes as I stood there stupefied. How did I get on this stage? What show was this? Where was the set? Where were my colleagues? 

I shielded my eyes from the glaring lights in hopes of discovering an answer to any of the myriad of questions swirling through my anxious mind. The piercing black eyes of a vaguely familiar looking conductor provoked a bilious wave to break over me. The orchestra was playing something I knew, but I just couldn’t place it. I began to hum along not knowing what else to do. 

From the audience shrouded in darkness came a quiet laugh, then another, and another until the cacophony became too much to bear. I gasped noticing that I was in a state of undress. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I collapsed. The cold hard stage became increasingly soft as I curled myself into the foetal position.

My eyes grudgingly opened to reveal my bedroom. The cacophony of jeers were still emanating from my alarm clock, yet found themselves swiftly silenced with an adroitly executed smack of the snooze button. 

“What a horrid dream,” I sputtered out along with a puff of morning breath which lingered in the air around my nostrils. 

I staggered to the window to close the curtains, wincing as I moved closer to the source of the blistering heat. The days were growing hotter, and summer was fast approaching intensifying the consequence of forgetting to close the curtains before falling asleep. The sweet cerulean sky fortified me, and I decided to go and do some score study outside… in the shade, naturally. 

Cardinal Diaries Performance Prep
Photo: Opera Canada

I found a spot nestled between a few oaks. It was delightfully shielded from the sun, though not from the wind. My cheek welcomed the breeze, but my score did not. The sound of pages flapping hither and thither was redolent of birds taking off. I knew that despite my nightmare, I was ready for the show tonight and I smiled as I shut my score. The anticipation of opening night was billowing around me like gossamer curtains. I eschewed the compulsion to skip around the park, and instead opted for a brisk walk to warm my body and cool my mind. The lip trills issuing from my mouth were initially unnoticed by my consciousness, but the grins of passers by alerted me to my body’s habitual vocal check in. A light rose flushed my cheeks and I scurried back home to begin my show day rituals. 

The steam rose in my shower like clouds rolling over the mountains. The moist eucalyptus warmth crept up my nose and down my throat and I beamed approvingly. The Act 1 finale played in my head in time with the sputtering showerhead. A surge of anxiety elbowed its way into my psyche when I felt myself pause on a certain word. In a moment I was wrapped in a towel and tiptoeing to my score, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind me. 

“Ok, you loon. You know this.” I flopped onto the couch and let the score slip out of my hand. There it sat beside me, as blue as that cerulean sky. 

The hours flew by and as the clock struck six, I was out the door. My stomach was happily full of scrambled eggs, avocado, and dry toast. My bag was overflowing with umpteen packs of ginger tea, two rather wizened apples, my Barenreiter, a copy of Rebecca (which would remain untouched all evening, but sparked severe separation anxiety at the mere thought of it remaining at home), and the beautiful piece of carnelian my parents had gifted me the Christmas prior. 

“Where to lady?” bellowed the voice of my rather gruff taxi driver. 

“The opera house, please,” I replied with a flutter in my chest. The excitement that accompanies the utterance of that destination had yet to lose its lustre. 

Cardinal Diary Opera House
Photo: Opera Canada

I never specified the stage door, which had been a previous mistake turned tradition. Watching the hustle and bustle of audience members buzzing with anticipation imbued me with an extra wave of alacrity for the show. The steady flow of people sweeping through the front doors pulsed through my veins and left me giddy. Some no doubt were there to be seen, while others were there to be moved. Those were the ones that fed my love for this artform. 

I sauntered down the block towards the stage door. 

“Happy opening!” came the familiar voice behind the security desk.
“Thank you! I’m excited,” I said with a glowing smile. 

The corridor to my dressing room was peppered with smiling faces and ‘toi tois’. The smell of freshly washed costumes and sweat tickled my nose. A meditative air settled over me as I signed in and focused on the clack of my heels down the hall. The first announcements of the evening were echoing over the PA and I ran my hand absentmindedly along the wall feeling the forgotten drips of dried paint collide with my fingertips. The sound of voices softened to a din as I shut my dressing room door behind me. I took a big breath and let it slowly out. 

“Here we go.” 

Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of The Cardinal Diaries, coming soon…


fatphobiaLauren Margison is a singer and writer from Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, and the Atelier lyrique of the Montreal Opera. She was a first prize winner of the George London Competition. Lauren continues her vocal training under the tutelage of Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka.

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