It’s Chapter 3 of Lauren Margison‘s new series, The Cardinal Diaries: Wardrobe Mayhem Ensues! If you missed the first two installments, you can read chapter one here and chapter two here. Below, the fictional adventures of our titular soprano continue as she prepares to go on stage with a questionably functional zipper…
The subdued voice of our ASM warbled out through the PA, “five minutes to the top of the show”.
I moved my hands over my head and down my back, wrapping myself in a hug. My lungs were greedy for oxygen and my breaths were deep and long. My reality felt false. I brought myself back by making a myriad of silly faces to myself in the mirror.
A gentle knock on my door alerted me to the call for places, and I smiled confidently to our stage manager. Silence hung in the air around us as I followed her down the hall and into the wings. The hustle and bustle of people moving through their tasks, all of us with the same goal in mind, gave the sense of artistic symbiosis. I stood out of the way admiring everyone and their movements.
The sotto voce wishes of “good show” intoned like a singing bowl, ever chanting. Smiles and nods of approbation were passed around like mints after a meal. The sweet swell of the orchestra tuning made its way into my awareness, and the butterflies that had been dozing in my stomach awakened with vigour. My beating heart made a steady ascension into the realm of the flight of the bumblebees.
I focused on my breathing. Each breath deeper than the last until I felt a dull pop in the middle of my back. The colour drained from my face, and with a slow and steady hand I reached back to the source of the sound.
“Oh no, oh… oh no, please,” I muttered in denial. I searched the wings with a look of blind terror, and met the eyes of our stage manager who rushed over.
“Are you alright? What’s happened?” she questioned, trying frantically to maintain a calm demeanour.
“My zipper…. my zipper just snapped. The whole back of my dress is open! I have to be onstage in two minutes.” I felt the hot sting of tears battering at my eyes.
“Ok” was all she said, and she was off like a shot.
My mind tumbled and raced for the longest ten seconds of my life, until the vision of our stage manager along with the head of costumes broke into my panic induced delirium.
The head of costumes was armed with an eerily placid glimmer in her eye, and a large needle and thread in her hand. She clapped eyes with mine, and for a moment I had the feeling she was about to rattle off a Die Hard-esque catch phrase emphasizing the urgency of our situation, while maintaining a strong belief in our chance of success.
With a firm hand, my body was turned to face the wall. I heard her make a low sigh, and the next thing I knew I was being sewn back into my costume. Grunts and groans were emanating from her and her assistant, and the stress of it all came to me in the form of an unstoppable flow of perspiration pouring from my forehead and elsewhere. I hoped this would go unnoticed by the two women feverishly working on my costume.
Moments into the procedure, my peripheral vision caught the form of our director rushing over and whispering a few words with the head of costumes and our stage manager.
Amidst incoherencies, I caught a couple of choice expletives and a pleading “how long?” followed by a firm “three minutes” from the head of costumes.
An unsettling feeling came over me as I heard something that I had yet to hear backstage immediately preceding a performance… dead silence. I stared intently at the wall in front of me knowing full well that everyone backstage had their eyes locked on the high stakes game of dress up taking place.
With a final flourish, I felt her firm grasp on my waist before spinning me back around. Her head was beading with sweat, and a few strands of hair had fallen around her face. She had a flushed look of triumph about her, and I mirrored it with an ounce of added trepidation.
“You’re on.” I gazed around dazedly before snapping-to. I rushed up the stairs of the set to make my entrance with my colleague.
I met her in the small side room on the second floor of the set which acted as the bedroom of our characters, a look of bewilderment on her face.
“What happened? Are you ok?”
I gave her a look of abject bemusement as the first notes of the show echoed up to us from the pit. I looked around the small “bedroom” and down at my hands; they were steady. My colleague and I locked eyes and grinned at each other. I couldn’t help but laugh as we burst out onto the scene.
Live performance. Was there anything better?
Stay tuned for Chapter 4 of The Cardinal Diaries, coming soon…
Lauren 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.
Opera Canada depends on the generous contributions of its supporters to bring readers outstanding, in-depth coverage of opera in Canada and beyond. Please consider subscribing or donating today.