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The Soprano

"The Pianist"

When I arrived, I thought that I was in the wrong place.

The address led me to a mansion, I tried to verify with the driver if there was some mistake, but by using body language, he confirmed that this was the correct location. I paid the fare and he left.

I stood in front of a fence, the mansion was enormous, it almost looked like a castle and it had vast acres of land surrounding it. I was beginning to panic, I didn’t know what to do—there wasn’t a device for me to call through so that the gate could be opened. How am I supposed to notify my arrival?

“Good evening madam.” I heard someone say, I turned and an old man startled me. “OH! Y-you, w-when did?” I couldn’t finish my sentence. That man wasn’t there when I arrived, how in the world did he get to the gate so quickly and without making any noises—especially when the mansion is pretty far from the gate, how did he get here so fast?

The old man smiled, “Welcome madam, Lord Kenton is waiting for you. Please, allow me to escort you.” He opened the gate and led me inside. Lord Kenton? I questioned myself, "Where did you send me Jacob...?" I muttered to myself. Am I really in the right place?

I hesitated “Thank you…um…?” I murmured, “You may call me Harry, I am Lord Kenton’s butler.” said politely the old man.
And with that he led me to the path towards the mansion. It was a long walk, which made me wonder even more on how did a seventy something year old man get to the gate without me noticing his coming? But he was kind and polite to me, so I guess I could push that suspicion aside and debate on it later.

Harry, the butler, opened the door to the mansion and led me inside. I was panting slightly from the rather long walk. “Welcome to Lord Kenton’s estate. Please make yourself comfortable whilst I inform him of your arrival.” he said as he closed the door behind me. "Okay," I panted, "I'll wait here." I turned around to find that he had already left; seriously, this guy could be a ninja. I kept staring at the space where he was standing; looking for possible reasons as to why and how he was moving so quietly and so fast. But after a while, I was consumed by fatigue and ignored whatever I was thinking at the moment.

I was looking frantically for a place to sit but as I looked around me, I was amazed…there were no words that could describe the beauty of what I was witnessing.
Everything was beautiful and the owner had a wide variety of antiques displayed throughout the whole house. It had its peculiar charm that caught my attention. The wooden furniture was cherry wood and it had, what I would guess to be baroque carvings that adorned it, the windows of the house were big but equally enchanting…I almost felt as if I had traveled through time and I was now in a castle of an Earl or a Duke. Everything was just breathtaking.

As I walked to look around me, I saw exquisite vases that held a bouquet of lilies. There were antique paintings on the walls, but there was one that caught my attention.

“Is this…Flaming June?” I asked myself in disbelief as I stared wide eyed at the portrait of a woman that was barefoot, relaxed and fast asleep. As she lied on what I would guess was a sofa, both her orange gown and her hair were long, but her gown had touched the floor. But as she slept, on her left was a toxic orleander branch; what I loved about this painting was not only its beauty but also its profound meaning--the delicate link between sleep and death. This again reminded me about how easily one's life could be taken away and I began to wonder if had Michael known his life would end so tragically? Did he have a certain feeling that indicated him that death was very near?

I loved this painting. My fascination and I dared to touch the painting—it felt real! How can that be?! “That’s because it is real.” I heard a voice with a British accent coming from behind.

I gasped and held my hand to my chest. I turned around to see a very tall and handsome man in front of me, who wore strange apparel—it looked as if it were from the Victorian age, just like the painting!

His hair was black with elegant waves that reached to his shoulder, his eyes were a pale blue, his skin complexion was pale but it gave him a strange type of beauty, almost angelic I would say. And his shoulders were broad and he had a lean muscular body. He was an Adonis in physical form.

Had he seen me touch the painting? Was he mad? “I’m sorry, I was just curious…I love this painting, it’s my favorite.” I muttered guiltily. I felt my heart race and I prayed to God that I wasn’t caught.

The man smiled, and his smile was incredible “I see. I too fancy it very much so, it was a gift actually.” He walked towards me, staring at the painting as if he were admiring it for the first time.
“Are you Juliana the soprano I was called for?” he asked without looking back at me, still admiring the painting. “Yes, that’s me. Juliana Stern pleased to meet you.” I said a little nervously as I took out my hand to shake his.
He stared at my hand as though he were disappointed then he stepped back, avoiding the touch, “The pleasure is all mine I’m afraid, Mordecai Kenton at your service milady.” He gave me a courteous bow instead of a handshake.

Here he was a true gentleman, and me acting like moron trying to shake his hand--I must've offended him. He motioned to a closed room, “This way please.” He walked and I followed behind him. He was strange and different; I've met men like books, never in real life. That's it, he looked as if he were made out of a romance novel. What else can I say to explain his charming behavior?

He opened the double doors and led me inside. It was a studio, with a grand concert piano. I felt a little bit overwhelmed; the room itself could’ve been a concert room for not only its vast space but also for its excellent acoustic.

“Well now, I assumed you’ve brought me the music you want to practice.” He said. I turned to him; he was already sitting and ready to execute his duties as pianist. “O-of course.” I hurried to him and gave him his copy of the music. “Thank you.” He said as he stared at the music score intently. “Whenever you’re ready Miss Stern.” He said expectantly. I sighed trying to relax, and I signaled him that I was prepared.

I began to sing in full voice and I could feel the room’s acoustic returning my sound back to me as my voice filled the room. As I sang, I felt strange. I felt as though there was an invisible link attached between me and Lord Kenton, either that or he was just a really good accompanist--which was also very possible.

After my performance, Lord Kenton stopped. I turned to look at him and found him staring at me as if he were deep in thought. “Is everything alright Lord Kenton?” I asked anxiously. Had I screwed up somewhere in the aria,--impossible! I had sung this many, many times before; how could I screw up?

Lord Kenton didn’t answer me and stood from the piano with my music score in hand. He walked towards me, “Miss Stern, if you plan to sing the role of Mimi as if you would sing any children’s folksong—then I suggest you leave and not waste my time.” I flinched a little, though not enough for it to be noticeable.

He was harsh, his voice was harsh but sincere and his eyes showed great disapproval. I stiffened; never had I received such a negative comment from this aria, especially without reason! As far as I’m concerned I did a marvelous performance. How dare he criticize me like this!

I looked at him, almost as arrogant as he looked at me. “I’m sorry Lord Kenton—but you seem to be the first person to actually criticize my performance of this aria in such a negative manner.” He scoffed, “I’m beginning to wonder how, since, obviously, this is something that shouldn’t be overlooked so carelessly.” He commented casually. I’m usually not the “diva” type, but he damn well was beginning to awaken a part of me that I’ve never known I held inside. He continued, "You make it seem as though a small child could sing this better than yourself." he was about to turn around to leave but I stopped him in his tracks, “Now you listen here,” I lost all etiquette and formalities with him, “I’ve sung this aria many times in my career, especially in concerts. Yet no one had told me; not my voice teacher or even my vocal coach that I had failed to transmit the emotions and musical meaning the role of Mimi strongly requires.” I placed my hands on my hips and I could feel the rage building up.

Though I’ve sung this aria many times before, I’ve never sung the whole role throughout the entire opera itself. The aria alone was a challenge itself. But still, if I was preforming it wrong, wouldn't my vocal teacher tell me so?

Lord Kenton sighed, “I’m afraid you’ll need more sessions with me before you can even consider yourself ready to audition for a role in any opera.” He said as he grabbed a wireless phone (the only thing I found to be modern in his home). My anger got the better of me but I had to find a way to control it, I didn’t think that negative criticism would be one of my hot buttons. But really, who does he think he is?! He began to speak to someone on the phone in German, but I ignored him as I walked away from him, I couldn’t help but admire his home continually.

But there was a question that kept hammering constantly since I arrived, how the hell could this guy be so rich? And especially, how did he come to own so many antiquely valuables that should otherwise be displayed in a museum? Damn! I can't be so easily entertained at a moment like this! This man has treated me as though I knew nothing of what I was doing!

He hung up, “I’ve called a taxi for you, it should be here within seventeen minutes.” He sat comfortably in one of his exquisite sofas. I felt like punching him—which is something I don’t usually feel like doing, regardless of how much I may dislike a person. But Lord Kenton was an exception, he had uncovered my weakness which was negative criticism.

“Why should I pay you to take another session with you, what makes you think I would even consider looking you up for performance advice?” I admit that I was rather cold and rude, but he had it coming.
However his reaction was not the kind I’d expected, he was laughing wholeheartedly, although at the same time, his laughing almost sounded like the lyrical strumming of a lute.

He smiled without showing teeth, “Well I could give you many reasons that might convince you easily.” He crossed his legs as if he were triumphantly winning some sort of gentleman’s debate. He kept his eyes on me and soon his smile turned into a slight smirk, “However, I’m going to skip those reasons and go straight to the point. I am quite willing to help you resolve your loose ends in this aria.” he continued, "It's clear to me that you have no idea what you're doing or much less what the protagonist's intentions are in this aria." I felt myself getting hotter and hotter, "But, being the gracious man that I am, I want to make sure that you preform this perfectly. I don't accept anything less than perfect."

This time I started to laugh a little in disbelief, “You? What would you know about performance practice? You’re a pianist! And besides, what makes you think that I need your assistance so desperately?” I asked with both of my arms crossed against my chest.

“Because,” he said comfortably and with confidence, “I am the best vocal coach you will ever find.” I was dumbfounded with his egocentric attitude. And if he actually meant that I would go back to him, then he was crazy! Was this really the same man that had admired Flaming June as much as I did? His change of attitude made it seem as though he were a completely different person. I'm no psychiatrist, but if I didn't know better, I'd say that this man was bipolar.

Finally, and not a moment too soon, the cab driver pulled up in front of the gate. Despite our dispute, Lord Kenton was still a gentleman and so he escorted me towards the main gate. When we reached the gate, we stopped and he had opened it enough for me to pass through. “Please consider what I’ve said.” He was amused at how much he was insisting that I hire him for another session. I tried to pretend that I was ignoring him, but however he had proven to be difficult to fool him with my insincere attitude. “We will see about that, but don’t be counting on it Lord Kenton.” I said, and whilst I held my chin up high with pride—I had left to my hotel room.