(1311-03-14) Do It Well
Summary: Raphael and Ortolette discuss the variable considerations of bringing an operatic production to Marsilikos. Ortolette somehow refrains from mentioning the octopus.
RL Date: March 14, 1311
Related: None
raphael ortolette 

Solar — Ducal Palace

Spacious enough to provide a meeting place of more familiar atmosphere to the residents of the Ducal Palace, the solar is of rectangular shape and generously lit during the day through a number of arched windows in the south wall. The opposite side is governed by a huge stone hearth, a fire crackling there during colder weather conditions. Above the hearth hangs a shield with the coat of arms of House Mereliot, flanked by a pair of exquisitely woven tapestries depicting naval scenes of ships on the sea, one in calm and tranquil weather conditions, the other one in a storm with heavy rain.

All furniture is made of oak, be it the long table in the middle of the room, or the number of high backed chairs arranged about it, flat cushions of blue brocade adding to the comfort of seating. The ceiling is a sophisticated rib vault, constructed of wood, the ribs painted in yellow. Depictions of a variety of sea animals have been added onto the light blue ceiling as well by an unknown artist. Several kinds of mediterranean fish adorn the spaces in between ribs, such as combers, groupers and flounders but also starfish and octopusses.

A door leads out onto a rooftop garden, and an archway opens into the upper hallway.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter day. The weather is cool and fair.


Ortolette is sitting tall in her invalid's chair; her back hardly touches the sloped back of the wickerwork seat with all of its padding. The foot of the chair is crooked in a steep descent toward the floor, allowing her little feet to dangle and the tips of her shoes to appear below the long layers of her gown. She has a white fur across her lap, and a book atop that, which she reads by the light of a window in the solar, taking in some fresh air since it has decided for the nonce to halt snowing. Girard keeps watch at the Solar door, but generally those already within the palace are able to come and go at liberty.

It is excellent timing to be called to the ducal palace just the day after one's new bespoke clothing is delivered. For this visit, Raphael has chosen among his wardrobe black leather breeches that disappear into black leather boots, and a black silk shirt currently worn somewhat open about the neck. His cloak he must have left with a servant where he came in. Dressed this way, he is either a very poor match for the white-and-pink-attired Ortolette, or else a perfect one, depending on one's perspective and tastes. Whoever has summoned the man here does not accompany him now, but seeing as no one stops him wandering into the solar, he does so with all confidence, pace neither hurried nor reluctant. He looks up once inside, noting the vaulting more than the sea creatures and, after a contemplation of that ceiling, takes a certain interest in the windows as well. "I'm not disturbing you," he finally says to the young woman present, in a tone which is soft, polite, and yet not /entirely/ a question. Or maybe it is, but just very subtly posed. He does not interrupt his consideration of the architecture to look at her directly.

Ortolette had thought, indeed, to stop dressing like a baby doll when she dismissed her maidenhood in the embrace of Naamah, or else, at least, when she attained the age of her majority. But she has come over fond of such attire, and, well, as she has not grown, it is as convenient for her to wear the girlish things of yesteryear as not— and so she sits, shoulders back, three fingers arranged at a line of the text and failing to be moved thence while she lifts her head, with all its burden of coronate braids, and looks out of the window while she is approached and queried in such a fashion. "You sound certain," is as much an answer as the prior had been a question— is she praising his audacity in approaching her? Or warning him that his certainty is misplaced?

Raphael turns his head to look at Ortolette. "I frequently am," he replies. It is difficult to read his expression as he looks, a flatness in his gaze thus far. "Fine lighting for reading," he remarks. "Is the subject of great interest to you?"

Ortolette may rather be reading his tone than his expression, not yet having turned to behold her visitor— or else she is only watching him from her peripheral vision, such that when he turns his head, she maintains her posture of gazing out the window until he asks after her book, at which point she deigns the same— seated, perforce, she is lower than he, but she doesn't lift her chin so much as she does her eyes, turning them up toward him. "It's one of my favorites. La Cardine."

"I have not read it," Raphael says. "What are its charms for you?" He has not approached very near yet, but at this question he does take a step closer, looking at the book on the fur on the lap with what may very well be genuine interest.

The book upon her lap seems little better bound than a pamphlet, but it is cherished in rabbit and kept poised below her three fingers extended as in benediction. The text is obviously versified— and at uneven lengths, to boot— it could tell even at a distance of a lyrical bent, quite possibly choral or operatic. And the passion for opera of the Duchesse's invalid daughter is not precisely a secret in the town— when the Opera doors open for a new production, even she finds her way somehow to a box, need she be carried bodily in. "Its heroine," she answers, "How well she catches fire from the depths or her ennui and is carried by her fancy as far as she will go. She is despicable and yet I am enamoured."

"Ah, so she is despicable," Raphael replies, and now his gaze has warmed through and a faint curl of a smile shows his interest and the potential for amusement. "And she wakes from boredom to fantasy. What does she pursue to rescue her from her ennui?" He takes another step in, as though to better see the book.

"She humors the courtship of one whom she herself has long despised," Ortolette intones, casting her gaze back out the window. "As long as it amuses her so to do. And when it is no longer to her fancy, she tells him so, without guilt, regret, apology. Only a by-your-leave and be-on-your-way. She is cruel and she is tremendous in her cruelty." Her fingers have not moved from her spot; the page is dimmed in the middle with long caresses of inching digits.

Raphael's eyebrows climb a fraction at this description, but then they relax and he smiles. "You must be the Lady Ortolette," he concludes, as if anyone who had heard the young Lady's name would not know her by her invalid's chair first. "Do you envision yourself as the heroine, or her victim?" he further inquires.

<FS3> Ortolette rolls Rumors: Good Success. (8 6 6 2 8 4 4 4 4 6)

Ortolette is easily identified, and knows it— nor stands to be impressed by the delay in the acknowledgement of same. Now he has less on offer, precisely, to make use of, but for his age, his manner, his dress, the whole lot of which Ortolette has already sized up alongside news of comings and goings of people off import in the city— and in the palace. She has her guess, too, but let that likewise stand delayed. "You trick me, Monsieur, between painting my character despicable or despised," she refuses his query by that simple retort, sedately spoken, with even syllables, as a recitation rather than as a rebuke.

"I trick you?" Raphael replies, smiling all the more. "Is that a line from the drama? I shall have to read it. Or better yet, see it. Is it performed very often? Or have I missed my chance while I have been away from the city?" He approaches no nearer for now.

"It has never been performed in Marsilikos in its entirety while I have been old enough to see it," Ortolette moves past the question on her allusive dialogue to that of the opera being performed. "I have had a troupe come and sing selections from it in the palace courtyard— that was for my fourteenth natality," she remembers with a smile that won't be warded off by her efforts to look severe. "And I have gotten this copy of the libretto, signed by Benette d' Emerle when she led the cast which brought it back to Elua in ninety eight. I still hear people talk about that production."

Raphael nods at that. "Then I must have missed my chance when it was even nearer to me than I thought," he replies. "But you enjoyed even hearing those portions of singing. Can your fourteenth natality have been so long ago?" Her age is terribly hard to judge by appearance alone.

Ortolette does have a regular abundance of small— and, as aforementioned, her dress hardly serves to clarify. "I am just attained of my majority this last month," she reveals her age without either the pride of youth or the shame of age. There's something battle-worn in it, as though each age were an enemy fought and slain in a manner unspeakable, horror creeping through the depths of her lungs. "It seems a long while ago to me, at least. Perhaps it is not."

"Time does not flow at a steady pace, nor at the same rate for everyone," Raphael confirms. "But if it is so long since you have heard even part of it sung, why do you not seek to have it staged here, in Marsilikos?" A curious look roves Ortolette's face in search of clues. "There must be some reason?"

"You assume that I have not so sought," Ortolette concedes the point on the relativity of time, more or less, by letting it pass from the conversation in favor of a less abstract topic. "But to seek is not to find, at least not instantly. The right company must be at the right place in the right time, and receptive to the right notions… it could be done, of course, simply— but to be done well and to be done right— it takes more than that. And it should be done right, don't you think? Or we do dishonor to the libretto and the score."

Raphael nods, gaze sharpening at the fact that the concrete details of a problem are becoming clear. "I believe anything that can be done well, should," he agrees. "So then you mean we do not have a company in Marsilikos equal to the task? And what has happened to the company that performed in Elua?" he wonders. "Or…is it that they were not adequate, themselves?"

"The company is lying fallow in advance of start-production on a new piece, and, besides which, they've had a lot of turnover in the last five years and everyone says they shine not half so bright," Ortolette judges from on high, gaze with the indolence of a woman three times her age. "The Opera at Marsilikos is yet to have a full standing company for productions— all the full production shows so far have been produced with talent brought in for the purpose."

"I can see you've considered the problem thoroughly," Raphael says, coming still closer so that he can look at the libretto over the arm of Ortolette's chair. "Are you, then, to become a patron of a new company?" he wonders. "Or is that not to be?"

Ortolette turns her chin toward her shoulder, looking aside with that upward tilt of her eyes. "I had thought of it, but I think that for the moment it is better business to keep abreast of active companies and to entice them to come perform here when I find one suitable to something I would like to see. I might have less choice, but the quality of each piece will be the better for it. One has to make choices, you know. And it can take years for a company of that size to really come together." Left unsaid is that Ortolette's constant battles with illness leave her unwilling to count her remaining years before they've hatched.

"Ah, better /business/," Raphael repeats, nodding once. "So you have a practical interest in the undertaking as well." He nods solemnly at her explanations. "I can see what you mean," he says. "And yet it sounds as if the piece is of such great interest. Have you another company in mind that might be equal to it?"

Ortolette tips her chin in a sedate sort of nod. "Yes. I'm a patron at the opera house, but it doesn't mean that I supply the productions gratis. I invest, and gain a return on my investment if the productions I select to invest in do well. It is a tremendously nice sort of business in which to pass time, one in which you are invested, as well, as a fan."

Raphael smiles at this information. "Forgive my ignorance," he says, though he does not really sound apologetic. "I have not had the opportunity to hear about theatrical investments before. If it happens that you do manage to mount the piece, I hope that you will tell me. Though I am sure I shall hear of it at any rate, since the city will be abuzz. Until then, what should I be seeing?"

***

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