(1311-11-11) It ain't over till the fat lady sings
Summary: Hugo takes his new cousin to the opera
RL Date: 11-11-2019
Related: none
hugo zalika 


The Opera

Zalika has been settling into Trevalion House well. Her father dumped a whole lot of education on her before he returned to Azzalle, leaving his old friend Chimene Rousse de la Courcel in charge of whipping his daughter into shape. Zalika has been learning this and that and found time to sneak a local man into her bed for warmth. But today she's in the company of Cousin Hugo who said he wanted to introduce her to D'Angeline opera. She has no idea what he's on about, but follows along to the grand opera house in one of her fine new dresses, dripping with sparkly jewels.

As for the sickeningly cheerful man of the hour, he's togged up in his best uniform, all dark, navy blue, crisp white facings and bright, brass buttons as he leads the way through the foyer to the more private corridor behind the boxes, where he holds the inner door open and gestures his cousin in. "It's not about trying to follow the plot," he argues, this apparently a continual source of confusion all the way here. "The plot is always highly implausible, oddly paced and either hugely oversimplified, or so complicated that you'd need diagrams to work it all out. Just follow the music, and let yourself enjoy it without worrying too much."

"But why bother with a plot in the first place then?", Zalika wonders while she steps into the box, "And it usually ends with everyone dying, doesn't it?" She's done her homework and read up on opera. Or asked someone. She had looked around the sumptous foyer in stunned silence but when she sees the auditorium, she can't help muttering "fucking hell" under her breath. "There's more gold here than your lot plunders from the mines of the New World. Don'T tell me it's real gold…" She knocks a fist against the slim golden pillar than separates their box from the next one, from which an elderly gents leans out with a frown on his face.

"There's usually a fair bit of death," Hugo agrees as he follows her in and reaches to put an arm between her and any further pillar knocking. "Leave that be, else you'll piss off the fellow in the next box. We pay a premium for a box, so be polite to our neighbours, hm?" He gestures to a seat, turning to crack open the ubiquitous bottle of wine that's been placed there ready for them - another perk to having a box. "And I think a lot of it's just gilt," he muses, eyeing the decoration. "That much solid gold and this place would be worth more than the palace. It's the theatre. Everything's a show."

Zalika manages to give a cheerful wave to the grumpy fella next-box before taking the seat Hugo as indicated. "Yea, that didn't feel like gold to me.", she confirms, "Would also be bloody easy, taking the place apart and making off with it." She tries to arrange her skirts neatly and looks at the wine bottle being opened. "So you're here a lot?"

Hugo squeaks the cork free, untwists it from the corkscrew and sets it down before taking up a glass to fill. "I wouldn't exactly say 'a lot'. I haven't exactly been in the city a long time. Every now and then, though, sure. It's a good way to spend an afternoon or an evening, and you get a bit of privacy to bring a guest or two while you enjoy the show, too."

"Do you bring girls here? Or are you one of them who chase the ballerinas?", Zalika asks with a grin and holds out a hand for the glass. "I had taken you for more of a tavern type, really."

Hugo gives a slightly embarrassed grin in return as the wine is handed over and he goes to pour a second glass for himself. "Well, once or twice I might bring a girl here, yes. Demonstrate a bit of cultural appreciation, impress them with my suave charm, that sort of thing." He settles himself down into the seat beside Zalika. "I'm surprised your tutor hasn't insisted you come out here to see the opera before now. It gives you something to talk about that isn't ships. Acceptable small talk for the dinner table."

"And that works for you?", Zalika asks with a dubious expression then shrugs. "The old bat my father choose for a tutor is frightfully busy all the time. She's farmed me out to some damsel from the Night Court, who's all about "hold your glass like this -" She demonstrates by lifting the wine glass daintily, pinky finger sticking out, "Speak like that, move like that… we're nowhere near going anywhere for fun. I had to listen to some tedious piano music though."

"Finger in," Hugo absently corrects, reaching to adjust her grip. "Finger out is an affectation of the middle classes. And yes, it works. Women like to think a man's got a bit of class about him, that he's well read as well as well travelled. Find some music you like and start to listen to the nuances, then. It's not all tedious."

Zalika hmms, eyeing him thoughtfully. "I wouldn't give a flying fuck about the books you've read, but I want to know you can handle a sword like a man and not hide behind the couch in times of trouble.", she points out, then shrugs. "She thought it was music I should know. Put me to sleep it did. I hope this is better." She takes a sip of wine, finger in now and looks around the auditorium again. "Does it get full?"

Hugo laughs. "I can handle a sword if I have to, but I'm better at fighting a ship. If it comes down to facing off against the enemy with cold steel and we don't have the advantage of numbers, surprise, morale or all three, I've done my job wrong. And keeping a ship going is a lot more than just swordsmanship, and more than just seamanship. You've got to look after the crew, the logistics, navigation, communications… well, I mean that if you don't like books you're never going to make it as an officer. Shh now," he adds, as a long drawn out note on the oboe indicates the orchestra tuning up. "It's about to start."

Zalika gives him a withering look. "You don't need to tell -me- about keeping a ship going.", she reminds him over the noise coming from the orchestra pit suddenly, but then falls silent. As the opera chorus clad in flamboyant costumes begins to assemble on stage, she leans in to Hugo to whisper: "What are we seeing anyway?"

"You just steal what you need, remember," Hugo hisses back, before he leans forward on the edge of the box so he can better see the stage. He beckons her closer to him, so he can explain in a low voice, "That's the chorus. They'll set the scene for us and act as audience surrogate. I wouldn't worry too much about the technicalities, just watch and enjoy."

Zalika rolls her eyes. "I'm not stupid, man, I know what a chorus is. The story. What's the story? Who's fatso there?", she asks, as the leading tenor struts onto the stage, belly first, arms spread wide, as he joins the chorus with his first solo lines.

"If you don't stop asking questions, I'm going to pick you up and throw you off the edge," Hugo mock threatens, rolling his eyes. "He's the duke, look, he's got a sodding crown! He's explaining how he's got these daughters… they'll be on in a minute. Just shut up and enjoy it, will you?"

"It would help if I knew what they're on about.", Zalika mutters. Like any decent opera, this one is performed in Caerdiccian. But she does shut up and watches the plot unfold, thinking her own thoughts. But with the glass empty and set down on the floor beside her chair, she begins to be absorbed in the drama, even leaning forward from time to time.

By the time the interval comes round, the wine is empty. It's fortunate, then, that an impeccably dressed young man in the livery of the opera house delivers more, although Hugo doesn't immediately go to open it. "I'll just be a moment," he insists to Zalika, before heading for the exit from their box.

"Hey, don'T leave me alone!", Zalika protests but then heads for the exit as well to do what every lady does in every intermission, waste her time in a long queue for the facilities. She's lucky to make it back to their box on time!

Which of course gives Hugo, whose queue is significantly shorter, plenty of time to collect a third bottle of wine to join their second, along with some sugared almonds, figs and dates, which he's casually set up on one of the empty chairs for her return, all the better to snack on during the second half. "Took your time," he notes with an easy grin when she finally returns and the curtain is already on its way up.

"Wasn't my fault, was it.", Zalika grumps, but brightens when she sees the picnic. "Looks like we'll be here for a longer time then?", she muses and pops a date into her mouth. "It ain't half bad though", she acknowledges then, "That big girl sure has a set of lungs on her. They can hear her all the way to Carthage I'm sure."

"I figured if I filled your mouth with snacks you might shut up and let me enjoy the opera," Hugo argues amiably, despite the fact that after a slightly rocky start, Zalika has, for the most part, become absorbed enough in the show to be quiet. "She's good, isn't she?" he murmurs, leaning forward again as the chorus begin again.

She might be better off just being quiet than crunching almonds between her teeth. "Nobody's dead yet.", she points out helpfully, then falls silent again, now twice occupied with following the opera and munching her way through the snacks. When the big girl sings a big and very loud aria how she will rather drop dead from pain than live without her banished lover, Zalika can't help bursting out loudly. "You stupid, bitch?!"

Hugo aims a punch for Zalika's shoulder, rolling his eyes at her. "Shh!" And then he glances out and slinks further back into the box, further into the shadows, so Zalika can take the brunt of the abuse from the gentleman in the box next door.

Zalika answers the gentleman's glare with a shrug. "Ain't no man worth dropping dead for!", she informs him huffily than slumps back in her own seat sulkily. Luckily some more wine and sweet juicy figs go a long way to soften her and by the end of the act the soprano is still alive, so there's that.

"Speak for yourself," Hugo insists in a low murmur. "I am absolutely worth dropping dead for." He reaches for a handful of nuts to enjoy and settles back for the final few belted out arias, some more improbable singing from somebody who's supposed to be on death's door with a weak heart (but apparently, by the gusto with which she sings, the lungs of an ox), and a lot of overacting, before the final strains ring out and the audience are on their feet, applauding loudly.

Zalika just rolls her eyes at that self-assessment but mercifully shuts up until the dead have piled up on the stage and the audience is allowed to applaud and be noisy. Is that a tear she dabs from the corner of her eyes. "That wasn't half bad.", she repeats her earlier statement and links her arm with Hugo's as they walk down the majestic staircase of the opera house, "Thanks for taking me. I'd like to come again if you don't need to impress some girl on one evening."

Hugo straightens his jacket and leads the way out. "Well, sure, or you could take your young man along. If you don't want the box, then get a couple of seats in the stalls, but tell them you're a Trevalion and they'll almost always find a box free.”

"I don't think my young man does opera. Besides he isn't my young man, he's just for… entertainment. Like the opera. But in a different way. Argh, shut up - let'S go for a drink!", she decides once they've stepped out into the cool night air and pushes Hugo towards one of the nearby drinking establishments.

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