Monday, December 17, 2007

Maestro Mimi and The Sins of The Soprano

Did I mention that once during a classical music performance, my college professor's Mollard baton flew out of his hand and into the audience? Did I mention that same said professor once stumbled off the black boxed conductor's stand - he fell off - climbed back on unceremoniously and kept conducting without missing a beat? Did I mention that every time you tell a story like this, giggling over the fumbles of someone else, the same thing usually ends up happening to YOU? It's called Karma. And sometimes it comes back to bite you in the baton.

Rewind: I thought I'd paid my karma dues when a sassy and beautiful soprano friend of mine and Yours Truly found ourselves trapped in the bathroom during an intermission primp session and MISSED our cue entirely. It wouldn't have been so bad if said sopranos hadn't had the solos. There we were in all our evening gown regalia (sans my crown, of course), entertaining a room full of Chicken Cordon Bleu fed socialites and honest to goodness beautiful men in tuxedos when we decided it would be best to powder our noses between sets.

"Is that music I hear?" she asked.

"No, of course not," I replied, as I rearranged my lipliner for the fourth time. "The Mozart isn't until after the Puccini and we're not in that quartet. And anyway....we have plenty of....of.....OH MY GOD! He's conducting the Mozart."

I felt my music degree flying through my fingers with every stroke of the lipbrush.

This could not be happening.
We both flew to the door handle at the same time. She had neglected to dry her hands before doing so. Slipping. Sliding. Cursing in Italian.
"Shit," said the girl from the Bronx. "He's going to kill us."
"No" (I was blubbering by this point) "He's going to kill ME. He's already mad at me because I disrupted rehearsal the other day for killing the spider (a story for another day........)

"We all know that's why he gave you the lead in Suor Angelica and me the ditsy nun's part in the spring opera. It's common music school knowledge by now. Mimi, the ditsy soprano. And now this!"

"Mimi, you got the ditsy nun part because you're ditsy. Period. Lay Sister was always late to chapel and falling to her knees begging forgiveness for letting the cross touch the floor and scampering away from Mother Superior like a 14th century Lucille Ball. Admit it. You were perfect for the part."

"Just because she was always in trouble does not mean I find myself in these situations in real life ya know......I really resent the comparison and furthermore....!"

I looked around at the sink, the doorknob and the snarling diva with wet hands.
Puccini would not have been amused.
Neither was she.
"Maybe we should stay in here," said the now tardy soprano ditz. "We could tell him one of us got sick and the other one had to help."

She looked at me with an I-wish-I'd-never-met-you glance and continued to pull on the door latch. It was just stuck.

"Well," she fumed, "we can't walk into that room in the middle of the piece and take our places in the choir. We'll just have to wait until it's over and pray somebody sings our part. Maybe he won't notice it's not us."

"I don't think he's going to forget he cued a missing soprano, smarty pants," I said. "We're in deep doo-doo."

About that time we heard soprano-in-waiting-her-turn-to-be-famous come in and sing our parts. Lord. She must have been paying attention in class or either she was the one to lock us in here. Stranger things have happened let me tell ya between sopranos. That diva thing is wicked.

She sang (and disgustingly well I might add), we plotted an excuse, Mozart finally died and we re-entered the room. Applause.

Alas. It wasn't for us.

You don't want to know what our dear Maestro said with his dart-throwing eyes.
It's just not repeatable - in any language.
But how did this particular soprano sin come back to bite me?
You'll recall that when I last left you, I was heading out the door to conduct a concert of my own. With music degree miraculously in hand, I conducted my own umpteenth choir concert this week. One of the soloists was nervous from the get-go and asked to borrow my music at the last minute - ten minutes before curtain - and I must have nodded in her direction and unknowingly gave away my only copy of the score. Then I got distracted by a last minute technical question, a queasy baritone who wanted to throw up and a hasty scramble into the bottom of my purse to turn off my cellphone. (Are you beginning to understand why I got the ditz nun part now??)

Lights down. Audience mumbles cease. I start the concert. I make my speech. I tralala-traipse my prissy black balloon pants across the stage klack klack klackety heels and sparkling earrings know, the important flashes, smiling singers. I bow. I sit. I give pitches. I play. We sing. They applaud. I bow. I turn for the second song. I lift the baton. I look down at the music stand.

Where is the music?I suddenly remembered that awful feeling back in the locked bathroom.

WHO took my music? Where IS the music? Where is Susie soprano? And what has she done with my only copy of the Bach? He was not amused either. See?

Have you ever had to conduct a piece of music from memory in front of God and everybody? Well, neither have I.

Until last night.

You know, I've always loved the exhilarating feeling of a live performance.
Until last night.
You never know what might happen. It's not always musical but it's always interesting. Ahh....the thrill of unpredictable endorphin laden musicality. I love it.

Until last night.

Thank God I have a semi-photographic memory. And the piece was a capella. All I had to do was remember the opening pitches and go from there. The baton flew. They sang. Soprano survived. Queen bowed once again. And as irritated as I was that they didn't bow back, this was no time for a royalty lecture. Exhausted. Curls deflated. Powder pale. Nails quivering in the wind. Time to sit for a minute.

Rearrange the music. Re-group. Relax. Call my mother. Have a cappuccino. What are they gonna do? Go home? I had a captive (and confused) audience. I made some lame joke about "looking for Santa Claus" and took a thirty-second siesta.

I sat down on the piano bench to collect my thoughts for a second.

It cracked.

Yes, the bench made a cracking sound. Right in front of God and everybody. My back was to the audience. The singers in front of me. My face was red. My balloons deflated. And a ripple of giggling patrons behind me waiting for prissy pants to once again raise her magic baton.

I'm thinking....."REALLY PEOPLE! These are balloon pants. I am not overweight!!! I weigh exactly 118 pounds under these balloons!! But who would believe me now? Oh the horror.

This does not happen to me when I'm playing the the Meez piano in my jammies on Blogger. It does not happen in my sidebar day after day after day. Or when I'm walking in my sleep. I want to go back to my blog! I want to go home.

It was time to pay the locked bathroom karma. And anyway, what's a good classical performance without a fat lady. We all know it ain't over 'til the fat lady sits. What else could go wrong?

So glad you asked.

As previously predicted, Santa Claus indeed showed up. He was scheduled to slip down the make-believe chimney carrying a huge stocking of toys, scamper around eating milk and cookies and purposely fall out of the fireplace onto the floor with a thud on the last chord of our cute little song.
Santa to the rescue.

If only he'd been watching where he was going.

Why did I choose a nearsighted singer for this task? He sat. He reached for the food.. The chair tilted. The chair fell. The cup flew out of his hand. (rewind for a second to Mimi's baton-flying jokes and smell the karma)
Why cry over imaginary stage milk? Right?

If only he'd been listening to my instructions.

And hadn't gotten stuck in the false fireplace back and missed his cue.
If only I'd hired a smaller Santa with better eyesight and less drama.
Rewind to Mimi's missed cue by say....five minutes.
Wake up and smell the karma.

It was almost time for the show stopper ending. A snazzy and oh-so-not-jazzy a cappella finger-snapping toe-tapping melody about Mary and her Rocking Baby. It was lovely. Just lovely.

Until the unexpected modulations occurred.
How many could there be? Would it ever end? And where?
Ever been on a runaway train?

All I can tell you is that until last night such a chord never existed and was certainly never meant to sing alongside Puccini and Mozart's Cordon Bleu.

But we made a fine debut of it. Loud and proud. An improvisational masterpiece it was. Inspirational, I say. What started in C Major ended in a jazz chord that hadn't - until that very moment - been invented. Genius!

Out of tune genius, but brilliance nonetheless.

Jesus rocked. Mary swayed. And the audience - including the farm animals in the manger - clapped their hands.

I was truly overwhelmed. It was a spiritual moment.

The singers glowed. I bowed. People wondered aloud. I ignored them and drank my imaginary cappuccino - complete with leftover cookie crumbs on the floor from Santa's earlier spill - counting the karma that was left to pay on the white-knuckled fingers of the one hand that could still grip the psychotic baton. It was sensational! What a performance! say the least. Wouldn't you agree?

And what did I learn?

I'll never step on stage without my crown again - or proper attire.
Just because I didn't have a skirt with a maestro look is no excuse.

And I'm never gonna wear balloon pants for the rest of my vain little life.

Never ever EVER tell the how -many- sopranos- does- it- take -to- screw in a light bulb get- out- of- a -locked- bathroom joke again.
There's no karma like show karma ya know.....

If I'd only been wearing my pencil skirt.

Addendum: In all seriousness, I was proud of my singers and they carried off a fine performance. With a few minor glitches in a major chord, that is.


Julie Pippert said...

Oh my gosh, what a story...what stories, actually! I think I held my breath for a while.

Wow that you pulled it off and wow that it happened.

You go! A spontaneous jazz burst.


Using My Words

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

mimi what in the world??? balloon pants??? oh my. i wish i had been there. i surely do!

smiles, bee

Mimi Lenox said...

Julie - A spontaneous jazz burst. Exactly!

Bee - The pants have to go. I posted these pictures before I walked out the door. Why didn't SOMEbody tell me to change clothes first? You could have at least stopped me from wearing the balloon pants.

Long live the pencil skirt.

Anndi said...

Burn the pants...

Patti said...

Well next year we know you'll wear the pencil skirt for the concert.
That's a given.

I wish I had been there too, if only for the applauding farm animals.
I'm kidding. I would have enjoyed the music too.

Jeff B said...

A comedy, tragedy and a musical all in one show!

Hazaa to the Queen.

Charles Gramlich said...

That Karma sounds like a nasty sort of business. How can I avoid it?

Akelamalu said...

The pictures going through my head after reading this are unreal! LOL

Dixie said...

I'm with Anndi... BURN THE PANTS!

Bond said...

Stands and applauds...because damn it that is what you do no matter what....and you do it even more so when the performance was brilliant and this was a brilliant post...

OK OK OK Burn the pants


Lee said...

Are balloon pants anything like the elephant leg bell bottoms from the 60s?

Great post about the concert, Mimi. I almost felt like I was there.

Tar Heel Ramblings

Roger said...

Great story! It was so good I have forgotten what I was doing before I got here or what I am going to do next! Have a great day!!

Amazing Gracie said...

At one point, I know I was holding my breath! I can't say it's funny because I have been in public performances and have suffered deep humiliation and know the "karma" of which you speak! And it ain't pretty...

Desert Songbird said...

This brought back every horror story, near and far, to my memory as a diva soprano. Like the one where I lost my place in the music in front of 1200 people at Christmas Midnight Mass, or when my music dropped off the stand during the middle of the song during a funeral that I was cantoring, or...

BillyWarhol said...

Rock Me Amadeus!

U certainly have a way with words Mimi*


I remember the first time I was in New York City + standing in line fer Half Price Tix + asked someone in line to recommend something. Well fortunately for me they recommended Amadeus - I didn't even have a Clue it was about Mozart!!

But the Play blew me away + later went on to be a Great Movie*

the same week also saw The Dresser + Dreamgirls + Sophisticated Ladies*

I think all ended up being made into Movies*

When are U going to be in a Movie with Pencil Skirt??



kathleenmaher said...

If the music was half as fine as your post, the audience must be hearing the beauty still!

I've no doubt you can get away with balloon pants. If the bench cracks and everyone's listening--at least they're listening. So, they're almost ready for you to play.

That said, Mimi Pencil Skirt really should wear her pencil skirt. Her public may not miss the crown, but the skirt? That's who you are: Queen Mimi Pencil Skirt & Diva, who knows all too well how to celebrate Christmas.

Travis said...

Mimi!! Mimi!!

Whatever you do...don't burn the pants!!!!

Think of the karma! You know nothing good can come of the combination of you, polyester, and flame.

Please swear on your throne and crown that you will not burn the pants. Just roll them up and put them in the donations bin. That should be safe enough.

Whew! Karma is a bitch.

katherine. said...

I need a drink.

geezzzzz...I'm glad it turned out all right...but what a night!

Give the pants away.

Mimi Lenox said...

Anndi - Striking matches....

Patti - The farm animals freaked me out. But then they did a little dance and I was OK.

Jeff - It was quite a production. I'm exhausted just re-reading it!

Charles - You cannot avoid karma. It just is. Furthermore, the more you try to avoid it the nastier it gets. Surrender to the karma, Charles.

Akelamalu - The migraine going through my head was also unreal...

Dixie - The consensus seems to be the pants were hexed or something. Only a skinny person could actually think about wearing bell-bottomed balloony things and carry it off. I was confident in the skinny part but I wasn't prepared for "the dreaded cracking of the piano bench" ....It was mortifying! Where did I put those matches??

Bond - Thank you, my friend. I always value your opinion on my posts. And those pants were possessed.

Lee - I think I heard you singing White Christmas in the audience at the end. Where you wearing an elf suit?

Roger - That is the ultimate compliment. Thank you! Next time, make yourself a note or a list or something before you stop in to read. I tend to take people on little journeys from time to time. Glad you enjoyed the ride....even if you did lose your memory in the process.

Gracie - No, it ain't pretty but I'm grateful I can do what I love. Even if sometimes it's a comedy of errors.

Songbird - From one diva to another. I can relate. I'm heading over to your blog to see what you were talking about during the MO Show chat.

Billy - I think Pencil Skirt would make a great movie but I think Gidget Goes to New York has been overdone. Except she wasn't wearing my usual insanity.
It could work! Do you know a producer? (smile)

Kathleen -You always "get me." I so appreciate that. How's the writing going?

Travis - Finally a voice of sanity in this balloon mess. You absolutely cracked me up with this..."Whatever you do...don't burn the pants!!!!
Think of the karma! You know nothing good can come of the combination of you, polyester, and flame.

Please swear on your throne and crown that you will not burn the pants. Just roll them up and put them in the donations bin. That should be safe enough."

Thank you for being the level-headed one among us. Hiding matches....

Katherine -You think YOU need a drink?

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