5.25.2006

Opera Boy

Daniel and I share a house. This felt very odd to me when I first moved in, having had my own house, albeit a tiny one, for the previous ten years. Though our duplex apartments in one divided Hollywood bungalow have only one common wall, I can’t lose the image of him shadowing my daily movements. Our toilets, for example, surely have us sitting back to back as we go about our morning ritual. Once in awhile I even hear them flush together as though playing a familiar little ditty on the pipe organ. In my bedroom, I wouldn’t dream of putting my headboard up against this particular wall, as the imagined scenario of our sitting up together to read ourselves to sleep is far too intimate a way to end the day with this fellow I know so little about.

I’ve seen him at the coin washing machines on our back patio, so I know he uses Tide and Downey and understands exactly how to separate his brights and whites from his lights, a real rarity in a man.  I know he hates dogs, because when mine sniff his shoes desperate for love—as dogs will do pathologically when sensing there’s a non-believer afoot—he recoils in fear and disgust. I know he takes Interview Magazine, since the mailman once delivered his issue to me and I took the liberty of reading it before returning it to its rightful owner. In apology, when I received a duplicate issue of Vanity Fair—the one with Terri Hatcher on the cover in her panties—I dropped it by Daniel’s with a little note. “Thought you’d enjoy this! J.”

I’m not sure exactly why I thought he’d be particularly interested in knowing more about another desperate housewife in her underpants, since my only solid information on Daniel is that he’s gay as a picnic basket and he teaches opera at home. A heads up from the landlord as to his occupation concerned me greatly when I first moved in, as the only thing I could imagine to be worse than listening to opera all day would be listening to student opera all day. But it turns he only works with serious professionals honing their instruments for major operatic happenings around the world. These people could even be famous opera singers for all I know. They could be opera legends I’m casually listening to over my tuna sandwich and Diet Snapple Lemonade.

The men are fat, European and fabulous and the women look like Miss Universe contestants. They arrive every hour on the hour, buzzing themselves into our walled bungalow village originally built as studio housing when Charlie Chaplin set up shop nearby in the late 1920s. Daniel accompanies all kinds of arias and duets—many of which sound surprisingly familiar, from TV commercials and film scores, I guess—on a grand piano that must surely consume most of the space in his living room. Yup, that’s about all I got on Daniel, other than his daily demonstration of passion, commitment and loneliness, a few personal qualities I know a little something about.

The other day I was taking a nap, and woke up to a chorus of angels, the kind you hope to hear welcoming you to heaven after taking your last breath. So beautiful was this music, I truly felt ready to go, right there, secure in the knowledge that there really is a God and it really is all okay. I rushed outside in my pajamas to ask the angels what they’d been singing and they told me it was The Flower Duet, by the French composer Delibes. You can listen to a piece of it here, if you like, Disc 1, Track 4. It’s really quite extraordinary, even to the untrained ear of a reclusive, tuna-eating, Snapple-drinking screenwriter who so rarely bothers to get dressed.

17 comments:

  1. Gee, I wonder if that could be played on the bagpipe, which is about all I wake up to around here, this time of year...

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  2. Anonymous8:08 AM

    Wow. Amazing. Thanks for putting up the link.

    RED: I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singin' about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin' about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared. Higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away... and for the briefest of moments -- every last man at Shawshank felt free.

    Guess it also works in Hollywood bungalows. ;)

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  3. Anon, if you are writing from prison yourself, I am honored, as I always wanted to play at Folsom. If you are in fact Steven King, thanks for the good times. Seriously, what a beautiful quote. I loved that movie.

    Les, my sister had bagpipes at her wedding. It was wonderful and transcendant for about twenty minutes. After that, well, where the hell is that D.J.?

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  4. Bagpipes? GAH! Please, don't even mention those damn things... my baby sister learned how to play them... I got to "listen" (read: tolerate") to every single practice session as well as "got to" go see her play the damn things in parades and such.

    *shudders at the memories*

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  5. That lovely aria is downloadable for 99 cents at the iTunes site. One reason it may sound familiar to nonopera lovers is it was featured in a British Airways commercial and (I think) in a live Yanni concert one sees broadcast on public TV from time to time.

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  6. I'm actually a fairly big casual fan of opera, and the Flower Duet is probably my very favorite piece of opera music. Sadly, the version I own isn't the greatest, but it's still breathtaking. I can't even imagine getting to hear something like that to roll me out of bed.

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  7. Edwin Gossmore11:43 AM

    So wonderful and soaring was it that it spent years as the advertising main motif for British Airways. Sigh.

    (The score for La Double vie de Véronique is equally magical, as is most of the rest of the composer's work, though Véronique seems to be his most famous outside Poland. Vide: his English-language website opens with the main theme from it. But you already knew this, didn't you?)

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  8. Beautiful. I can relate to much of this.

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  9. My downstairs neighbor is an opera singer, and I'm never, ever moving. She has a gorgeous coloratura soprano voice, which -- fortunately, is totally unsuitable for singing anything by Wagner.

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  10. That is nice. I rented a room to a gay man who didn't sing or decorate. Disappointing. Well, I was glad he didn't sing but still.

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  11. I'm jealous. I never get the gay opera teacher. I always get the porn star who has to "practice" while listening to Coldplay at levels so high, my ears begin to bleed.

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  12. I'm like Chad, I never get the opera singer - but I get the deaf neighbour with barking dogs and a very loud TV.

    Love your blog and love your choice of music - Flower Duet is one of my favourites along with the Pearl singers duet.

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  13. Lol, Julie... Didn't you know the piece from the dozen or so feature films that have it on their soundtracks?

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  14. just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say hi! I'm an indie filmmaker living in Orange County. Great blog!!

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  15. "separate his brights and whites from his lights"

    What is this you talk about?

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  16. Anonymous2:00 PM

    I'm feeling old. The Barracole from Lakme was one of the most overused soundtrack bits from the 80s. It started with Tony Scott's THE HUNGER, where it served as the background for a Catherine Deneuve/Susan Sarandon love scene, if I recall correctly. In 1987 it showed up in three films: FIVE CORNERS, (John Turturro stalks Jodie Foster, and a penguin meets a bad end) where kids went "elevator surfing" to the tune; SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, where Ridley Scott used it (not remembering much other than flickering light and bad Mimi Rogers society lady dresses); and the wonderful Canadian indie I'VE HEARD THE MERMAID SINGING.

    Tony Scott used it again in the Christopher Walken/Dennis Hopper interrogation scene in TRUE ROMANCE.

    Warning - Once you recognize it, you'll here it everywhere!

    BTW - In the Opera the song is a duet between the princess and her ladies' maid, walking in the garden, singing about how pretty the flowers are.

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