The title of this post has really nothing to do with the content of this post (unless you count the fact that in between practicing and grocery shopping, I’ve spent today lying on my bed watching Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries on Youtube, with Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge). Actually, maybe it kind of does.
The reason I’ve been watching so much Lord Peter, apart from being violently in love with him (nerd alert for a second: Rosemary Anne Sisson wrote the teleplay for Have His Carcase, and she also wrote a number of great episodes of Upstairs Downstairs. Having seen her interviewed, I have a feeling that she is also in love with Lord Peter–as was his creator, Dorothy L. Sayers. Read the books, if you haven’t–they’re fantastic! And now, back to the studio.), is that apart from my weekly voice lessons and yoga classes, I have nothing to do. Well, not nothing–I make things for myself to do–but I have nothing scheduled to do, and nothing is required of me at the Schola except for my lessons. So last week, after my meeting with Madame Aboulker, I decided to check out the theater class at the Schola, on Wednesday nights.
My first class was last week, and I was so lost. They seemed to be kind of in the middle of putting together a performance of scenes and sketches that they’d been working on for a long time, and my French, while practically fluent, is not good enough for theater. (I’m going to see Fanny Ardant in L’année des pensées magiques–The Year of Magical Thinking–at a theater in Montmartre in November, and I think I’m going to read the book in English before I go, just in case I can’t understand it.) The teacher, who is a friend of Madame Aboulker’s, said he had been looking for a singer to maybe perform some songs to evoke the period of the show, which is 1920s Germany. I was just so perplexed the whole time–some of the scenes didn’t even seem to be in French, and none of them made any sense at all.
Well, now I think I get it. The program is entirely made up of scenes from German absurdist theater from the 1920s. One of the scenes that didn’t seem to be in French actually wasn’t, mostly–a large number of the words were made-up words. Phew! I thought it was me. I thought I was just an American. (chorus: You are!)
Anyway, it was a lot more fun this week. There were more people there, and Gilbert, the teacher, is integrating me and the two other new girls (Camille, an 18-year-old student in a preparatory course, and Violine, a 23-year-old pharmacy student) into a few of the scenes. In the scene entitled “Le chapelier” (The Hat-Maker), I have been instructed to wander into the store during the scene (which involves a proprietor and an incredibly difficult customer), singing. Last week I was just sort of humming because I didn’t think I understood what Gilbert had told me to do. This week he said, “No, no, really sing, and sing something operatic!” I was trying to come up with an operatic aria that would be really irritating if somebody were humming it or whistling it in a store. I decided on this, transposed down a bit, naturally:
It’s gorgeous and exciting, but man, if somebody is singing it near me I want to tell them to can it. Apparently it was very funny, and I timed it so that when the proprietor looked at me and said, “SILENCE!” I had gotten to a bit with a fermata so that I could stop singing and give her a glare, then start up again. I was quite proud of it.
So that seems like it’s going to be really fun, and pretty low-stress, at least until after December when we start with all new material. I’m looking forward to coming up with some 1920s German music to sing with the pianist, Niccolo (actually a recent graduate of Sciences Po and a student in the theater class).
In other news, I would be eternally grateful to anybody who can point me to a store in Paris that sells Orville Redenbacher. Or indeed, any brand of microwave popcorn. I can do without Snapple, I can do without peanut butter, but le popcorn me manque!
P.S. Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane. I think I actually prefer Ian Carmichael’s Lord Peter, but the real reason I watched Clouds of Witness in the first place was because David Langton (Richard Bellamy!) played Wimsey’s brother, the Duke of Denver. So yeah.