So I’ve been thinking. If Beauty and the Beast is set in France, as it professes to be, why do they drink so much tea? Why isn’t Mrs. Potts a coffee pot? Maybe it’s because it’s provincial France, or maybe they’re just so isolated in the castle that they don’t know how the rest of the country does things, but I find the line “with dessert, she’ll want tea” to be hilarious. Sure, people drink tea in France, and it’s become more popular in recent years, I think, but to assume that somebody will want tea instead of coffee in France is a little erroneous.
Yesterday before our big operetta concert (in which, by the way, I was NOTE and WORD PERFECT–not bragging, just pleased and proud to have improved my performance from last week) we had about an hour’s break after putting the finishing touches on the program, and everybody dashed out to get coffee. I was once again lying flat on my back on the cool tiles of the foyer, and Marie stopped next to me, gave me bisous and said, “Is it bad to drink coffee before you sing?” My first instinct was to be a crazy neurotic opera singer and tell her in no uncertain terms not to drink coffee before a concert…but you know something? I’ve had a couple of heavy singing days recently where I didn’t drink coffee in the morning, and the only difference I noticed was that I had less energy. So I told her that while caffeine sometimes had a drying effect on the vocal folds (la voix, I said–I really need to get ahold of a French voice pedagogy book and learn how to talk about this stuff), everybody was different, and it would certainly give her an energy boost. And off she went.
None of that has anything to do with Beauty and the Beast, obviously, and of course the fact that Mrs. Potts is a British teapot doesn’t make “Be Our Guest” any less fabulous.
I was considering the bisou yesterday. The last time I wrote about it was on New Year’s Day, and I’m still not used to it. Sometimes I forget about it until somebody goes in for the kill and I’m like, OH, right, kiss kiss. I worry that I look a little aloof when I don’t make the rounds of bisous with everybody in the room–the truth is that it still makes me a little uncomfortable.
What’s interesting about it is that everybody has their own style. With some people, it’s less of a kiss and more of a cheek-to-cheek with a kissing sound thing (extremely enjoyable, I might add, when said person is wearing nice aftershave…), while other people really plant one (or two) on you, like Marie (see above). I always feel special when I see Marie, because I feel like I’ve just gotten the warmest, most heartfelt hug of my life, and we hardly know each other.
But it’s not about how you do it, it’s about human contact (never an air kiss, ever), and that’s why I think people who only come to Paris for a week and leave thinking that the French are snooty and unfriendly and unwelcoming really miss the boat. I have met so many people here, and the truth is, whatever aloofness there may be in my social interactions comes from my side. However much I might complain about life in Paris, however homesick I might be, whatever I think about my colleagues’ ability to sing musical theater (I kid because I love, really), I have never met people who, having just barely met me, are more solicitous of my comfort and happiness. Everybody I meet wants to make sure that I like it here, that I’m having a good year, that I don’t leave with any negative feelings about their country.
Last night, for example, I auditioned at Théâtre du Châtelet, and I sat around waiting for a very, very long time. I ended up striking up a conversation with the people sitting next to me, in particular with the older gentleman to my right, who looked like Benjamin Franklin and was singing “Pick a Pocket or Two” from Oliver!–he pronounced Fagin like Fadgin and I said, “No, it can’t be Fadgin because otherwise how could you rhyme ‘though diseased rats threaten to bring the plague in?'” He laughed at that. He had the most wonderful laugh that made his whole face turn red, and after each person came out of the room (we could hear the singing through the door), he would applaud lightly and mouth “BRAVO!” I think not being much of a singer himself he was really impressed by everything, which was a refreshing change from what it’s like inside my own head. Anyway, I eventually sang, came out of the room, gathered up my belongings and gave a heartfelt “Merde!” to Mr. Fagin, who was on deck to sing. And he said, “Have a wonderful stay in Paris!” Aren’t the French delightful?
Of course, there’s nothing they can do about the lack of air conditioning and the body odor and the fact that it’s been raining for three months. But let that pass. Today I feel like pulling out a Camp Timbertops tradition and giving a warm and gentle fuzzy to the city of Paris and its people.
Bisous (you know I mean it!),
ETA: You know you’ve been blogging for nearly a year when you use the exact same line (“going in for the kill”) to describe bisous in two entries six months apart. Cheers!