I forgot to say: any questions on the story or anything mentioned in it are welcome. :)
A question, if you don't mind: every now and then we will have some Chinese words in the text, would it be better, according to you, have them transcribed (possibly with a note), like I did here for guangxi, or straight in Chinese characters (again with a note)?
Thank you for weighting in.
Here is our weekly instalment of Black Fox (I really need a better title for this), I hope you are enjoying the journey so far. The previous instalments can be found under the 'fox' and / or 'romance' tag.
( Let the music speak... )
A word of warning, This scene rapresents serious violence on-stage, is not graphic but emotionally charged.
If you are new, here are the previous episodes:
( Let the music speak )
Next episode will be way lighter in tone, I promise! In the meanwhile have a great last day of 2012 and may 2013 be better than your hopes.
And now part 3 :
It started with a suite of folk songs and dances, light-hearted, happy music celebrating spring or harvest time: brooks murmured, birds sang, smiling country girls danced easing the mostly Italian public into a different landscape, Hu Xiaowen’s bamboo flute soared with the swallows and voiced the dreams and hopes of the villagers .
afterwards we moved through space and time, sampling choice morsels from the different musical traditions of the ancient empire: pieces for ceremony, for the ancestors, for the glory of the emperor and for the private enjoyment of poets drunk with wine and inspiration; again the flute was our key to a time of history, myth and fable.
The intermission came and most of the public took the chance to move a bit, strolling to join friends and acquaintances spotted in the crowd. “ Care to drink something?” I asked my friend.
"Yes, thanks” she glanced at the crowd milling about “ Better go now, before they realize all that chatting has made them thirsty”.
The foyer was still half empty but a while later, as we stood there sipping our white wine, most of the spectators came in, in twos or threes, crowding the bar in a rush to get served before the concert started again. I caught snatches of conversation , comments almost drowned in the hubbub, there was tension in the air, a sense of suspense not unlike the pressure of a thunderstorm building in summer, Lucia looked at me: “ He has built a lot of expectation, hope he can fulfill it”. The lights in the foyer dimmed, I set down my glass, moving towards the entrance of the auditorium: “ We will know soon”.
The first piece of the second half was a movie score suite, music most of us had heard without really paying attention while following the struggles of Li Mubai or the tale of the nameless one, almost all, by now, could recognize the echoes and the twists of tradition into the modern pieces. We started to feel at ease convinced that that was it, we had got what was there to get, we were ready, we understood, and was this everything?
And at that point, when the last note had vanished and the applause had died down, the Maestro went to exchange a few words with his musicians, then he nodded towards the backstage door and, while the choir filed on stage among the startled murmurs of the audience, he came back to the podium and turned towards us.
“Signore e signori,” he announced in a mellow baritone and perfect Italian “ we have prepared a surprise for you tonight: the very first public execution of my newest work, the one-act opera Lullaby for the Lost Ones, in a concerto performance” And with that, while we stared at each other and at the programs in our hands, and the cultural attaché of the People’s Republic in the royal box dispatched a few people to find out what was happening, Hu Xiaowen gave the musicians their attack and the orchestra started playing.
Today's episode is a bit short, but this was the best place for a pause. You'll see why with the next instalment. :)
Allow me tonight to wish you the best possible Christmas, may it be as you hope.
Part 1 is here
As we, arm in arm, entered the elegant eighteen-century building, I recognized a few familiar faces milling around in the stuccoed lobby: a critic writing for the local newspaper sneered something sottovoce to his companion, a false blonde with silicon-enhanced lips and way too much makeup for either the hour or the occasion. The critic’s expression didn’t bode well for his opinion of the performance, but everybody in town knew Mr. Lorenzi’s crankiness was as carefully cultivated as his Van Dyck .
I smiled spotting the tall figure and snowy hair of my high-school chemistry teacher. A gifted amateur musician, he was the terror of those of his students who were also in the conservatory. He never missed a dress rehearsal and, more often than not, followed the performance on the score taking notes.
Quite a few members of the theatre’s choir were there too, women making up at least three quarters of the total. Lucia followed my gaze : “Do you think that they are here for instrumental music?”
“ You are terrible, you know? Hu Xiaowen’s fame is well deserved and having him here in Chiarenza is quite the event, he usually moves in way more elevated circles”.
It’s not like we are a blank spot on the musical map, far from it. Our summer opera festival, held in the old Roman theater on the hill, is known world-wide and, together with our rich history and natural landmarks, brings to Chiarenza hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, it’s just that our winter symphonic season isn’t, usually, quite in the same league.
The lights flickered signaling that the concert was about to start, the noise level abated and the tension went up a notch while we all entered the auditorium looking for our places.
Inside, a troupe from a regional TV channel was checking their camera and sound set-up, the flow of incoming public parted around them, narrowly avoiding a minor disaster when an elderly gentleman tripped on one of the cables. As soon as the audience was settled the musicians came in, it wasn’t the full orchestra but a smaller formation with some new musicians carrying Chinese instruments among the local regulars. They took their seats on the stage.
“ What are those instruments?” whispered Lucia.
I leaned in her direction “ Those with the bow are erhu, a kind of Chinese violin, only they aren’t really Chinese, they originated with a nomadic people in the North; the wind instrument that looks like a bundle of bamboo canes on a pipe is a sheng, the mouth organ; the two ladies play the moon guitar, zhongruan and the gentleman standing in the back plays the bianqing, a lithophone”. An huff from the man sitting on my other side silenced me, I shrugged an apology to Lucia mouthing “Later”. The lights in the auditorium dimmed, leaving us in half-shadows; only a spotlight remained, aimed at the left side of the stage. Just a few moments before the tension in the audience started to ebb, Hu Xiaowen entered.
He was tall, with a longish, strong-boned face that spoke of Northern China and wide, intense eyes the color of dark amber. It wasn’t his looks, though, that held us all mid-breath, that would not have been enough, it was his effortless magnetism, the charisma he exuded with his simple presence that grabbed us and would not let go.
The guy from the Confucius Institute who entered after the maestro to introduce the program was the anticlimax. He must have felt it, because he tried to warm us up with a couple of jokes and keep up with his written presentation, extolling the ‘unwavering friendship’ and ‘glorious musical traditions’ of Italy and China, but after a couple of minutes he surrendered and went for a brisk, shortened version before disappearing again behind the curtains with a plastic smile stamped on his face.
Then the music took center stage.
And, since I am going to do it anyway, I thought of having my strange modus operandi work to my advantage : I'll start posting Black Fox (horrid temporary title) once a week, comments and discussion will influence the development of the story.
Hope to have you on board,
( Here we go )
NOTE: edited as per suggestions. Thank you!