Voracious Erotica for Women
By Violet Blue
Cleis Press Copyright © 2013 Violet Blue
All right reserved. ISBN: 9781573449366
Voice of an Angel
by Teresa Noelle Roberts
Jessie was hired for the costuming job at the Berkshire Opera because she had a great portfolio and several years of theatrical costuming experience.
Her knowledge of opera, however, was limited to what she’d learned from classic Bugs Bunny cartoons.
It didn’t really matter for the job. As long as the directors could explain their vision for a production and point her in the right direction for visual inspiration, she didn’t need to know that much. But plunging into a new world full of beautiful but unfamiliar music had piqued her curiosity. Most people in the company were glad to answer her questions, but she’d found a particular friend in the set designer. Nelson, a 50ish self-described flamboyant opera queen,’ was delighted to have someone new to convert to his passion, and she often found his non-musician’s explanations more comprehensible than those of the people with conservatory degrees.
So it was to Nelson she turned when the early discussions of a production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare
left her confused. I have no problem with cross-gender casting. If the director wants Nora Murray to play Ptolemy, I’m glad to make the costume. But aren’t they going to have to transpose the part for her?’
A lot of the Baroque repertoire is written for a castrato voice. Yes,’ Nelson continued, seeing her wince, it means exactly what it sounds like. Disturbing thought, but supposedly it produced a lovely voice, high but powerful. Mutilating boys for the sake of art is frowned on nowadays, though, so women usually get those roles.’
If it’s a choice between cutting some poor kid’s balls off or making someone built like Queen Latifah look manly, I’ll take on the extra costuming challenge.’
I’m glad that’s your department, not minetalk about engineering! On the other hand, I do envy you getting to fit David Gwynn.’
The one coming up from New York to play Caesar?’
A countertenor, and one of the best. A male alto or soprano, to oversimplify vastly,’ he added, seeing the blank look on her face. They’re rare, of course, and great ones rarer still, but David sounds like you’d imagine an angel would, and he’s utterly gorgeous to boot. The idea of getting paid to have your hands all over that man and maybe see him in his underwear
my dear, I am terribly, terribly jealous.’
Jessie immediately imagined some pretty, fey, androgynous creature, Boy George with more class. Nice to look at, fun to costume, but not her type. Just as well, really.
When David Gwynn actually walked into the first cast-and-crew briefing session, though, he wasn’t at all what Jessie had imagined. For one, he was tall, six-two or six-three if she estimated correctly (and after several years of fitting bodies of all shapes and sizes for costuming, she usually did) and nicely built. He wasn’t a broad-chested fantasy figure off a romance novel cover, but lean and leggy and gracefully strong like a great cat, not at all the androgynous sylph she’d pictured.
He wasn’t pretty, either, but handsome in an almost stern way, all about high cheekbones and chiseled features and pale grey-blue eyes that looked cold and remote until he smiled. He was dressed all in neutral colorsblack jeans, charcoal grey sweater, lighter grey turtleneck under it to protect his throat against the chilly spring air.
When he smiled, his severe good looks transfigured into something otherworldly yet very sexy, something like she’d always imagined Tolkien’s elves (the cute-college-boy appeal of Orlando Bloom notwithstanding). Jessie meltedright along, she figured, with everybody in the room who fancied men. His speaking voice astonished her even more than his looks: rich, resonant, lower than she expected.
Aren’t you a countertenor?’ she blurted out when they were introduced. I’d expected your voice to be higher.’ Then she bit her tongue, realizing that she’d sounded like an ignoramus.
He gave her one of those blood-igniting smiles. Only when I want it to be,’ he replied in a much higher register, still backed with all the power of years of vocal training. My natural speaking voice is lower than my singing voice,’ he added, in the deeper tones she’d heard at first. That’s not uncommon.’
She felt herself blushing. I’m sorry. I can’t believe I said that. I’m new and still have a lot to learn. The regular members of the company are used to my dumb remarks by now, but I should have spared you.’
He laughed, and even though Jessie was convinced, after her faux pas, that it was at her rather than with her, it was still a glorious sound. Don’t worry about it. You’re a costume designer, right?’ he said. I don’t understand how you do what you do, eitherI’m color-blind, I’ve got the design sense of a wombat, and I can’t sew on a buttonbut I do appreciate someone who dresses me up and makes me look good.’ He winked. I’ll look forward to chatting with you more during fittings. Maybe you can finally teach me to sew on a button.’
Then he wandered away to talk to some of the other singers, leaving Jessie still flustered and repeating to herself firmly that the wink meant absolutely nothing. She would not, repeat would not, get a crush on him, although he was just as good-looking as Nelson had claimed.
She managed to keep that resolution for a couple of days.
Then she actually heard David sing.
As the costumer, she wasn’t expected to attend most rehearsals, but in the early stages, where the company was still working out its vision of the production, she found it useful to sit in on a few before she got too committed to costume sketches that just wouldn’t work. Besides, she was intensely curious about this particular production, and, to be honest, about what a countertenor sounded like.
She scrunched down in the front row of the theatreforlorn and curiously stale-smelling now with no sets, no costumes, no special lightingprepared to take notes on any costume ideas that popped into her head. In Handel’s day, it was perfectly manly to wear brocade and lace and accepted practice for heroes to played by high-voiced castrati, but in the 21st century the male soprano emperor and the female Ptolemy had a hip, gender-bending quality, at least on paper. Might she be able to work some of that contradiction into the costuming?
As soon as David began to sing, though, she understood there was no real contradiction.
The story was purely a coat hanger for the music, the glorious music.
And the music was designed to show off a voice like David’s.
He sounded as otherworldly as an angel, yet sensuous. She’d heard boy sopranos singing in a similar range, but their voices were light, innocent, almost disembodied. David’s voice was definitely bodied, and in a pretty damn amazing adult male body, and although it didn’t sound masculine’ in any of the ways she was used to, it unquestionably was. Continues...
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