A reader asked, “Did that really happen to you?” after finishing one of my novels. I’ve heard this before, and the character-revolving question churns in my mind. It’s a great question. One for which I don’t always have a ready answer, because it’s rather loaded.
When I was a professional dancer, one of my fortes was Character Dance. I think this is where I first came to understand that, as an artist, I’m all my characters and none of my characters. I abandoned myself in a role, poured out blood, sweat, and tutus, until I became another persona. The interpretation was all mine (via the Lord’s inspiration and direction). After I hung up the costumes and retreated to the hotel or home for a cup of tea and a foot-soak, I was just me and nothing like the earlier identity on stage.
It’s the same with creating characters in books. Sometimes a reader will say, “I can relate to you,” when referencing the protagonist in a novel. I appreciate the response; it’s also interesting for me. While I can draw parallelisms, such as an incident or event that motivated the story, antics that aided a character’s development, or inject personal likes and dislikes, I’m not that person. Not even in my first novel, which is assumed in the industry to be every writer’s veiled autobiography. I'm just a vehicle to carry out another's story.
If I am my characters, then I’m also a human-flesh-eating imp, a war criminal, and a subterranean giant. I’m ALL of them (because creators invest in roles), and NONE of them (because I’m somebody else at the end of the day). Clear as mud? Lol. I'm inclined to think it's more the moral of the story that speaks (if anything does), which is sourced from a gracious God.
Maybe it should be entitled, True Love Never Dies. In the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Christine Daaé has been married to Raoul ten years. At first considered safe and secure, Raoul has proven otherwise, as he drowns in his self-inflicted indomitable issues. Moreover, tenderness towards his wife has withered to nil. She dutifully has stayed beside him, accepting her lot with grace, yet she is hollow where happiness should reside, disappointed where love should flourish. And all this time, she has suppressed the secret that her true soul mate is not the one she had married. Erik, the phantom lover, suddenly reenters the picture after a decade.
Wonderfully cast in this Australian production with Anna O’Byrne as Christine and Ben Lewis as Erik, the following is my favorite scene, a recollection of their night together, the two who were meant to be one. It’s beautifully tragic, horribly exquisite, pleading, what is love without anguish, heartbreak, regret, and longing.
A cold and blustery weekend, I snuggled with a pumpkin spice latte and watched the 25th anniversary staged production/celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. I enjoyed it immensely.
The misfortune in this popular tragedy has a way of lingering. Again I questioned Christine Daaé, the phantom’s obsession and star pupil, in her final choice. Had I been her, would I pick the sweet, stable, predicable, vanilla, pretty boy, Raoul, who offered a settled, cushy life of usual expectations? Or would I want the scarred, volatile, opera ghost, the master musician, magician, inventor, a tortured and complicated soul, a flawed and broken man who had nothing to give but music and passion....
I’d pick Erik, the phantom. In truth, I think a lot of women would. That’s perhaps partly why the story is so effectual and has spawned quite a few literary sequels—written mostly by women—about Erik’s triumphant
love-interest comeback. Books I seem to continue acquiring even as I carry on watching the musical in all its variations. I guess I’m one of those suckers for heartbroken monster geniuses.
I stayed up much too late watching The Met’s presentation of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” on PBS. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Soprano Anna
Netrebko in the title role is mesmerizing! Besides her fiery, captivating performance, she caused me to suffer her injustice. The story is based on Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who is falsely condemned by the king of the very thing in which he, her husband, engages. The final scene was especially stirring, where Netrebko as Bolena sways between delirium, righteous indignation, and willpower. It haunts me still, as I ponder the philosophical elements that extend from the depths of a dynamic performance…
How could this happen?
Love never ends happily.
When a performer can make others feel all that, then she is all that and more. Bravissima!