When Madame Giry had offered Christine Daaé as the replacement for the lead Soprano, La Carlotta, at the upcoming gala, Christine had been terrified. Carlotta, though a diva with a terrible temper and an even worse attitude, had been Opera Populaire’s lead Soprano for years whereas Christine, as Monsieur André had been so kind to point out, was just a chorus girl. The thought that she, of all people, could replace the world-renowned La Carlotta was silly. And yet, when she had stepped forward and begun to sing, the room had gone dead silent. Actors and stagehands who had disappeared after Carlotta's diva tantrum returned to the stage in awed silence to hear a chorus girl who had hidden in the shadows step forward and begin to sing like an angel.
After her unexpected audition, Christine was caught up in a whirlwind of activity. She found herself in La Carlotta’s large dressing room, her hair and makeup being done. Seamstresses were working as fast as they could to fit what would have been Carlotta’s gown to Christine’s petite size. Madame Giry may have been at her side for a moment during the madness, but she had been quickly torn away; the ballerinas still had to be prepared for that night’s performance.
When her hair, makeup, and dress were finally done, the house had already opened. Guests wearing fancier clothes than Christine had ever even touched flooded through the open doors, up the steps, and into their seats. Sooner than she would have liked, Christine found herself standing backstage, wringing her hands nervously. After a few moments of standing alone, Madame Giry approached her. This was the first true time she had been able to talk to Christine since she had given her over to audition as Carlotta’s replacement.
“Are you nervous, my dear?” Madame Giry asked, her eyes narrowed with compassion. The elderly woman hadn’t wanted to put Christine on the spot like she had - the young ballerina had become like a daughter to her - but she knew what great talent Christine had been hiding and that it was time for her talent to be discovered.
“Yes, Madame,” Christine answered honestly. “I’ve never had any real practice with the number for the aria and I’m an unknown voice. Everyone sitting out there is expecting Carlotta to be singing tonight.”
“You shouldn’t be worried, Christine,” Madame Giry remarked, placing her hands the girl’s slender shoulders. “Just remember what you have learned from your teacher.”
“But I don’t even have any idea who my teacher is,” Christine responded in exasperation. “How do I know what he taught me is what I need to know?”
“You must have faith, my dear,” Madame Giry smiled affectionately. “You will do very well tonight, I promise you.”
“And if I don’t?”
Madame Giry shook her head and smiled reassuringly. “You will do fine, and you will make your teacher proud. I know it.”
“Mademoiselle,” a stagehand called, coming from the wings. He grabbed her arm gently in a calloused hand and told her, “It’s time.”
Christine cast one last, desperate look over her shoulder at Madame Giry before putting on as large a smile she could muster. The curtains were swept open and she stepped forward, coming to a stop center stage.
She couldn’t even begin to imagine the audience’s shock at seeing this unknown girl on the stage. This was not La Carlotta. This was not what they were expecting. This was not what they had paid for. Those that had not found themselves mesmerized by this strange girl’s beauty - the white dress and star barrettes in her chocolate curls caught the fire of the stage lights and chandelier above beautifully - were climbing to their feet in frustration, ready to demand their francs back. Then, she opened her mouth and began to sing.
“Think of me. Think of me fondly when we’ve said goodbye. Remember me once in awhile, please promise me you’ll try. And when you find that once again you long to take your heart back and be free, if you ever find a moment, stop and think of me.”
Her Soprano voice was beautiful and carried all the way to the back of the opera house. The high notes she sang came out clear and pure, as if her voice had been worked hard and pushed to perfection. It didn’t sound at all like Carlotta’s usual high pitched caterwauling. This definitely was not what the people had paid for; it was better. Those that had started to leave found themselves in their seats once more, staring wide-eyed and wordless at this wondrous beauty on the stage.
The song continued and Christine found herself having more and more fun. As she reached the final chorus, she heard a voice call from above her. An unidentified man shouted down at her, “Bravo!” and clapped louder than anyone else in the audience. With this encouragement, Christine found power and energy to end the song much stronger than when she had started.
“Flowers fade, the fruits of summer fade. They have their seasons so do we. But, please, promise me that sometimes you will think… Aaah ah ah ah aaahhh. Aaah aah aah aah aaah. Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah aaaaaahhhhaaaa…. Aaaa OOOOOF me!”
The aria finished. Before the last note had finished ricocheting off the auditorium walls, the audience had climbed to its feet, clapping, cheering, and whistling in support of this new-found talent. It was Christine’s very first performance, and she was receiving a standing ovation. Flowers were thrown onto the stage at her feet as the wave of applause washed over her.
Unable to keep the smile off her face, Christine bowed, their shouts of appreciation bouncing through her head.
The next few minutes, much like the rest of the day, passed by in a blur of activity. Dozens of people were congratulating her on a (surprisingly) job well done. Though she appreciated their kind words, she felt as if she were being crushed by it. Christine may have been in the limelight on stage and felt comfortable, but now that she had to meet with the audience members face-to-face...her typical, shy nature kicked in and she found herself uncomfortable and pressured under all of the praise. So, as soon as she found a quiet moment, she slipped into a back room and up a flight of stairs.
She fled to her quiet place. This was a room she had frequented throughout her time at the Opera Populaire, and one she believed not many could find as it had always seemed to remain undisturbed whenever she returned. Here, a picture of her father was waiting for her, set on an altar surrounded by candles. Every night before she went to sleep, she would sneak up here, light a candle, and pray for her father. She did this now, bowing her head and whispering a quiet prayer of thanks. Not t0 long into her prayer, Christine found herself being interrupted by a man's voice, whispering to her tenderly. "Brava, brava, bravissima..."
It slowly faded away, disappearing almost as quickly as it had come. This voice wasn’t the same as the man who had been sitting above her tonight; this man’s voice was different. It was gentle, tender, loving, whereas the voice from earlier had been powerful, encouraging, and proud. She gave a small smile, knowing who the voice belonged to. There was only one who had ever spoken to her in such a way.
“Angel?” she whispered happily. “Are you with me?”
“Christine?” came a voice in response. It wasn’t the voice of her angel; this new voice was female. “Christine, are you in here?”
The man’s voice, her angel’s voice, whispered once more, “Christine…” then disappeared. Christine’s smile faded along with it.
As she looked around, hoping to feel the presence of her angel, a young girl around the same age as her entered the room. She had long blond hair, pale skin, and sparkling blue eyes. The girl was dressed in a simple white ballerina’s dress, and smiled when she saw her childhood friend sitting before the altar. “There you are Christine. We’ve been looking for you for awhile!”
“I haven’t been up here that long, Meg,” Christine responded with a grin, masking her disappointment at the loss of her angel’s closeness. “Only a few short minutes.”
Meg slid to the ground next to Christine. This young blonde was the daughter of Madame Giry, and was one of Christine’s only friends at the Opera Populaire. The two had become more like sisters over time, growing up and training together in the ballet corps under Madame Giry’s strict but loving care.
“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been hiding away,” Meg told her with a loving smile. “You shouldn’t be disappearing up here so soon after the gala! You’re the star tonight, and everyone wants to meet you.” She leaned in close and whispered, “Everyone is saying that you’re even better than La Carlotta. They think you should be Opera Populaire’s new leading Soprano.”
Christine laughed. “After only one gala? Meg, that’s ridiculous. Carlotta has years of experience on me, as well as talent.” She almost choked on this last part, as it wasn’t exactly true. Carlotta was one of the most untalented people Christine had ever had the displeasure of knowing. Her gentle nature prevented her from voicing this thought, though, and demanded that she say only kind things about the woman. If she were to ever say this aloud, she knew she would hate herself for it for a long while after. Kindness was a great gift, but it also came with a large curse.
“Not according to our audience,” Meg responded matter-of-factly, giving voice Christine's unspoken mindset. “They seem to think that you have more experience, and even greater talent.” She turned and studied the picture of Christine’s father, putting the two into a long silence. “I have to ask Christine…" Meg finally began uneasily. "I’ve never seen anyone suddenly able to sing like that. You must have an instructor, a tutor of some kind… He must be some kind of genius… Who is he?”
Christine hesitated before she responded. No one knew about the angel that had been instructing her, not even Madame Giry. Did she dare tell Meg now, at the risk of her friend thinking her crazy? “I’m...not sure, Meg.” Christine responded, buying herself time to come up with an answer. She could feel her friend’s quizzical gaze resting on her. There was no easy way for Christine to explain this to Meg; she had a voice teacher, that much was clear. Some had to have coached her to able to sing like that. But even Christine, his student, had no idea who he actually was.
Attempting to explain as best she could, Christine continued, "All I know is that, before my father died, he made me a promise. He told me that after he’d gone to Heaven, he would send me an Angel of Music. This angel would be only my angel, and he would protect me, watch over me, love me when no one else would.” She suddenly stopped, realizing for the first time how special and private this was to her. Was she really ready to tell anyone, even Meg, about her Angel of Music?
As Christine sat in silence, Meg tried to fill in the blanks Christine had left with her story. “Do you...do you think it’s the spirit of your father? Do you believe your father is the one that's coaching you?”
“I’m not sure, Meg, but…" She whispered, more to herself than to Meg, "Who else could it be?”
Before their conversation could continue, the door was thrown open and Madame Giry entered the room. Christine looked up at her with wide, shocked eyes as the door slammed into the wall. She had not seen Madame Giry look so frustrated with the two of them in quite a while.
“My dears,” Madame Giry hissed impatiently. She rapped her thigh with the black cane she carried with her, causing the black skirt of her gown to swish. Her long hair was braided and thrown over her shoulder, reaching to her thigh. It swayed as she moved her head from side to side, looking first at Meg, then at Christine. Her accusatory, hawk-like, gray eyes pierced straight through Christine, making the young girl feel ashamed. A flush of embarrassment reached her cheeks as Madame Giry continued, “You are both being looked for everywhere! Meg, you know better than to hide away after a gala. And Christine…as the star of tonight’s performance, you should most definitely be out greeting the people! I'd thought that I taught you both better than this!”
“Pardons, Madame Giry,” Christine responded, climbing delicately to her feet. She bowed her head as she went on, “I just… I don’t like all the attention…”
Madame Giry helped Meg up, giving Christine a small, sad smile. Her piercing gaze died away as she took Christine’s hand in hers. “I am sorry, my dear, but you best get used to it. If things go the way I am imagining they will, you will be receiving a lot of attention the next few days.”
Christine knew she was right. Taking a deep breath, she allowed herself to be taken from her quiet place and back to the entry hall where her new adoring fans were waiting to greet her.