Chapter 2 – Disillusioned
The Vicomtesse Christine de Chagny sat at the breakfast table, alone. For the first time since her then-fiancé Raoul had brought her to his home after the fire at the Opéra Populaire slightly over a month ago, she had to eat breakfast alone. Her husband of three weeks had an important business meeting and had had to get up and get ready for this appointment, when she had still been asleep.
Christine was a bit disappointed that he left her alone so soon after their wedding, but she somehow understood that he had obligations that he had neglected for far too long. First the preparations for their wedding had taken up all their time, since because of the special circumstances it had to be rushed. Her home at the Opera had been destroyed by the fire and Christine had not had anywhere else where she could have stayed except the de Chagny mansion. Of course this had not been entirely appropriate as long as they were not married, especially without a chaperone. But Raoul's parents had been on vacation at the Côte d'Azur, so his mother had not been able to provide the necessary protection.
Raoul and Christine had gotten married two weeks after the fire, then Raoul had taken his young wife on a honeymoon to Venice. He had spoiled her rotten on the whole trip, had bought her dozens of new dresses, shoes, jewelry, taken her to the most exquisite restaurants, on romantic gondola rides and shown her all the wonders of the city built into the lagoon.
Christine had been overwhelmed by all these new impressions. She had seen so many works of art and beautiful buildings, she had experienced a lifestyle so completely different from what she had been used to before, that it had been hard for her to keep track of all the amazing things that seemed like miracles to her. She had not had time to think.
Raoul had been the perfect gentleman, showing her around, granting her every wish. It had been like a fairy tale. But two days ago they had returned to Paris, and now that their bags had been unpacked and they had rested a bit, Raoul had to take care of his business obligations again.
"Sleep in, Little Lotte," her husband had told her the night before. "There is no need for you to get up as early as I have to. Take a late breakfast and then relax some more. You must be exhausted after all the sightseeing we have done recently," and he had kissed her.
Christine sighed. She was not quite sure what she should do with her time. Raoul would not be back before dinner, which meant she had to find something to do that would keep her occupied the whole day. She was not used to sitting around idly. At the Opera she had always been on a rather tight schedule, going from rehearsals to costume fittings, to daily ballet exercises, and she had had to keep her wardrobe in order herself, by mending or doing laundry. Here she had no duties. Raoul's mother was still in charge of the household, and though Raoul's parents had left Paris immediately after the wedding again, Christine was sure that the Comtesse would not appreciate it if she tried to take care of the household during her absence. The servants had orders to do things a certain way and would only get confused if Christine tried to introduce a few changes during her mother-in-law's absence.
What else could a noblewoman do? She could receive visitors or make visits herself. The problem with that was that Christine knew nobody in Paris that she could visit, with the possible exception of the Girys, and Raoul had already indicated to her that she now belonged to a different social circle and therefore should limit her contact to these two ladies. Meg and her mother had of course been invited to the wedding, but they had been seated as far away from the couple and the groom's noble friends and relatives as possible, somewhere between the manager of Raoul's estate in Brittany, the tenant of a farm near Auxerre and the spinster sister of the priest who had married Raoul and Christine.
Christine had been hurt to see the Girys treated so poorly. After all, Meg was like a sister to her, and even though the former ballet mistress could be rather strict and stiff, she was the closest thing to a mother Christine had ever had, since her own mother had died at Christine's birth. She knew that the two ladies had felt unwanted at the wedding, and when she had found a few moments to talk to them, Mme. Giry had told her that they understood. They knew that Christine would want to stay in contact with them as much as possible, and that it was not her fault that she could not. That they were not going to blame her for the estrangement that would have to set in between them, since there was no place for them in the life of a Vicomtesse.
Christine had told them that she would try her best to keep up the good relationship with her two friends, but they had known all three that her position in society was precarious enough after the events at the Opera, that she could not afford to blatantly ignore society rules, at least not right now.
Visiting the Girys was therefore out of the question. What else would be an appropriate pass-time for somebody in her position? She could go shopping. Christine shook her head. No, that was not such a good idea either. First, she already had more dresses and accessories than she needed thanks to Raoul's generosity, and second, she was not quite sure yet, which dressmakers' shops were acceptable for her to buy from.
Of course she could take a walk in the garden. Christine looked out of the window. It was only late March and still rather chilly outside, but the grass was starting to push and the first early spring flowers were blooming. Yes, she would definitely go out for a while and have a look at nature's wonders.
Christine walked across the garden till she got cold, then spent some time in the library reading till it was time for lunch. The morning had turned out nice after all, but now Christine was once again at a loss of what she could do in the afternoon. Take a nap as many noble women did? No, Christine was not tired yet. Life in the ballet had turned her into a strong and resilient young woman.
What else could she do? Read again? Christine liked reading, but somehow reading all day seemed a bit boring to her. Another acceptable occupation was needlework, but while Christine could definitely sew and mend clothes, she never had learned to do delicate embroidery or to crochet laces.
Christine reached for the newspaper that had been delivered to the mansion together with the mail. Maybe browsing through it would give her an idea or two what she could do. She unfolded the paper and stared at the headline: "Opéra Populaire to be rebuilt – Funding secured".
Her old home! The Opera would be restored to its previous glory! Maybe she would soon be able to go there again with Raoul, to enjoy music again! Music. Christine closed her eyes. Why hadn't she thought of music before? Music had always been so important in her life, after all, her father had been a musician, a rather well-known violinist, and her angel… her heart ached. They were both dead now, her father and her angel. Dead and gone. Thinking of her angel made her feel bad. She could not quite convince herself that his death was not her fault, for she had betrayed him and broken his heart.
She had not even thought about music since that night which had decided her fate. She had had Raoul beside her every day and not missed a thing. Suddenly music seemed like the most important element in her life again. It would bring back memories of her father and her angel, would somehow make them live on in that passion they had shared with her, music.
Christine smiled. There was a wonderful grand piano in the parlor downstairs, and hopefully she would be able to locate some sheet music as well, preferably songs, since she was not that great of a pianist, but she suddenly longed to sing again.
"I am probably terribly out of practice," she thought, "I will have to work hard to get my voice back into shape." And she chuckled at the thought of what her angel would say if he knew that she had neglected her art for so long. "He would not be pleased," she mused. "But I will start my exercises right away and I won't stop until I know that he would be proud of me."
After lunch, Christine immediately went in search of sheet music. In addition to several albums of sonatas and other pieces for piano, she found a rather large collection of songs and arias from various operas. Christine smiled. She suddenly remembered that at their wedding reception Raoul's second cousin Laurence had performed a love song in their honor – rather poorly, truth be told. But singing at important events was quite obviously acceptable for the member of an aristocratic family. If Laurence had been allowed to do so, certainly they would not deny her.
Christine suddenly did not feel bored anymore. She had a purpose. She needed to get back in shape, to practice. She quickly sat down in front of the piano and started her warm-up exercises. Her voice had really gotten rusty. At first she did not quite reach the high notes that previously had been no problem for her, but after a while she remembered her routine and these notes once again came to her naturally.
When she felt sufficiently prepared, Christine started to browse through the sheet music to decide which songs she wanted to either repeat or, in case she had not sung them before, to study. She soon had selected a handful of pieces that appealed to her for one reason or another and set out to work on them. Time flew by. Christine did not notice that it was slowly getting dark and that at one point a maid had slipped in and turned on the gas lights. She was completely immersed in her music and forgot everything else around her.
Slightly after six o'clock Raoul de Chagny returned home after an exhausting series of business conferences and a meeting with the committee that was put in charge of rebuilding the Opéra Populaire. He felt rather tired and was looking forward to a quiet evening with his beautiful wife.
The moment his servant opened the door of his carriage so that the Vicomte could get out, Raoul stiffened. The wind carried sounds of a piano and a pure, angelic soprano voice from the direction of the parlor. The music was somewhat muted since the windows were closed, but it was unmistakably his wife singing.
Raoul winced. He had tried so hard to make Christine forget about music, forget about her ignominious past and that – thing – that had almost succeeded in luring her away from him. He had avoided taking her to concerts or a performance at the famous La Fenice opera during their stay in Venice, and she had not seemed to miss music. He had hoped that she would be glad to be rid of the necessity to earn her own living and that her past would be nothing more than a memory. A rather unpleasant one, at that, since her past had been miserable.
Why would anybody in their right mind want to do something for pleasure that one had had to do previously in order to make enough money to survive? Raoul had expected Christine to be overjoyed that she would never have anything to do with rehearsals, music or theater again, and here she was playing the piano and singing, the first moment he left her alone!
Raoul stormed into the house and right into the parlor.
"Ah! S'il était içi, s'il me voyait ainsi.." (Ah if he were here, if he could see me like that) Christine sang Marguerite's jewel song from Gounod's "Faust". She had been practicing all afternoon, but her voice did not sound tired. She was just now becoming comfortable with the high notes again, and her joy at having mastered the difficulties and being able to sing freely again reverberated through her voice.
"What do you think you are doing?" Her husband's harsh words brought her singing to an abrupt halt.
"Raoul!" Christine turned and smiled at the Vicomte. "Are you finally back? How were your meetings? Are you tired?" Despite being slightly miffed at his unfriendly welcome, Christine tried her best to make Raoul relax. He was quite obviously exhausted after a long working day and maybe he needed quiet, not music.
"I am sorry," she continued. "I realize that you might want to rest and music will keep you from that…"
Raoul shook his head. Christine's concern for his wellbeing had somewhat calmed him. "No, Little Lotte," he said, "it's not that. Or at least that's not all this is about. I need to ask you never to do this again."
Christine stared at him in disbelief. He could not possibly have meant his words the way she had understood them. "Do what again?" she asked hesitantly.
Raoul pointed at the piano. "This," he said. "Music, singing. You do not need that anymore. You are not a theater girl anymore, but a Vicomtesse. The sooner you forget about the past, the better." He prayed inwardly that she would forget all of her past soon, especially that monster. It was a good thing he was dead and would never be able to affect her in any way, shape or form, but Raoul was not entirely certain about the place his former rival still held in his wife's heart.
Christine looked at Raoul, scrutinizing his face for signs that he might be joking. "But Raoul, my past is who I am," she tried to explain. "It shaped me and helped me become the person that I am now. How can I forget it?"
Raoul sighed. She obviously did not want to understand. "It is not appropriate for a Vicomtesse to work on a stage," he uttered. "You will never be accepted in society if you keep reminding people of what you once were. Stay away from music, don't show any interest in it ever again, that will be the best way to make people forget."
Christine suddenly felt cold. Staying away from music? That was almost like asking her to stop breathing. Music was part of her very essence, she was not even sure if without music she would be able to survive.
"But music is not inappropriate for a noblewoman," she argued. "Your cousin Laurence, she sang that beautiful song at our wedding and nobody had a problem with it."
Raoul massaged his temples. Her stubbornness gave him a headache. "How can you be so obtuse," he growled. "That is something completely different. Laurence sings for pleasure, not for money. She is an amateur. Never in her life has she stood on a stage, her belly bare or showing off her legs, moving seductively and entrancing an audience. All she ever did was stand next to a piano wearing a decent evening dress, singing a song. And none of her songs have ever been provocative."
Christine shivered at her husband's words. Yes, she knew that some of the costumes she had been wearing on stage had not met the nobility's standards of propriety, but she had always felt sufficiently covered. Raoul made it almost sound as if she had stood in front of an audience completely naked. As to provocative songs and seductive movements, surely he must be aware that this had been acting? That when she did those things it had not been her, Christine, behaving that way but the character she had been playing at that point?
"I can do that as well," she pleaded. "I can stand next to a piano and wear a nice dress while singing. I do not have to move around and gesticulate, and we can choose my songs together, to make sure they are tasteful."
Raoul shook his head. "No, Christine," he told her. "You cannot. When Laurence sings at a soirée people see a member of a noble family that has some interest in music, an amateur. But if you do that, people will see the woman that let herself get seduced by Don Juan in front of a full house, singing about highly vulgar and inappropriate things."
Christine was confused. Had it not been Raoul who had practically forced her against her will to perform in that opera? Why did he suddenly have such problems with it? And second, why did he call certain activities that he enjoyed a whole lot more than she did vulgar?
"Do you hold it against me that I played Aminta that night?" she asked, her voice sounding bitter. Raoul could not look her in the eyes. While it was true that he had more or less ordered her to play that particular role, he had not foreseen his rival to play Don Juan and even less so her reaction to the Ghost's advances. Memories of that performance, of his Christine lying in that criminal's arms, would haunt him for the rest of his life. And then those kisses in the Phantom's lair! If he was honest, it was not so much music he had a problem with, but rather anything that reminded him of Christine's relationship with that – thing. Unfortunately, music, and especially singing fell into that category.
Christine looked so miserable now, though, that he pitied her. "No, my darling wife," Raoul quickly said. "I know this was necessary and you only did it for the greater good, but others may see things differently, and it is because of these people that I ask you to stay away from music from now on."
Christine nodded. She thought she understood. Kind of. "I will try my best not to disappoint you," she whispered, trying to imagine life without music. She barely managed to suppress tears, feeling more alone than ever before in her life.
"That's my girl," Raoul beamed. "Now let's get changed and have dinner together and then we can retire for the night…" he said suggestively, lowering his glance to his wife's heaving bosom.