When we were visiting Europe around two years ago–how time flies!–we spent one evening at the Royal Opera House in London. Un Ballo in Maschera was the only show for which we were able to get tickets. J had never been to an opera before, and we assumed this would be something grand. It wasn’t. In fact, aside from the ostentatious and imposing decor, and the charming company of the Mrs. Doubtfire granny with whom we sat, our evening was a complete disappointment. The opera was flat, the sets cardboard, and performances just as stiff. I’m not one to decry something, especially an artistic endeavor, since art can be such a personal thing. However, this was, categorically, one of the worst operas ever to cross the stage.
Creativity works in curious ways, though, and had I not been subjected to that middling experience, I may never have written the scene below. Today’s excerpt from Feast of Chaos, which I hope should prove much more engaging: Un Balle Sanguia–the Blood Ball.
[spoiler title=”Aadore’s Reminiscence (click to expand)” style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]
Once, a long time ago, Aadore had visited the Royal Opera House. Shortly after Sean had been sent away, kindly Beatrice had sensed her handmaiden’s sadness and decided to delight her with a satin frock and a ticket for one to Un Balle Sanguia: the Blood Ball. Aadore had never felt so fancy, so much like a lady, as on that evening. While ascending the palatial steps into the theater, and throughout the night, gentlemen tipped their hats to her and opened doors. They had no idea, these men, that she was the one who spent her life opening doors and ingratiating herself. Aadore remembered how her hands had trembled with joy as she’d held the yellowed programme, which in calligraphic script described the opera she was about to see. The opera had been unforgettable.
The Blood Ball was an opera in three parts, and both began and ended at grand dances. The opening act was set during Menos’s Age of Discovery, and its action took place on the sprawling estate of Master Gestault, an Iron lord and hero of that era. Gestault was playing host to his friend and wartime companion Ferdinand, an uncommonly kind feliron mogul, and his new bride, the Lady Ingray, whom Ferdinand had met while traveling through distant continents in one of Menos’s new crowes. The Lady Ingray was exotic and beautiful, and the diva who played her had been radiant. Gestault, like the audience, found himself seduced by her charms. From there, the plot promised to develop into a fairly standard examination of a love triangle—but a twist came when the Lady Ingray rejected the handsome Gestault’s advances.
Well, this is new, Aadore had thought. A Menosian master rarely failed to capture his prize. After his spurning by the lady, prideful Gestault resorted to the services of a witch in the hopes of bespelling her. Before giving him her potion, the witch warned Gestault that love couldn’t be forced, only offered, and that her concoctions at times induced not passion, but madness. However, Gestault cared not, and he snatched the elixir from the witch.
At the first opportunity, the Masked Ball of the third act, Gestault dosed Ingray’s wine with the love potion. Within moments, the elixir took effect, and the pair stole away to a suite within the mansion, where they removed their masks and clothes and engaged in lustful sex. Wild with passion, Ingray sang to Gestault that he would be hers and hers alone forever. Post-coitus, Ingray left the spent, drunk, and sleeping Iron lord to seal her promise.
As the opera approached its finale, Ingray’s madness was revealed. Under the influence of the spell, she started a long, strident song about the trials of her love with Gestault, about how many sought to keep them apart. Mad Ingray then locked and barred the mansion’s doors, collected Gestault’s rifle and cutlass, and commenced “honoring” her beloved. Still gloriously wailing, she cornered her husband in a pantry, shot him into mincemeat, and then gouged the eyes out of his skull. But he was not the only one she felt stood in the way of her love: a similar fate awaited all the others in the manse. The guests fell to her sword blows and bullets, each dying a screaming and bombastic death. No one escaped Ingray; she proved herself unstoppable. For the Lady had been possessed by Gestault’s selfish, prideful desire. She loved Gestault as he loved himself: she became his perfect bride, a living mirror of his narcissism. Even when the surviving folk rallied in the great room, broke apart furniture, and assaulted her, she did not succumb to her wounds. Instead, they fell to her bullets and blows. Soon, nothing could be heard in the mansion but Ingray’s song and the loud snoring of Gestault.
As Un Balle Sanguia ended, Ingray ascended the crimson staircase, which was draped with fallen bodies, wearing her wedding dress of blood. It was this moment that played over and over again in Aadore’s mind: Ingray walking up a staircase of death and ruin. Aadore felt as if she and her fellows had just done the same. She fixated on the image as she huddled in the darkness of their new hideaway: the Royal Opera House. She rocked Ian, listening to the creaking beams that somehow held up the ancient building in defiance of Menos’s apocalypse. When she looked over at the dim and empty stage, spotlighted by the moonbeams penetrating the chamber’s fractured roof, she could almost see and hear the ghostly Ingray singing her heart out. Un Balle Sanguia’s makeup, scenery, and effects had been remarkable, reflecting what Aadore now knew of true violence. Ingray’s victims had looked just like the unliving horror after Aadore had hacked it to pieces with the blade that rested in the empty seat beside her. Unconsciously, she adjusted the pack hiding the throbbing wound in her shoulder. How long before the poison sets in? she wondered. How long before my brother hacks me to bits?
“Aadore?” Someone tugged at her, and the nightmare disintegrated.
All my love,
P.S. If you’ve been wondering where my Artsy Fartsy Friday posts have gone, I’m in the process of transitioning a lot of my work’s visual media to Instagram! I should be ready to unveil that soon.