Act 9: Whimsically 6
New York Metropolitan Opera House.
This opera company, often shortened as Met, had never lost the title of the best, top opera company both in the present and the future 20 years later.
It was literally the place which gathered the world’s greatest artists and any musician who was interested in opera would be longing to enter it.
The reason for Met’s great, honourable fame was simple.
Highly skilled actors and members of the opera with unconditional support from the wealthy American families had resulted in the title of the world’s greatest opera company.
Timothy Dickson was known to have been the music director of that group for over 10 years. Although he appeared like an amiable old man, he was in fact a person that moved world famous opera actors around as he pleased.
And yet he was going to have a look at our performances…?
Even the principal widened his eyes in shock and ran up to Sir Dickson.
[You will be having a look at their performances?]
[Ah, perhaps it’s a bit weird to say that. This old man is just going to see if he can give a little advice or two.]
The students nodded their heads away and said little advice was more than enough as another round of master class was held again.
Soon, it was my turn to sing.
[Freshman Opera Department, Jo Yunjae!]
[Ohh, good pronunciation. Shall we have a listen then?]
I greeted rigidly to which Sir Dickson replied with a laughter.
It was super nerve-racking – perhaps more so than I was during the prac test. While letting out drops of sweat, I pondered on the song to sing before deciding to reuse my prac song.
[I’ll sing Tristesse by Chopin.]
[Chopin huh… an interesting choice.]
After making an awkward smile, I straightened myself up.
Because I had practised it a lot for the prac test, it was perhaps the most polished one so far. Besides, it was one of my favourite songs in my previous life as well.
Of course, I did think about Elf King as well.
The first prac song – Elf King. Although I did practise it a lot… in the end, I was a lot more familiar with Tristesse. The strange experience I had during the prac test was another factor that made me choose it.
And after deciding on the song, I sang as best I could.
After the last line, I closed my mouth as a short round of applause flashed past the venue.
With his hand on his chin, Sir Dickson pointed his gaze at me. Those eyes seemed to be searching for a clue as they observed me and sparkled.
…I was getting nervous.
What kind of evaluations would a bigshot at his level give to my song?
I stared at Sir Dickson with a restless heart and soon, he gave a smile and opened his mouth.
[A good song.]
In that instant, I could feel my face brightening up.
Did he just give me a compliment? With that thought, I made a bright smile as his evaluation continued.
[The basics are solid while the expression is unique and full of colour. Especially, your ability to touch on others’ emotions is excellent. It was a good song.]
Then, he assumed a thinking posture before suddenly raising his head up in a flash and looking into my eyes.
[First off, the timbre is very clean and balanced. Right now, it gives off more of a lighter feeling but… there seems to be another habit mixed within – a habit required for singing heavily.]
Seeing the flinch in my expression, he smiled and opened his mouth.
[Did you perhaps change your vocalisation method recently?]
For a while, I blankly stared at Sir Dickson.
Like… how does he even find out after listening to only 1 minute of the song? Besides, wasn’t this his first time seeing me?
When he saw my flustered appearance, Sir Dickson nodded and added more words.
[I could tell after listening to your song. Unconsciously, there’s a habit of trying to make a loud sound, like an opera actor…]
He then threw a glance at my face before opening his mouth again.
[Does our young friend know the difference between opera actors and other vocalists?]
[Umm… the opera actors should be louder?]
Hearing the response I gave blankly, he smiled.
[You’re correct. A great, grand voice that could break through the sound made by the orchestra – that’s the prerequisite for standing on the opera stage. Just like what you did before. Judging from how you already have the habit of doing so, you must be dreaming of becoming an opera actor right?]
I met my eyes with Sir Dickson who had his gaze pointing at me. Reflected on those blue shining eyes, I could see an image; an image of a slender boy.
Seeing myself still in the middle of a growth period, I slowly thought.
When I tried wording it out, the word sounded awkward and foreign.
Thus, I just repeated his words in a daze.
[Yes. You were singing like an opera actor. Or maybe that wasn’t your dream?]
Seeing his tilted head, my head turned blank.
I went through my past one by one.
My dream in my previous life was to sing a perfect song even once. The ensemble was just to support my living funds and since it provided me with a regular payment, it was more of a normal workplace than a dream job.
And I left because it felt like my song was gradually being killed and thinking that I might be able to sing my own song at Met, I had applied for it.
But after failing the interview, I understood.
‘In the end, I was no-one important whose songs couldn’t go beyond the borders of Korea.’
How could such a person ever sing a perfect song?
Thus, my dream had been cast away, until that Christmas arrived.
And here I was, back in time to the admission day of Future Performing Arts High School which marked the first wrong step in my life.
At the start, I had no time to think about anything else. The process of returning to the past was way too sudden and I wasn’t given any opportunity to even organise anything inside my head.
Since I returned, I should try hard during my school days and it would be good if I could receive the scholarship – that was how shallow my motivation was.
Thinking back, the time I started getting more serious was when I started practising with Han Dasom.
Han Dasom, a girl that shrunk her shoulders with no confidence in her own songs.
Towards her, I said.
What was your dream? This was my dream so let’s try hard together.
With my lips closed, I raised my head up in a flash and could see the benevolent smile on Sir Dickson’s face. Seeing that person who used to conduct the Met Opera Company which used to be one of my dreams, I felt my head turning clearer.
Okay. Opera Company huh?
The reason I sat the interview at an opera company after quitting the ensemble was in fact rather simple. It was because opera was a performing art area that sold solely based on the name of the opera actor.
Blah blah opera sung by blah blah blah. Opera descriptions were always like that and highlighted the importance of the main actor.
Naturally, unlike ensembles, it would help develop my song without disturbing it in any way… Also, since opera companies gave a lot of money, it settled the financial aspect required to live as well.
After making a firm resolution in my mind, I opened my mouth.
[Yes. My dream is to become an opera actor.]
[I knew it. In that case, there will be lots for me to tell you!]
Sir Dickson gave a full smile of enjoyment and unravelled his bag of stories, starting from the thoughts he had while seeing operas, to the interviewing experiences he had and the important aspects that needed to be practised.
While absorbing in those detailed stories to the best of my ability, the meeting with Dickson slowly came to an end.
With the closing door behind him, Timothy Dickson walked outside and thought with a stretch.
‘Future Performing Arts High School of Korea….’
In fact, he didn’t have a mountain of expectations before coming. Although Korea wasn’t that low in the classical world’s ranking of fame, it wasn’t on the higher end either.
It was just around the average level.
Also, it was a small country that amounted to one state in America. That was why he had a fleeting heart for his visit but… there were a lot more talents than he had expected.
‘Especially the freshmen students were great.’
As Timothy Dickson stayed there nodding his head, Song Muntak walked up and carefully started a conversation.
[How was it, sir maestro? Were there a few decent students?]
[Ah, Mr Principal. Of course. They were all good students.]
[Haha, that’s great then.]
With his eyes on the smiling principal, Timothy Dickson thought back while caressing his chin.
His words weren’t really empty compliments because they really were of high standards. Timothy Dickson had already visited many countries before and had this education session several times already. Since he was surprised, that was more than enough evidence to back it off.
Especially the freshmen opera department.
Although the student called Chloe of the piano department was great, the opera kids were overwhelming in comparison.
Kim Wuju who had been singing a perfect song incomparable to other students.
Lee Suh-ah with the talents to become the best soprano.
‘And Jo Yunjae was it…’
It was also Timothy Dickson’s first time seeing such a student. It was different from the feeling he got from Kim Wuju but… nonetheless, he was unique. He looked feeble like a boy but it felt like there was an old man inside his brain or something.
While mumbling that it would be great for him to be an opera actor, Timothy Dickson suddenly flashed a smile.
Seriously, it had been so long since he retired from the position of the music director but it was still inside him, it seemed. There was this habit of wanting to cast a good actor whenever he saw one.
While Timothy Dickson was lost in his own world, the principal opened his mouth carefully.
[Umm, by the way, how was that student called Jo Yunjae?]
‘I was thinking about him just then though?’
As he raised his eyebrows up, baffled by the coincidence, the principal stole a glance before continuing his words.
[He’s actually from the opera department but… he has a great talent to be a conductor. I’m trying my hardest to persuade him but it’s just not working out. I want to hear your opinion as a maestro.]
Timothy Dickson tilted his head.
What was this about?
He was clueless before the principal added more words. The principal explained how he nurtured Han Dasom, awakened Chloe’s piano as well as his unfathomable knowledge and experience…
Soon, Timothy Dickson’s eyes gradually increased in size.
After the meeting with Sir Dickson, the holidays soon began. It was a summer holiday lasting for around a month but I wasn’t planning to play around just because it was a holiday.
To become an opera actor which was my new dream, I had to diligently build up skills and experience.
“Hmm… so I have to…”
While going through my phone, I thought of my future schedule while squinting my eyes.
First, I had to register for the concours I would be participating in during the second semester. Although I gave up on it during the first semester for the scholarship, I would start having more time during the second semester.
But actually, since all the large concours were packed in the first semester, there weren’t that many concours to participate in.
Casually, I fidgeted around with my phone and finished applying for the concours and raised my head up.
The mid-summer heat poured down on me.
We promised to meet in front of the station but Lee Suh-ah was taking her sweet time.
‘It’ll be the appointment time soon though…’
Looking at the watch, I pondered on what would be a good penalty for arriving late when a hand suddenly touched my shoulder.
Raising my head back up, I found Lee Suh-ah’s face. Her hair was tied neatly behind her and unlike her usual school uniform, she was wearing light, casual clothes.
It was our first time meeting each other after the holidays began.
“No, I just arrived as well.”
She primly ran her fingers through her hair and glanced around before brusquely opening her lips.
“So, where are we going?”
I looked at her and replied with a grin.
“Let’s get on the train first.”