A ‘Politically Correct’ Opera Populaire

A Comedy by

Catherine van der Goes

Madame Giry was showing the three new owners of the Opera Populaire around on a tour of the stage, while the musicians, opera singers and ballerinas were rehearsing the Opera ‘Hannibal’ that was to be put on that night.

The three new owners, Monsieur Richard Firmin, Monsieur Gilles Andre, and Madame Marie-Elise Dubois were all admiring the ballet dancers. The two men, especially, made comments about several of them, pointing out Meg Giry and Christine Daae, and how attractive they were.

One of the new owners, Madame Dubois, sniffed in annoyance and with a haughty look stared at her two co-owners with disdain.

After their suggestive comments toward Christine and Meg, Madame Giry told them that Meg was her daughter and that Christine Daae was like a daughter to her. Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre got the message immediately – hands off! They looked around, instead, at some of the other pretty ballerinas and leered at them.

Just then the current owner of the Opera Populaire, Monsieur Lefevre, clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention.

Monsieur Reyer, the conductor, gave an exaggerated sigh and stopped the orchestra. “We are trying to rehearse, Monsieur Lefevre!” he said sharply.

“This will only take a minute.” replied Monsieur Lefevre.

“Hey everyone, attention! For a while now you have been hearing rumors of my retirement. Well, those rumors were correct. I am retiring after being here for ten years. I am here today to introduce you to our three new owners – Madame Marie-Elise Dubois, Monsieur Richard Firmin and Monsieur Gilles Andre.”

A smattering of applause broke out around the stage at this introduction of the new owners.

“I would also like to introduce out new patron of the Opera Populaire, Monsieur Vicompte de Chagny.”

A young man, around twenty-three years old with long light brown hair and blue eyes stepped forward and bowed and addressed everyone in general.

“It is a great honor to be the patron of such a great Opera company. My parents and I have always supported the arts and I know I shall enjoy being a part of your fine company. I look forward, also, to your production of ‘Hannibal’ tonight.”

In the back of the stage, Meg Giry and Christine Daae were observing everything that went on and when the Vicompte de Chagny was introduced, Christine gave a small gasp and whispered into Meg’s ear. “That’s Raoul – I know him! You might say that we were childhood sweethearts!” and she smiled gently.

Meg looked enviously at Christine. “He’s so handsome Christine! Do you think he will remember you?”

Christine shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s been a good ten years since we last saw each other.”

Madame Giry overheard the two girls talking and sent them a silent, yet stern look and they were immediately quiet.

Monsieur Lefevre continued on with the introductions. “I know I have already introduced Madame Dubois as one of our new owners, but I would like to add that she is well acquainted with the arts and is an Opera and ballet enthusiast.”

Another smattering of applause around the stage greeted the third new owner of the Opera Populaire.

Madame Dubois was an older woman in her mid-fifties with short grey hair and she wore glasses. She was slender and had on a grey muslin dress that was very attractive on her. Her face was kindly and intelligent and she looked like she could be a scholar or a librarian.

She stepped forward, gave a little bow and then stepped back once more.

Next Monsieur Lefevre called on some of the opera stars to meet the new owners, and so Carlotta and Piangi were introduced to all of them.

Carlotta was furious. She said, in no uncertain terms, that the two men, Firmin and Andre, were more interested in the ‘dancing girls’ than in her. She gave Madame Dubois a disdainful look and then ignored her. Then she went so far as to threaten to quit!

This brought on a flurry of frantic activity, whereby the old owner, Monsieur Lefevre, hastened the new owners to entice Carlotta to sing a solo from act three of ‘Hannibal’ entitled “Think of Me” They immediately asked her to sing the song.

Carlotta stepped out onto the stage and began to sing the song –

“Think of me,
Think of me fondly,
When we’ve said goodbye.
Remember me once in a while
Please promise me you’ll try.” 1

But even though Carlotta had a lovely singing voice, it was too high for the song and her voice had too much vibrato in it. Also, her voice tended to hurt the ears.

Suddenly, while she was singing, one of the backdrops from up above started to fall, and before anyone could do anything, it fell right on top of Carlotta, causing her to be crushed to the floor from its weight and it also stopped her from singing any more.

People rushed from all sides to see if she was injured and to help her up.

Meg Giry whispered to Christine, “It’s the Phantom of the Opera!”

Christine looked up at the upper parts of the stage and all around, but could see no one. She was frightened.

Joseph Buquet appeared at his post up above them and when asked where he had been by Monsieur Lefevre, he admitted that he had not been there a few moments ago, and if there had been anyone up there, it had to have been a ‘ghost!’

The new owners hastily apologized to Carlotta and one of them even said “that these things do happen.”Carlotta was beside herself with fury about the “accidents” that had been happening to her for the past three years and this latest one was the last straw! She quit abruptly and stormed out, taking with her, her dog and her box, also her maid, wigmaker and seamstress. Piangi also left with her, saying “amateurs!” as he left.

The three new owners were stunned and alarmed. They had no one to sing in her place – there was no understudy for Carlotta!

As they were talking among themselves, Madame Giry walked quietly toward the back of the theatre and looked up. An envelope fluttered down at her and landed at her feet. She opened it and walked up to the new owners and addressed them.

“Here is a note from the Opera Ghost.”

“Opera Ghost?” they all said at once.

“He welcomes you to his Opera House...” Madame Giry continued.

“His Opera House?” they asked again.

“... and he wants to remind you,” Madame Giry went on, “that box five is his and it is to be reserved for him. Also his salary is due – twenty thousand francs. He is to be paid this amount at the beginning of every month.”

A gasp escaped the owners’ mouths.

“Twenty thousand francs?” said Monsieur Firmin in shock.

“Perhaps you can pay him more, now that the patron for the Opera House is the Vicompte de Chagny.” Madame Giry said sharply.

Raoul was still on the stage with the new owners and spoke up.

“I refuse to see this company blackmailed by some ‘phantom’ or ‘ghost’ that is flittering around trying to scare people or even injure them!” he said angrily.

At this moment a new voice spoke up – it was Madame Dubois. Her voice was soft and gentle, yet it had steel in it too. A smile was on her attractive face.

“I think we all need to calm down, first of all.

"Secondly, I’m sorry that Carlotta has quit, and that a piece of backdrop accidentally fell on her, but she was not seriously injured, thank goodness. And, I’m also sure that we will find a replacement for her in time for this evening's performance.”

At this point Monsieur Reyer rolled his eyes and lifted up his hands and shook his head.

Madame Dubois continued, “Next, I would like to suggest that we start a new tradition here at the Opera Populaire. I think that we, at the beginning of each day of rehearsals, should have a ‘group hug!’ .“

A stunned silence followed her suggestion.

“A what?” said Madame Giry in annoyance.

“A ‘group hug’. That is where everyone turns to the person next to them and gives them a hug and a word of encouragement to that person, or just says “hello” and introduces themselves to one another. This helps to encourage each other in their endeavors on stage and to give others courage that are feeling uncertain. You should also turn to someone else as well so that they get hugs also. That way everyone gets a hug!” Madame Dubois explained to the new owners.

Madame Giry’s eyes were nearly popping out of their sockets.

“Mon dieu!” she exclaimed. “What in the world…!”

But the other two new owners, Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre had smiles on their faces and a slightly lecherous look in their eyes.

“Capital idea!” they enthused together.

“Maybe it would be alright,” said Monsieur Lefevre hesitantly.

Madame Dubois was excited. “Come on now, everyone! Group hug!” she called out and she made a motion with her hands for people to get closer and hug.

Christine and Meg looked at each other and giggled. Then shrugging their shoulders they gave each other a good hard hug and words of encouragement to one another. Then they turned to the ballerinas on the other side of them and exchanged hugs with them also. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all!

Madame Dubois, being encouraged by this sight, quickly walked over to Monsieur Lefevre and gave his an enthusiastic hug and a kiss on each cheek (as is French custom), and whispered in his ear “I’m so sorry you have to leave!”

Monsieur Lefevre hugged her back quickly but he would not kiss her. He muttered something about his health being bad; that was the reason for his retirement to Australia.

Quickly getting the idea, Monsieurs Firmin and Andre walked over to Meg and Christine and started to hug the two startled women and even tried to kiss them on their cheeks as well.

Madame Giry was over there in a flash, slapping at the men and saying, “Take your hands off my daughter immediately, sir!” to Monsieur Firmin, and to Monsieur Andre, who was hugging (and trying to kiss) a less than willing Christine – “Take your hands off Christine this instant! She is like my own daughter! How dare you paw her like that!”

The two men let go of Meg and Christine, but their greedy eyes roamed around the stage for other women to ‘hug’.

By now confusion and pandemonium had a grip on the whole group rehearsing in the theatre.

Some people refused to hug at all and looked ‘dagger eyes’ at one another. Some people tentatively hugged each other and chatted.

Monsieur Joseph Buquet was very much for this new tradition and, coming down to the stage floor from up above, went over to Madame Giry and hugged her hard and tried to kiss her on her mouth, fumes of liquor on his breath.

Madame Giry pulled away and slapped Monsieur Buquet hard across his face and said to him, in her strong French accent – “Joseph Buquet, keep your hands at the level of you eyes!” and spun away in fury and walked away from him as quickly as she could!

The musicians in the orchestra were also trying to hug each other and greet one another, but with mixed results.

The sound of clashing and crashing instruments could be heard up on the stage, along with cursing and swearing. A horrific cry shrieked out from one of the violinists as the sound of splintering wood was heard.

“Oh, my God! That was my Stradivarius you broke you fool! Stop hugging me! And don’t even think of kissing me!” a resounding slap followed the statement.

Monsieur Reyer, the conductor, was desperately trying to restore calm and order to his orchestra, but having a hard time of it.

One of the younger women in the cello section, her long blond hair swinging gently from side to side, her pale blue dress swishing in a provocative manner, went over to Monsieur Reyer and put her arms around his neck, but her mouth on his and proceeded to give him a ‘French kiss’ very enthusiastically and hugged him very hard!

“I’ve been wanting to do that to you for the longest time, Monsieur Reyer!” she sighed when she came up for air. “Every time I have my cello between my legs, I imagine you are there instead!” she whispered in his ear.

Monsieur Reyer was stunned and shocked from Mademoiselle Roux’s kiss and suggestion and could not speak for a minute, But then he quickly recovered and shook the woman off and said in an icy voice, “Mademoiselle Roux, you are fired! Pick up your cello immediately and leave!” he straightened his shoulders and glared at the poor hapless woman now in tears and headed for her instrument. He added, to her retreating back, “I just hope my wife does not hear of this! You can pick up your final pay packet tomorrow!”

With that he picked up the white baton used for directing and using his most authoritative voice tried once more to restore order to his orchestra, but it was hard going.

Up on the stage people were still trying, or not, to hug one another and say “hello” to each other and gossip among themselves. This break from rehearsing was more than welcome. A few giggles and laughter could also be heard.

One couple on the stage, a man and a woman, had become very amorous and a voice called out to them, “Get a room!” When Madame Giry heard this, she rushed over to the couple to break them up.

Suddenly Christine Daae let out a terrified scream and nearly fainted. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing and stared at her. As soon as she could, Madame Giry went over to her.

“Whatever is the matter, Christine?” she asked.

“Someone came up behind me just now and grabbed me around my waist. Then this person started to fondle me!” she gasped out. “He had black gloves on and he groped my breasts and then went lower! Then he said to me in my ear, ‘This is just a preview of what is to come, my darling Christine!’ and then he was gone! I’m frightened, Madame Giry!”

The two new male owners of the Opera were practically salivating at the description Christine had given of her ordeal, but a sharp look from Madame Giry quickly made them turn away.

“The Phantom of the Opera! He was down here among us!” cried Meg in fear.

Christine paled at this announcement. “I’ve been fondled by the Phantom! Oh, ick!” and she shuddered hard.

Madame Giry held Christine close. “Hush, hush Christine. He’s gone now. He won’t harm you.” She said in a calming voice.

Madame Giry had had enough of this nonsense, so stepping away from Christine, she went out to the middle of the stage and thumping her cane on the floor hard and clapping her hands to get attention, she finally got everyone to calm down.

“Enough, enough! We have a rehearsal to do!” she said firmly. “Take your places everyone! No more ‘group hugs’! Madame Dubois, you may have meant well, but it did not work! Let’s drop the idea, shall we?”

Madame Dubois looked around and could see that things had calmed down, but her idea had floundered somewhat.

“Well,” she said, straightening her dress and patting her hair, “I guess we will curtail it for now. But I do have another suggestion for you!”

Monsieur Reyer, Monsieur Firmin and Madame Giry, as well as others on the stage, looked at her with suspicion and worry.

“You have been getting notes from this ‘Opera Ghost’ for some time now, with his demands, haven’t you?” Madame Dubois asked.

“Yes, we have.” replied Madame Giry. “What concern is it of yours?”

“Well, I was just thinking. I believe that this poor, lost soul actually is crying out for attention and love. We need to love him and welcome him into our family of singers and actors – not reject him and anger him!”

Everyone was now open-mouthed in astonishment and could not speak. Even Madame Giry was at a loss for words, but little mewing sound of worry came out of her mouth, none the less.

“Why don’t we do as this ‘Opera Ghost’ suggests? Give him his salary every month - after all, Monsieur Lefevere could afford to pay him, surely the Opera Populaire can continue to do so! This ‘Opera Ghost’ has to eat and clothe himself too, just like all of you!

"I also suggest that we continue to let him use box five, as he always has. It is another way of ‘welcoming’ him into our family and showing ‘love’ towards him.

"Perhaps we could also, on this first evening of this show of ‘Hannibal’, put some champagne in his box, along with some chocolate bon bons, perhaps some caviar and other delicacies, such as escargot and pate foie de gras and some vichyssoise for his enjoyment. Also, some red roses to decorate the box with!”

Madame Giry crossed her arms underneath her breasts, cocked her head and asked, sarcastically, with a haughty look on her face, “Anything else we can do to show our ‘love’ for the ‘Opera Ghost’, Madame Dubois?”

Madame Giry’s sarcasm was lost on Madame Dubois. Happily she gushed, “Yes! I think we should all sign a nice card for him – I just happen to have one with me today – and write little encouraging notes in it to him! Things like ‘welcome’ and ‘have a nice day’ and ‘enjoy the show’ or ‘it is nice to have you with us!’. We could leave it in his box, alongside the bottle of champagne so he will get it. Inside the card should also be a check for his twenty thousand francs. What do you all think?”

Madame Giry rolled her eyes, shook her head and lifted up her hands in frustration. She had a hard time not laughing, also.

Monsieur Lefvre spoke up – “I will gladly send a note to the Phantom – give me the card and I will sign it!” he said with ill disguised venom.

Madame Dubois looked at Monsieur Lefevre warily.

“We can’t write anything nasty, Monsieur Lefevre. It has to be nice things we say to him! After all, we don’t want to hurt his feelings!”

Monsieur Lefevre snorted in anger. “I don’t want to hurt his feelings, I just want to hurt him, Madame!”

Madame Dubois sighed, but went on anyway.

“The card I have with me has a lovely drawing of some flowers on the front of it. I will pass it around and we can all sign the inside of the card and then give it to the Phantom tonight.”

Raoul spoke up and said, “I have to be going – could I please sign it first, Madame Dubois?”

Madame Dubois handed him her card and Raoul took out his fountain pen and hastily scribbled a message in it. Then, bowing to everyone, quickly left the stage. Christine sighed as she watched him leave. He had not even noticed her!

Madame Dubois went up to her co-owners, Monsieurs Firmin and Andre and handed the card to them. They shrugged their shoulders and then took out their own fountain pens and thinking for a moment, each wrote something in the card.

Next she went up to Joseph Buquet and asked him to sign it. He was embarrassed, but took the pen offered to him and quickly scribbled a short note in it.

Slowly, but surely the card made its way around to several others, some refusing to sign it, but most of them did.

When the card came back to Madame Dubois she was dismayed to read the messages written inside of it –

“There is no ‘Phantom of the Opera’!” was what Raoul had written. Little notes of music were drawn around the sentence.

“Just who the hell are you?” Meg Giry had written.

“You grope me again, Monsieur ‘Ghost’, and I will kick you very hard where it really hurts!” was Christine’s message to him.

“I wouldn’t give you the time of day, much less twenty thousand francs, you blackmailing son of a …” wrote Monsieur Firmin.

“I am not afraid of you, Monsieur ‘Phantom’. I know where you live!” was the note that Joseph Buquet wrote.

“I would like to put a very large firecracker under your chair in Box Five and set it off while you are seated there and see it blow you right out of the box, along with your champagne and roses!” Monsieur Andre had written.

“I’m glad I’m out of here, Monsieur ‘Ghost’! I’ll be in Australia and I will now be able to save twenty thousand francs a month by not having to pay you!” the former owner, Monsieur Lefevre wrote in the card.

“You are not helping the Opera Company any by chasing away our star singer, Carlotta! We need her! Who will replace her? Do you want to sing in her place for us tonight, eh?” Monsieur Reyer wrote.

Quite a few of the other singers and ballet dancers had written various other messages –

“Break a leg (literally) ‘Ghost’!”

“Shoo, go away!”

“Please leave us alone, we are afraid of you!”

“You are ruining the Opera company! Stop it!”

“Do you want to destroy this Opera Company? Then leave us alone!”

Madame Dubois was heartsick to see all these negative messages for the Phantom of the Opera. She was especially puzzled by why one of the respondents wanted the Phantom to "Bite me!"

She could not possibly give this card to him – it would break his heart!

She turned to the group on the stage.

“You are all very mean and cruel to write such things in this card! I can’t possibly give this card to him!” and she proceeded to tear the card up into several pieces and threw them on the floor in anger.

“Furthermore, I resign! I refuse to be a part of a company that won’t show love and compassion for others or for themselves! How you can live with yourselves is beyond me!” and with this pronouncement she walked off the stage, her back ramrod straight, but tears blurred her eyes as she left.

Quietly, and without anyone noticing, Madame Giry went over to the spot where the torn and scattered pieces of paper lay, picked them up and put them in her pocket. She then went off to the side of the stage where she could not be seen and pieced the papers together again.

When she saw what had been written, anger and dismay coursed through her, and she vowed to make it up to Erik, the Phantom. She quickly went back out to the front of the stage where Monsieurs Andre and Firmin were now heatedly discussing about who would replace Carlotta for that night’s performance. They were frantic. They would have to refund all the money if someone wasn’t found!

Madame Giry spoke up, “Christine Daae could replace her in that new song “Think of Me” during the third act, Monsieur Andre. She had been taking lessons from a great teacher.”

“What? A chorus girl? Don’t be silly!” said Monsieur Andre.

“Let her sing for you.” insisted Madame Giry.

So, reluctantly they let Christine sing, but when they did, they realized she was truly wonderful and a perfect replacement for Carlotta. So, the Phantom (unbeknownst to everyone) was vindicated, because he was behind Christine’s huge success that evening at the Opera Populaire.



1 — Song "Think of Me" from The Phantom of the Opera Return

Christine's story is continued in
The Phantom's Lair || The Carriage Ride || The Graveyard Scene || A Picnic
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