Each participant has paid good money for this:
the retired Korean engineer training for
a 2nd career as a church soloist, an Armenian
immigrant who attempts a Donizetti aria, the young
ingénue wavering between pop and an uncertain classical career.
The opera coach stands before us,
curves his fingers upward into a cathedral arch
to demonstrate how the first singer must widen her mouth.
He takes her torso, turns it to position the body as if for attack,
the voice an arrow aimed at a far-off target.
The audience motionless, attentive, though in truth
we are more like fans cheering the home team.
Introduced to the coach, I am nervous as if on audition.
I blurt out how my brother was a boy soprano
in the San Francisco Opera, as if this gives me legitimacy,
worried that any minute this man will discover
I can’t keep pitch, exposing me in front of everyone.
My palms are beginning to sweat, the pleasure of Puccini’s
O mio Babbino lost to the anxiety of whether
the singers will hit their high notes.
They may not be here for applause, but isn’t that what we all want,
if only once: to be tossed a bouquet onstage, cheered and greeted
by throngs of well-wishers at the stage door.
Carol V. Davis is the author of Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State University Press, forthcoming in 2017), Between Storms (Truman State University Press, 2012), Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (Truman State University Press, 2007), It’s Time to Talk About… (Symposium, 1997), and a chapbook, The Violin Teacher (Dancing Girl Press, Chicago, 2005).