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Saturday, February 19, 2011

A New Novel, Part 139 Coppellia and the Dower Russian Girl

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Aksinya, Ernst, and Natalya finished their dinner at the Palais Coburg Hotel.  I didn't end the last chapter with a kicker--I just gave you a partial transition.  The rest of the transition and the setting for chapter 12 begins...

The landau drove them only a few blocks away to the Wien State Opera. The building was large and classical. It wasn’t as brightly lit as the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz. The gaslights flickered in the chill breeze. Ernst escorted Aksinya into the building. When they entered, Aksinya wobbled a little shakily on her feet. She held tightly to Ernst’s arm, and almost fell when she entered the enormous foyer. She almost lost her feet again near the center of the large entranceway. Aksinya whirled when she thought she spotted Asmodeus in the crowd, but immediately lost sight of him. Ernst clasped her arm tightly under his and kept her from falling. Natalya steadied her. She followed right behind Aksinya. Ernst took care of their coats. He led Aksinya to a box seat. She finally concluded that she was unsteady on her feet from the wine at supper, so she held even more tightly to Ernst’s arm so she wouldn’t stumble. Ernst seated her and then Natalya. He took the chair between them both.

As though the ballet master waited just for them, at that moment, the lights dimmed and the conductor walked across the stage and climbed into the orchestra pit. Aksinya leaned forward and held the side of the rail. She kept a tight grip on her flowers.

The music started. It was bright and melodic. Aksinya was entranced. Ernst propped his elbows on the top of the rail. His face was close to hers, “I didn’t tell you the ballet we are going to see. It is Coppellia and a comedic ballet.”

Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage, “A ballet that is a comedy. I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“Ah, you Russians are so dower. I can’t remember a Russian comedy.”

“Do you think I am dower?”

“You are entirely too serious, but I find that engaging in you. I have never met a serious woman before.”

Aksinya’s eyes moved toward his face, “I would indeed like to be taken seriously. I am a serious woman.”

“Also a dangerous woman.”

“I don’t wish to be thought a dangerous woman.”

“But you are. That makes your seriousness necessary.”

“Or, I am just dower. What is this Coppellia about?”

Ernst turned his face toward hers. Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage and orchestra. He laughed, “It is a story about an old man, Dr. Coppellia, who tries to use magic to give life to a mechanical woman.”

“Does he succeed?”

“No. He believes he has, but in the end it is all a trick. At the conclusion, the young fool does marry the wonderful and smart heroine. A match between a serious girl and a frivolous boy.”

Aksinya mumbled, “I am like the old man. I have made a terrible thing.”

“You said, Countess?”

“Nothing. I said nothing…”

Ah, I love contrasts--especially those that we find in real life.  I like to point them out.  In my writing, I hope you find them like pearls.  I don't need to describe the landau to you again.  I do describe the Wien State Opera, but I do it through contrasts and comparison.  The building is large and classical (so was the Palais Coburg).  The difference is the lighting, and in the night, that is the only real difference that matters.  I give you the sense of the gaslights because that is a little creepy and you can feel both the chill and the darkness.
Then, we get to Aksinya.  At dinner, she was becoming happily drunk.  I don't tell you this--I show you this.  I show you just how drunk she is and then drop a grenade into the group.  She spots Asmodeus again, this time at the State Opera house, but then quickly loses sight of him.  She didn't notice the smell of sulphur.  We are left unsure.  We are as uncertain as Aksinya--is Asmodeus really there or not?  Aksinya is so tipsy, how could she be certain of anything.  She even held more tightly to Ernst after she finally figured out she had drunk too much.  I'll bet Ernst loved that.  Ernst is quite the gentleman to gently handle a slightly tipsy noble woman.
The ballet starts and Aksinya can't hide her excitement.  I don't tell you any of this--you see it in the character.  Look at how she leans forward and clings to the bouquet.  Ernst moves to come closer to Aksinya, then he finally tells her the name of the ballet--Coppellia.  I don''t have to tell you about the ballet, Ernst does that for Aksinya, and you get to listen along.  All the ballets and operas that Aksinya and Ernst attend are very important to the theme of this novel.  The ensuing conversation about the seriousness of Russian entertainment is spot on.  In all the world, there are few comedic ballets.  The Russians have only one of note--the Nutcracker, and that one isn't all that encouraging.  At least the heroine doesn't die.
The undercurrent of Aksinya and Ernst's conversation is very important.  Remember Aksinya is slightly drunk.  She is uninhibited.  The tongue in cheek conclusion from Ernst is that she is a dangerous woman.  This can be easily deconstructed.  Aksinya is dangerous because of her sorcery.  She is also dangerous because she tempts Ernst--and she is drunk.  We know all about how dangerous Aksinya really is, but Ernst really has no idea how dangerous this young woman is.
Coppellia is a fun, romantic ballet.  I know a lot about it because I've played Dr. Coppellia more than once.  Each of the ballets and operas Ernst takes Aksinya to parallel the problems in her own life.  I don't need to tell you, Ernst is being coached by Asmodeus.  I don't tell you this directly anywhere--I hint at it.  Ernst's knowledge and choices are too close to home every time. 
The plot of Coppellia is just as Ernst explains.  In it, Dr. Coppellia tries to use magic to bring the doll Coppellia to life.  In this novel, Aksinya used sorcery to give life to a demon.  Coppellia is almost an exact parallel to Aksinya's life.  The difference is that Coppellia is a farce, and Dr. Coppellia fails to bring forth useful magic or a mechanical woman.  Aksinya, on the other hand, succeeded too well.  The parallel between Coppellia's serious girl and frivolous boy shouldn't surprise you.  Aksinya is the serious girl and Ernst, the frivolous boy.  The parallels are not lost on Aksinya--in her inhibition, she mumbles the truth: "I have made a terrible thing.".  Tomorrow, Coppellia and caviar.

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