Chapter 33

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“That was tolerable,” Ms. Tragent remarked cynically.

Maude had just finished singing “Tra la la” from Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

“Just remember, your character is playful, witty, and full of charm. She knows it and so does everyone else in the opera. Don’t hesitate. Your laugh isn’t as charming as it should be.”

Maude held back an impatient sigh. She’d tried at least thirteen different laughs, but none seemed to suit her demanding teacher.

Ms. Tragent moved away from her piano, moved closer to Maude and looked at her thoughtfully.

“When singing opera you have to be wholeheartedly in character. Every detail counts. That laugh of yours was too jittery. It scorched my poor ears.”

“That’s because I’ve been forcing twenty different kinds of laughs!” Maude protested.

Ms. Tragent turned abruptly towards Maude and faced her with flashing eyes. Maude recoiled, then decided against it, straightened up with a defiant stance, curled her lips, and let out a light, graceful, witty laugh.

Ms. Tragent hid an amused smile.

“That’s better,” she granted.

Maude heaved a sigh of relief. Even laughing demanded a Herculean effort with Ms. Tragent. Nevertheless, she enjoyed singing Carmen.

“I know you enjoy every minute you spend here,” Ms. Tragent observed with her uncanny knack of reading people’s thoughts. “No matter how harsh I speak, you still comply.”

“I want to improve,” Maude replied truthfully.

“You have improved, Ms. Laurent.”

Maude peered at her stern teacher curiously. Ms. Tragent complimenting her students was a rarity Maude had only heard of but never actually witnessed.

“You have what it takes to become a remarkable operatic singer if you wished. Have you ever considered pursuing a classical career?”

“Before coming to New York, I wanted to pursue a classical career. I dreamt of attending the Conservatoire de Paris,” Maude admitted.

 “And now?”

“I can’t say the idea of becoming an operatic singer isn’t thrilling. However, classical music is exclusive. It’s impossible for an operatic singer to sing anything else. I’ve discovered pop, jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, and soul. I would never want to give those up.”

“Who says you would have to? Take Barbara Hendricks for example. She’s a world-renowned African American soprano operatic singer and yet­­—”

“And yet she also sings jazz professionally,” Maude completed, nodding her head. “I see what you mean. Nevertheless, she is one of the happy few.”

“You must make your own path. Shape your own career whichever road you choose,” Ms. Tragent advised. “I heard extracts of your upcoming album.”

Maude winced, waiting for her teacher’s sharp criticism.

“It wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be,” Ms. Tragent continued. “You and Matt did a good job using different musical influences. Mixing elements of pop, jazz, soul, and classical is a feat. It makes for an interesting album.”

She paused, observing Maude with her penetrating blue stare.

“You are lucky to be working with James. I hope you realize that. He gave you the freedom to experiment and to make an album reflecting who you really are. Matt wasn’t so lucky with Glitter Records. Classical music is a part of you and blends well with every modern musical style as long as it is done correctly. Don’t erase that part of you just to fit into a category, a label.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Maude replied solemnly.

Ms. Tragent looked worriedly at Maude. She seemed young, hopeful, and defiant but at the same time so terribly inexperienced.

“I hope you’ll always have so much freedom, but I’d be wary of Alan if I were you. He’s a shark who would’ve been better off at Glitter than at Soulville.”

Maude smiled ruefully.

“Just don’t let anyone else steal your songs and you’ll be fine,” Ms. Tragent declared dryly. “Now, enough daydreaming. Start over from the beginning!”


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