As I stepped into the setting of the Palais Garnier, it was with the feeling of dreaming. The Phantom of the Opera had always been one of my favourite stories and here I was; in the very opera house where the legend was born. The beauty was everywhere, and it somehow made everything else fall away. Nothing else mattered. The painted ceilings and halls of mirrors entranced me. It made me think of all the romance and love of performing I used to have. How I used to dream of a great stage career in a setting like this one.
On the way out I watched a recording of Swan Lake play. The final scene where the swans destroy Von Rothbart and Odette throws herself into the lake. I stood, bewitched by the beauty of the dance and the story, just as I had been by the building. It made me realise how important art is to me. I’m still in love with it. Still in love with the fantasy. In the ability to spin worlds where there is only the beauty.
No clownish bosses.
No spreadsheets of numbers.
None of the day to day drudgery and silliness that we have to deal with.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to immediately run back to London, throw everything in with my career in digital and social media, and make a last ditch try to really make the dream of performing come true. To play different characters, to entertain and make the beauty on-stage as I once did. I know there are realities and reasons why I decided not to pursue that life. But in that moment, there was nothing else. Nothing worth doing. I stared for so long that one of the new friends I was staying with had to pull me by the wrist and wake me up from the dream. I couldn’t look away, the way the ballet dancers moved, in the gilded jewel box of the Palais Garnier, everything about it seduced me.
I regretted that my life couldn’t be about art and beauty as I once wanted it to be. I felt, I feel, like I’ve fallen so far. To a place with things and people I just can’t care about. I didn’t realise just how much until that moment. Until I needed to be woken up. I was surrounded by beauty again and I didn’t want the spell to be broken. Like Odette’s transformation into a swan. Like the mermaid gaining her legs. Like the curse on the Princess Aurora. It’s been missing in my life, and I realised in that moment I needed to get it back.
Perhaps I will never become the actor or singer I once dreamed of being. But there may be other ways I can find that beauty again; that I can hear that silent, bewitching siren’s song I thought I’d lost forever.
During the weekend, Marina introduced me to her friends as the best writer she knows. I didn’t know what to say to that. But I felt a surging and swelling of pride inside me, as though I was so happy to be defined by art again, even for a moment. Perhaps writing is some small talent I can foster, to make into my own. Perhaps there is some way that I can turn that into…I don’t know, into a something.
All I know is, what I felt in that great old opera house, I have to feel again. I need to create and to live, at least some of the time, in that world. A world where we are something else and apart from the everyday, where we reach for higher things. Perhaps somehow art truly is gifted to us from some realm which is truly ‘other’, sitting somewhere between earth and angels. I don’t pretend to know where those duel worlds of inspiration and imagination live, but all I know is that is where I’m happiest. I know that I need to find my way there again.