Sofie & Carlo - Exhaustion and Recovery

Episode 9

Somewhere in Europe a festival is underway. Every day brings a crisis. Somehow the big people in charge only ever arrive at the end. Only the two young interns, Sofie and Carlo, stand between triumph and disaster.

At the end of the evening indoor concert, towards 11pm, Sofie was ready in the Great Conductor's dressing room with the requisite glass, bottle of sparkling water, and large brandy. The GC, dripping sweat and his eyes glazed after more than an hour of Bruckner, could only nod his thanks. His mind was still in an organ loft in Linz, even if his frame was in a bare modernist dressing-room with no windows.

Sofie, herself aglow from the wonder of the sumptuous music, withdrew silently towards the door, ready to repel agents, vague friends, sponsors and autograph hunters as instructed.

“Wait,” the voice of the conductor was barely a whisper. Sofie stopped and turned. “Was that OK? You haven't said anything.”

“It was amazing. Wonderful.”

The exhausted older man slumped into an armchair and swallowed half the cognac. “I don't know. The Scherzo. Rigid, no air, no life. Dull!”

He was almost three times her age. Sofie didn't know what to say. She trembled. “I thought it was...”

“That bad?”

Courage returned. “No! I thought it was incredible, one of the most exciting things I have ever heard. I was almost dancing.”

They looked at each other in silence for a long moment. It was the sort of silence that holds an inquisition and a surrender. A sharp rap on the door broke the spell. “Shall I..?” asked Sofie.

“No, not yet. Everybody must wait.” As Sophie put her hand out to open the door, he added, “but you come back in. You give me strength. So does this,” he waved the glass then finished the drink. “Maybe you can asked someone to bring me a little more – and one for you, champagne perhaps?”

That's only fair, thought Sofie and nodded. Outside the door Carlo was lurking. She also saw fierce Oxana fast approaching as she relayed the errand to Carlo. He shuffled off in disgust at his menial role and the free drink Sofie was getting. Being her barman was not his ambition.

Oxana was about to barge into the dressing-room when Sofie blocked her way and explained. Not easy, pulling rank on the General Manager but to Sofie's surprise she did not insist. “Not had the second cognac yet. That figures. In you go then. Let me know when he's ready.”

“Thank you,” smiled the Great Conductor with all humility as Sofie closed the door. “Now it's my turn to change my shirt,” he said, alluding to her t-shirt that had got soaked in the rain a couple of days earlier at rehearsal for the open air concert of Gershwin and Bernstein 'pops'. “I will take a shower then I will face those who wish me well – and those who only pretend to.”

It was not a large dressing-room. The shower opened directly into it without quite enough room to undress, especially from the clobber of white tie and tails. Sofie wondered whether she was expected to watch him strip and hold the towel. It did not thrill her.

That was anticipated. “Perhaps you would sit down and close your eyes for a moment, until you hear the water.”

While the water revived the Maestro, Carlo returned with the drinks. It seemed the bar had finished the open champagne and was not prepared to breach another. Sophie had a half bottle all to herself. Carlo refused to do the honours and shuffled out in search of a beer.

By the time the door was opened again to the outside world close to midnight, all but the most fervent admirers had melted away, Oxana and the director among them. The Maestro and Sofie were doing fine, though. The only dampener on the conductor's night was that Carlo jumped in the front seat next to the chauffeur when Sofie was offered a lift home.