Opening Night @LisabetSarai #Ruddigore #MMRomance #London #Theater #Victorian #AlternativeHistory
It’s January 1887, a few days before the opening of the audacious new operetta “Ruddigore”.
As if librettist William Gilbert doesn’t have enough to worry about, one of the D’Oyly Carte stars breaks his leg doing the horn pipe.
Fortunately, the understudy Frank Wilson turns out to be immensely talented, as well as devilishly handsome.
Wilson has set his heart on Gilbert – and he’s not going to be swayed from his course.
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Let your heart be your compass
A Lifelong Passion
When I was five years old, my parents took me to see my first Gilbert and Sullivan concert. I remember it surprisingly well. Organized outdoors as part of a summer music festival on the Boston Common, the performance featured the legendary Martyn Green from the D’Oyly Carte Opera company – the same troupe that originally mounted William Gilbert’s and Arthur Sullivan’s comic operas in the nineteenth century.
My father and mother were both G&S aficionados. The family must have had phonograph records of at least some of the operettas, because I could sing many of the songs by the time I was in my teens. Certainly we took advantage of whatever opportunities came along during my childhood to indulge ourselves in the topsy-turvy world of the famous pair.
The day I met my husband-to-be, he happened to mention that he was a G&S fan. I will admit, I took this as a sign that we were meant to be together. Later, he and I lived in a town that had its own G&S amateur group, who mounted a different operetta every year. Those were heady days! My parents would often travel cross-country to join us in what became a beloved ritual. During those years, I believe we saw performances of the entire G&S catalog.
Though not as generally popular as The Mikado or Pinafore, Ruddigore is probably my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan opera. This is partly due to the hints of darkness – Sullivan’s music echoing the eerier strains of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – but also the humor. The paradoxical logic that allows Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd to argue his way out of the witches’ curse is some of the best comic sleight-of-hand in any G&S play. Ruddigore also includes one of the most outstanding female characters in the oeuvre, Mad Margaret – a village woman driven to insanity by her passion for Ruthven’s Bad Baronet brother Despard. (Yes, I know, just the sort of person to whom a romance author would be drawn...)
There’s another bit in Ruddigore, though, that gave me the initial idea for Opening Night. Rollicking seaman Dick Dauntless is the foster brother and (supposedly) the bosom friend of the disguised Ruthven, and loudly proclaims his love for his brother in one of the scenes. What if that scene were to develop into a homo-erotic confession? I wondered. And then I thought about the possible repercussions, during the straight-laced Victorian period, if Gilbert were to find himself falling in love with another man.
Opening Night quotes liberally from the original play (courtesy of my mother’s Complete Works of Gilbert and Sullivan, which I inherited), but I admit to playing fast and loose with both history and the plot. I hope the result justifies this distortion – and that Gilbert would recognize the romantic appeal of my artistic license.
If you’ve never experienced Ruddigore, you’ll find a variety of recordings on YouTube, for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litYduyL1Xw
And for those of you who don’t have the patience to watch the opera... you might enjoy this four minute summary of the plot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeHbS8aA6TQ
In any case – I hope you’ll also check out my s Excerpt
Opening night was tomorrow, and everyone seemed to be eager and ready. So why did he feel so weighed down, so anxious and exhausted?
It was past ten when a knock woke him from a doze that must have crept up on him despite the fear of nightmares. “Yes, who is it?”
His visitor didn’t wait to be invited in. “It’s me, William. It’s Frank.”
Gilbert bolted upright, anger providing him with sudden energy. Red boiled behind his eyelids. “What are you doing here? I can’t have you here. Get out, this instant.”
The younger man shut the door. He sidled over in Gilbert’s direction. Gilbert backed away. “I needed to see you, William. To talk to you, about the other afternoon. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard.”
“Never mind. Just go away now. Please, go away.”
“I apologize for being so rude, so insensitive. I’ve been wanting you so long, it just seemed natural to say it. To show you. I should have realized how new this would be for you, how shocking.” With theatrical grace, Wilson glided to his knees in front of Gilbert, his head bowed. “Forgive me, please.”
Gilbert gazed down at Frank’s golden curls, gleaming in the harsh electric light. He smelled the man’s floral cologne. Damn, his heart was beating like thunder, and there was an uncomfortable tightness in his crotch. Damn, damn, damn.
“Get up,” he said gruffly. “Show a bit of self-respect, Wilson.”
“Not until I hear you say that I’m forgiven.”
“Fine, fine, I forgive you, now get up and go.”
Gilbert didn’t understand how he did it, but all at once Frank was standing in front of him, face to face, close, much too close. He was taller than Gilbert and had to bend to whisper.
“Thank you, William.” Then Gilbert felt the man’s mouth on his own. He felt Frank’s tongue toying with his mustache, tickling, probing, tentative at first, then bold and confident as Gilbert opened his lips.
Gilbert’s resistance melted. Frank’s arms encircled him, and Gilbert reciprocated, stirred by the sensation of strength in those young limbs. Frank tasted of horehound and tobacco, masculine and yet sweet. Frank kissed him eagerly, passionately, and from some place he had not known existed, Gilbert responded with equal passion.
He felt the hard, hot lump that he knew was Frank’s cock, grinding against his thigh. Somehow this did not terrify or appall him. He welcomed it, exquisitely aware that his own cock was swollen and sensitive.
The dark clouds that had haunted him for the past two days dissolved in the brilliance of Frank’s kiss. Gilbert did not think, did not worry or reason or judge. For the first time in a very long time, he simply allowed himself to feel.
Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, BingeBooks and Twitter.
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