(from my memoir “to Paris for lunch”)
Visiting Glyndebourne during the summer, I remembered how one warm spring evening in 1988 all the girls from the wardrobe department decided to have a drink after work. We had been working overtime for weeks – with the constant changes being made by designers and directors, the deadlines were crazy.
We all went to the staff bar, which was then attached to the main building. Everybody would meet there. It did not matter who you were; principal or chorus singer; in management or wig maker; prop maker or stage crew; designer; director; cleaner; gardener; dresser; tailor or dressmaker; in lighting or the coach driver – in the staff bar, we were all the same. Even Lady Mary and Sir George Christie could be seen there from time to time.
And this is where I met Sebastian.
He came into the bar, smiled and asked if the chair next to me was free, and after I replied ‘Yes, it is’ he turned his back to me and started talking to Willard White, who was standing near the bar. This was not a big place and we were all quite cramped in. It was noisy too; still, I could not help but overhear their conversation. This man next to me had a strange accent and I could not figure out where he came from. Speaking loudly and keeping his back turned to me, I decided that I really did not like him. He seemed arrogant. I remember beginning to get angry having to listen to what he was saying – I have no idea what it was about him, but the more he was showing off, the angrier I got.
So at some point, burning with a desire to tell him to speak more quietly, I raised my voice slightly saying, ‘It’s a shame some people have to speak in a manner that makes it impossible to hear one’s own voice!’ The girls looked at me in surprise; I myself was surprised! Oh my god, where did that come from?
I was usually less outspoken. But it worked. He sat up straight and slowly turned around and looked into my eyes. And then he said in German with a strong Italian accent, ‘Du sprichst Deutsch?’ I looked at him and could not respond at first. I felt as if I had been found out. He was so handsome.
Disarmed, I felt myself blush. I responded by still trying to be cross with him, keeping it short, in fact it could not have been shorter, ‘Ja!’ And with that I turned my back to him. Not because I didn’t want to speak to him, but because I knew I was so attracted to him and I didn’t know what to do.
‘Where are you from in Germany?’; He ignored my gesture.
‘Dusseldorf!’; I replied reluctantly over my shoulder.
‘Ah, Dusseldorf, I know it well, I used to play at the Schauspielhaus’; He turned around to Willard White and said, ‘Willard, this young lady here is from Germany. Weren’t you looking for someone who could teach you German?’. Everybody stared at me and I wished I had kept my mouth shut.
Willard looked up and walked over. He took my hand and kissed it. ‘Enchanter, would you like to teach me German, please?’. I was stunned and speechless. I smiled and mumbled something, thinking ‘Willard White kissed my hand!’.
Suddenly my noisy neighbour held his hand out to me and said, ‘Sorry, I have been rude. My name is Sebastian, would you be so kind and tell me your name?’
His English was perfect.
Still blushing, I quietly responded, ‘Nicole’.
Then somebody shouted from across the bar ‘Willard, your taxi is here!’ Willard said goodbye to me, shook Sebastian’s hand, and left.
I was still in shock. Wow, Willard White kissed my hand! I loved his voice, I had heard him sing, and he is amazing. Sebastian interrupted my line of thought,
‘Would you like another drink?’
‘No, thank you, I’ve got to go!’
I saw that the other girls were getting ready to leave and I really did not want to stay behind.
‘I am in London for a few days, but back again on Sunday, would you care to join me for lunch?’
‘No, sorry, I have to work!’ It shot out of me, sensing danger.
‘All day – on Sunday?’ He was disappointed, but did not give up.
‘Can I drop by at lunchtime, maybe you are able to take a break? I know a great place for lunch nearby!’
I hesitated, my heart was racing, but I was trying to stay in control; what am I going to do, he is so handsome! He gave me no time to reply.
‘Which department are you working in – wigs?’ he said grinning mischievously, looking at my Afro hair. What a cheek!!
‘No, wardrobe!’ I responded sulkily, and with that I stood up, took my bag and started to leave.
‘OK, I’ll pick you up at one.’
I stood there in disbelief, how dare he….how arrogant, but….how exciting!
(to be continued)