• Published 22nd Feb 2019
  • 988 Views, 37 Comments

Daring Do: The Opera - AlexTFish

Diamond Tiara is excited to have a starring role in Autumn Blaze's new opera. She knows the Opera House isn't haunted, but if it were, she'd be ready to give any Opera Spirit a stern talking-to.

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Act I: Audition

“Yoo-hoo! Over here!” Applejack swung a hoof in an exaggerated wave. It was perhaps somewhat superfluous given they were the only ponies standing on the platform of Ponyville Station, but Apple Bloom knew it was all part of giving a guest a proper welcome.

Sure enough, their visitor gave a wide beam as she saw them. Her dark antler-like horn glowed teal as she lifted a small suitcase out of the train and cantered towards them, her green-tipped hooves clacking across the platform. And then she opened her mouth…

“Applejack! Oh, wow, it’s so great to see you again! Thank you so much for inviting me to visit you here in your hometown – you have no idea how much it means to me. And this must be your darling little sister Apple Bloom! Except she’s almost a full-grown mare – not at all as tiny as you made her sound – Apple Bloom, did you know that your sister described you as a little filly? I guess that’s big sisters for you, am I right?”

Reeling slightly from the enthusiastic barrage of words, Apple Bloom didn’t respond immediately, causing Autumn Blaze to continue thoughtfully, “No, really – am I right or not? I don’t have a sister myself so I don’t really know for sure, though plenty of the other kirin have siblings and I tried to observe the way they relate but you never know whether you’ve really observed the way they’d act if you weren’t there, you know?”

The moment the kirin paused, Apple Bloom interjected, “I’m Apple Bloom, that’s right. It’s great to meet ya. We were all so excited when we heard that you’d be coming to stay here in Ponyville for a bit! We’re determined to make ya feel at home.”

“Eeyup,” added Big Mac, carrying Autumn Blaze’s suitcase towards the door.

The kirin beamed and followed him. Apple Bloom said quietly to Applejack as they brought up the rear, “You weren’t kiddin’ about how much she talks!”

Applejack grinned. “As if I would. I kinda want ta introduce her to Pinkie Pie…”

Apple Bloom’s eyes widened at the thought. “And then, uh, stand well back?”

Her big sister gave her a wink.

The conversation continued as the group trotted along the Ponyville streets towards Sweet Apple Acres. Apple Bloom managed to get a word in edgeways and ask, “So Autumn Blaze! I heard somethin’ about you wantin’ to do a play here?”

“Oh, yes, absolutely! That’s the whole reason I came here. I mean, I’ve been wanting to come and visit for a while, but the situation with the opera meant I had no choice!” Her eyes narrowing, Autumn Blaze muttered confidingly, “Applejack, you remember I once asked you ’Who doesn’t love musical theatre?’ Well, obviously at the time I thought the rest of the kirin were only not coming to watch my plays because of the whole magically suppressed emotions thing. But it turns out that actually… Maybe the kirin village just isn’t ready for my style of musical theatre.”

Apple Bloom answered brightly, “Well, I’m sure things’ll be different here in Ponyville! The ponies here love all kinds o’ spectacles.”

The kirin smiled at her somewhat shyly. “I do hope they enjoy it. As soon as I read those Daring Do books that Rainbow Dash lent me I knew I had to write a play about them because wow! Such drama! So adventurous! And I couldn’t resist making it an opera but then that means I need to find cast who can sing – hey, Apple Bloom, do you sing?”

Apple Bloom was caught by surprise at that. “Me? Uh, a bit, I guess?”

“Great! Would you like to audition for my opera?”

“Uh… Sure! But… I don’t think I’d exactly be star material.”

Autumn Blaze smiled at her. “I’ll be the judge of that once you audition! But do bring your friends as well – especially if you know anypony who’s a really good singer and actress!”

A thoughtful look crossed Apple Bloom’s face. “Hmm, now that ya mention it…”

Diamond Tiara couldn’t remember a time before the Ponyville opera house had closed its doors. Her parents still lamented the loss of the high-class shows that they apparently used to enjoy patronising there. But to Diamond Tiara it had always been just a shuttered, vaguely creepy-looking building around the corner from the town hall. Occasionally kids at school had dared each other to sneak into it.

Now, for the first time in over a decade, it was open. Diamond Tiara was waiting with a number of other ponies, both fillies and adults, inside a spacious room that had clearly once served as a drinks bar. No drinks remained, but a workpony wearing a hard hat was repairing the counter, and from time to time others trotted through carrying tools and furnishings, squeezing past the line of ponies waiting to audition.

Diamond Tiara stood in this line, waiting calmly, projecting an air of aloof confidence… Which was, in truth, a total sham. It felt like her nervous perspiration must be visible to the others around her, but long experience of putting on a show wherever she was had taught her that projecting an impression of class and poise was startlingly effective at masking whatever doubts she might have inside.

“Hey, Diamond Tiara, there’s no need to be nervous,” Sweetie Belle chirped from behind her.

...Effective, that is, except to friends who knew her well. She sighed.

“I know,” she replied reluctantly. “I really know. This isn’t any more demanding than attending one of Mother’s soirées. Or it shouldn’t be.”

Scootaloo peered past Sweetie Belle and said, “That’s a weird comparison to make. Surely it’s just like acting in the school play? Or, like, that talent show we all did ages ago?”

Diamond Tiara gave a wan smile. “Not really. At the school play or the talent show, I’m only competing against other students. At Mother’s soirées the stakes are much higher. There are lots of high society ponies there, and the impression you make on them is all-important… in Mother’s eyes at least,” she added sourly.

Apple Bloom interjected from in front of her, “I thought those parties went different now since ya reformed? You’re not chasing power at any cost now, right?”

Diamond Tiara smiled. “Definitely not! But getting on the right side of important ponies is still worth doing. Remember how I was able to get Fancy Pants to come to Twist’s fundraiser for the new school library?”

Scootaloo replied dubiously, “So you’re saying… chasing power is fine as long as you use it for good?”

“And as long as you don’t do anything bad to get it. Yeah.” Diamond Tiara completed the second half of the mantra that had been her guiding principle in recent years.

It wasn’t so different from how she used to think, from one point of view. Her early attempts to gain power, like being editor of the school newspaper or being president at school, had been clumsy, but well-aimed as far as they went. Even back then, she hadn’t made a habit of being gratuitously mean for no reason… but she’d been very willing to be mean if it looked like it’d gain her something. Popularity, usually, or social currency of some other form.

Now that she’d changed, she was a firm believer that friendship was more important than power, and she tried to avoid acting in ways that’d disappoint her friends. But seeking power still came so naturally to her, so she’d put quite some thought into whether and when it was permissible. “There’s so much good I can do already now that I’m re-elected Student Pony President, and I can do even more good if I’m friends with influential ponies.”

“Interesting philosophy,” commented an unfamiliar voice. The four fillies looked around to see an orange adult pegasus with blonde mane in an elaborate coif.

Diamond Tiara gasped, while Scootaloo just squinted and said, “Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

“You’re Chestnut Magnifico!” exclaimed Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo thought for a moment, then shrugged. “Not ringing any bells. Sorry.”

Diamond Tiara couldn’t help but wince. “Miss Magnifico is a famous Bridleway actress.” And somepony Mother has invited to her parties a couple of times but without success, she added to herself. Her embarrassment on her friends’ behalf shifted to a more personal remorse as she realised this famous pony had overheard and even commented on Diamond Tiara’s moral principles. “Um, what brings you to our humble village, Miss Magnifico?”

The older mare gave a disarming laugh. “Not so humble these days, is it? What with the Princess of Friendship living here, not to mention a nationally renowned fashion designer and one of the Wonderbolts… Oh, and various civilisation-threatening villains like the kid who tried to drain all magic from Equestria!” She continued playfully, “It’s not exactly an obscure backwater!”

Scootaloo smirked. “Yeah, Rainbow Dash has really put this place on the map! Along with Princess Twilight, I guess.”

“Why did you think Diamond Tiara’s philosophy was interesting?” Sweetie Belle asked curiously, making Diamond Tiara wince again. Drop it! she thought at Sweetie, but her friend continued obliviously, “It make sense to me that if you want to do the most good in Equestria you’ll need to be a pretty important pony to do it.”

“Perhaps it’s just that socialites don’t normally talk out loud about their plans to acquire power,” Chestnut replied, still grinning. “But this well-meaning honesty is refreshing. Diamond Tiara, was it?” The younger mare nodded nervously. “I like you. I’ll have my eye on you.”

“Miss Chestnut Magnifico?” called the reedy voice of a stallion. “The director will hear your audition now.”

“See you around, girls,” said Chestnut with a wink, and disappeared through the door into the main auditorium.

Diamond Tiara gaped at her friends. “She’s here to audition for this opera? This opera by an unknown writer, being put on in an theatre that’s been closed for years?”

Scootaloo groaned. “Aww, horsefeathers. If professional actresses are trying out for this thing, why are we even here?” The other Crusaders commiserated with her.

But Diamond Tiara was smiling, her eyes wide as she considered the possibilities. If she got a part in this show alongside Chestnut, and made friends with her, that could unlock whole social strata for Diamond Tiara independent of her parents’ influence… Up until this point she hadn’t cared much about whether she got cast, but now she resolved to wow the audition judges with her charm and her best singing voice. There was much more at stake now.

“Today’s post, sir.”

Filthy Rich stretched, and got up from his vast chaise longue in the Rich family’s drawing room. “Aha! Thank you, Randolph. A bit late today, ain’t it?”

“The mailmare did seem to be in something of a hurry, sir. She tried to give us a parcel addressed to the Mayor.”

“Again?” Filthy rolled his eyes and sorted through the envelopes. “Ah good, this’ll be the orders I was waitin’ for... Today’s paper… Here’s your Vanity Mare magazine, honey… Oh hey, and something for you, Diamond Tiara!”

Diamond Tiara looked up in excitement from her desk. Mail for her was still fairly unusual. She crossed the opulent room and carefully tore open the letter – or in fact it was more of a small package of documents. She extracted the covering letter and scanned the first few sentences before exclaiming, “Mother, Father, I got the part! I’m in the opera!”

That was enough to rouse Spoiled Rich’s attention at last. Fixing her daughter with a steady look, she asked, “What part did you get, dear?”

“A big one! The sidekick of the main character!”

Her tone unchanged, her mother asked, “Who got the main part?”

And why wasn’t it you, in other words. Let me see… Diamond Tiara quickly scanned the cast list. As she’d expected, Chestnut Magnifico had the leading role, but she thought it would be more judicious to be slightly coy about her precise identity. “A professional actress from Manehattan, Mother!” You can’t say it’s a failure on my part if she landed a better part than me.

Spoiled contemplated for a moment and answered, “Hmph. That’s reasonable, I suppose. Be sure to flatter her, so you can meet her high society contacts, while also showing that we’re as important as she is.”

Diamond Tiara scowled. Her mother had always dictated to her how to conduct her social affairs and what kind of ponies were suitable friends. For years she’d taken the advice on board unquestioningly, but since that fateful day Diamond Tiara lost the election, she’d been more judicious about following her mother’s instructions. It wasn’t always worth getting into a confrontation with her – a pony had to pick her battles – but Diamond Tiara was also keen to remind her that she didn’t always do what Spoiled told her to do any more. So calmly but firmly she replied, “Actually, Mother, I’m going to just be nice to her.”

Her parents exchanged a look. Were they going to challenge her? Diamond Tiara put on a sweet smile to show that she wasn’t rejecting her family. Wordless communication passed between the two adults until Spoiled eventually said, “Well... we shall leave it up to you, dear.”