• Published 9th Aug 2011
  • 2,916 Views, 68 Comments

The Pony of the Opera - Miyajima

An adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, tailored to FiM.

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Act II: Scene II

~ Act II: Scene II ~

The reception drew to a close as the hour of the performance neared. Ponies emptied their glasses and quickly snatched the last few morsels of food on offer before heading, at a stately pace, up the Grand Staircase to the auditorium.

The Princesses lead the procession, trailed by the nobility and aristocracy of Canterlot in an ostentatious display of self-importance. Celestia and Luna ascended the polished marble steps in perfect synchronization, neither one a hoof step ahead of the other. Lesser nobles, dignitaries and guests all crowded the many balconies that overlooked the stair, watching as the twin rulers of Equestria made their way to the Royal Box.

At the top of the landing, Celestia halted briefly to admire the statue of her sister placed before the main doors of the auditorium, smirking at the sculptor’s choice to portray the Princess of the Moon as a more youthful mare, with her shorter mane and smaller stature. Luna herself just took a cursory glance at it and said nothing, but Celestia could tell, despite her sister’s great skill at masking her reactions, that she was embarrassed. Celestia theorized that it probably had something to do with the more... developed figure the sculptor had chosen.

The two sisters parted at the landing, Celestia taking the staircase to the right, and Luna to the left. They continued perfectly in step, reaching the next landing together. From here, those patrons who had paid the extra bits could enter the coveted box seats. There were two floors of seats, but the Royal Box could only be entered from the first floor of the Auditorium, as it was twice the height of any of the other boxes.

As they entered, Celestia spared a moment to muse on the odd placement of the box. Surely, one would think, the best place to see the opera is from the box directly opposite the stage, not adjacent to it as the Royal Box is. Indeed, even with her naturally slender neck, she still had to crane over the balcony to see any of the actors, singers or dancers on the near end of the stage.

She knew of course that the design had come about for an entirely different reason. In past days, the nobles of Canterlot didn’t attend the opera for the play, as they had often seen it many times before. Instead, they were there to be seen. The opera was a social place, a venue for meetings and deals, a place to be updated on the latest rumours and trends of high society. Thus, it stood to reason that the Princesses should be given the seat where they would be seen by the entire audience, next to the stage itself.

… Despite all this, Celestia deeply wished that one day she might attend an opera performance and actually be able to see the blasted thing.

The Royal Sisters watched with passive interest as the ponies filed into the stalls below, occasionally giving each other a knowing look at the sight of a particularly extravagant or over-the-top costume. Eventually Celestia saw the curtain at the back of the box opposite twitch, and be drawn aside to reveal Twilight and her friends. She waved at them as they took their places, and smiled at Pinkie Pie’s enthusiastic leg-waggling in response.

Twilight was busy trying to calm Applejack and Rainbow Dash down, as a dispute had arisen between the pair in the short time it took for them to walk from the hall to the auditorium.

“I’m jus’ sayin’ I don’t see what all the fuss is about!” hissed the farmpony.

“It’s the pinnacle of the art of performance! It’s a great spectacle!” Rainbow replied, waving a hoof in wild gesticulation.

“Yer sound jus’ like Rarity sayin’ that,” Applejack retorted, smirking.

“You take that back!”

“Girls! Please, calm down! The show will be starting soon, and the Princesses can see us over here!” Twilight pleaded, wedging herself between the two mares. They glared at each other, but silently nodded and sat at opposite ends of the box. Twilight sighed in relief and sat back next to Pinkie, who was whispering excitedly to Gummy and pointing out different costumes she recognized. Gummy looked on with what might have been interest.

Behind the great red curtain, the stagehoofs were running back and forth and making sure the set pieces were in the right position, while the dancers made last-minute twirls and the actors went over their lines. Barely audible squeaks and groans floated up from the orchestra pit as they tuned their instruments. Amidst the frenzied preparations, a hasty meeting was taking place centre-stage.

“You say you saw him?” Falsetto gasped, leaning in closer to Rarity.

“You all did! He was the one dressed as Red Death during the masquerade! I followed him as he passed by on the last hour, and he led me on a merry chase through the opera house and down into the foundations. I tried to stop him, and he turned to confront me, but then he snuffed out the lights and vanished!” Rarity replied, a little breathless from all her running around.

“Do you think he’ll try and interrupt the performance? We know there’s no love lost between he and Prima Donna!” Falsetto continued, prancing nervously.

“No, I don’t think he will,” Rarity said, looking around at the actors, “she’s not the star, Fluttershy is. … I think she knows more than she’s letting on. We know that he’s been tutoring her.”

“With impressive results...”

“True... I’ve never seen Fluttershy so confident in her own abilities.”

She went silent for a moment, staring intently at a knothole in the stage’s timbers.

“... He’ll come watch her tonight, won’t he?”

“More than likely,” Falsetto agreed.

“Then perhaps we can get some answers... Is Box Five being left empty?”

“Madame Quick Step insisted on it, and I must admit I was happy to oblige after last time.”

“Then perhaps we’ll catch him. No decent pony skulks around in the shadows like this and keeps hidden for the sake of it.”

Silence slowly descended over the assembled audience as the conductor rapped his hoof on the music stand before him. The curtains were drawn back as the orchestra struck up the overture, revealing a masterfully rendered facsimile of... a stage.

The backstage, to be more accurate. Indeed, even the far wall of the stage had the backdrop of the back of a red curtain, waiting to be raised. The actors of the opera studied their scripts as they discussed silently with each other the upcoming play, while one of the tenors, dressed in the finery befitting a manager, took centre stage and broke into song lamenting the loss of his leading lady.

Princess Luna smiled and turned to her sister. “An opera portraying the performance an opera. A novel twist. I am most glad to see that our people have not lost their imagination in mine absence.”

“They have plenty of that, Luna. Oh, and I know you didn’t exactly want it made public knowledge, but... Happy birthday, little sister.” Celestia refrained from making a public show of embracing her sister, not wanting to embarrass her, but instead nudged her lightly in the side with a wingtip. Luna grinned and nudged her back.

As the scene continued, the opera’s nature as a comedic farce rapidly became apparent. Prima Donna, essentially playing herself as the leading lady, appeared on stage and began a staccato, back-and-forth duet with the ‘manager’, making her demands for higher pay and better billing while threatening to expose the ‘manager’s embezzlement of his patron’s funds.

Twilight was using every last ounce of her social skills to stop Pinkie from laughing loudly enough to disturb the rest of the audience. Rainbow was watching with interest, while Applejack was largely just looking confused.

“So, wait, has it ac’shully started?” she hissed at Twilight. The unicorn gave Pinkie one last frantic, pleading ‘shush’ and turned to her farmer friend.

“Yes, Applejack, this is the first ‘act’ of the opera. They’re setting up the story.”

“... But it doesn’ look any differen’.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s still jus’ a stage.”

“Oh, well, yes. This opera is about ponies putting on an opera. It’s a little unorthodox, I admit.”

Applejack frowned. “I don’ get it.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes and muttered something about ‘missing the show’, staring fixedly at the stage. Twilight’s ears drooped and she determined to properly inform Applejack during the intermission. Forcefully, if necessary. Nothing should stand in the way of proper education!

While all eyes were on the performance, Madame Quick Step swiftly and quietly made her way to the ring of corridors containing the Box Seats. Using decades of experience as a dancer of the ballet, and years of service to the Ghost, she silently slipped through unmarked corridors and behind curtains to avoid the watchful eyes of the Royal Guard stationed outside Box One - the Royal Box.

She could see as she approached that Box Five was also guarded. A lone unicorn knight sat outside the door, barely keeping himself amused with a pack of playing cards and a game of solitaire. Frowning, she snorted quietly in frustration and looked around for something to throw, settling on a discarded program. Deftly scrunching it up between her hooves, she threw it towards the guard to get his attention and immediately concealed herself in a nearby alcove.

As expected, the guard, after being startled and dropping his cards, got up and headed towards her hiding spot to investigate. When he was near enough so that she could sneak past him without being seen, she quietly slipped around him and dashed for the door, skilfully unlocking it before the guard could turn around to see.

Once inside the box, she tried to remain out of sight of the audience below by keeping low, and placed a black-rimmed parchment with a red wax seal in the shape of a horse’s skull on the seat, as she had been instructed by her mysterious employer.

As she left, she fulfilled the other half of the instructions and made sure to draw the curtain across. She was luckily able to sneak out and lock the door before the guard started making his approach back towards his post, thoroughly satisfied that there was no one there. She trotted away with an innocent air as he settled back down and tried to find the eight of hearts.

From the right-hand side of the stage, Falsetto was looking up at the ring of box seats intently, Rarity standing beside him. He had managed to convince one of the Royal Guard to stand outside Box Five and ensure that anyone trying to get in or out would be stopped, as he was certain that should the Ghost decide to make an appearance, it would be at his favourite seat.

His vigil seemed to be rewarded when, during the transition from the first scene to the second, he saw the curtain of the box being drawn back. Eyes widening, he jabbed Rarity in the side with a hoof, rather harder than he had meant to.

“Do you mind!?” she snapped at him, but he merely pointed at the drawn curtain. She followed his gaze and her own eyes went wide. This was it, they’d caught him. Quickly the two turned tail and ran backstage, to take the service stairs up to the seating corridors.

Across from them, obscured behind the curtain on the left side of the stage, a masked pair of eyes watched their departure.

There was a knock on the door.

“Ten minutes!” a voice yelled, muffled by the constant background noise of stagehoofs and dancers running around outside the room.

Fluttershy sighed as she stared at herself in the mirror. Angel was curled up and sleeping on her bed, content to sit out the performance. Part of her wished she could do the same. Despite her lessons in self-confidence, she still felt terrified at the prospect of performing on stage, singing before a crowd of hundreds of ponies from all levels of Canterlot high society.

She stared, not at herself, but at the shy, terrified pegasus staring back at her. She tried to block out the constant self-doubt her mind heaped on her, but it was no use. She knew, deep down, that she couldn’t do it, and nothing was going to convince her.

But she had to do it. She’d given her word. Not just to Falsetto, but to Rarity, to her friends, to the Princesses.

And most importantly, to herself.

… She looked back at herself. All courage evaporated.

There was another knock at the door, a quieter, softer one. The handle turned and an expected figure slipped into the room.

The Opera Ghost bowed as he presented Fluttershy with a rose, tied with a black ribbon. She smiled in return.

“Thank you for this... I’m just so nervous about the performance! Everypony is counting on me!” she said, getting down off the stool and pacing around the floor.

“It is perfectly understandable, and nothing to be ashamed of or apologize for,” the Ghost replied, in a soothing and almost fatherly tone. Fluttershy noted that he always took time over what he said, as if he weighed up the consequences of every word before speaking, ensuring they fit some hidden meter that only he could hear. “But remember this, that you are not performing for them, they are merely watching. You are performing for yourself. Think of nothing beyond that, immerse yourself in the role. You are an actress in a new opera, replacing a leading lady past her prime and no longer pulling her weight.”

Fluttershy scuffed her hoof against the carpet, her wings nervously flapping. “I just have to stay calm.”

“Your voice is beautiful, Fluttershy. You just need to convince yourself of that. Nopony will judge you out there. They came for the performance, and you shall provide such a performance!” the Ghost paused, staring at the script’s pages spread over Fluttershy’s table. “I know for a fact that the tenor with which you are singing your duet is very skilled. You will be in good hooves with him.”

Fluttershy exhaled and breathed deeply. She swallowed the breath and nodded to herself. “Thank you. For all the lessons, I mean. I really don’t think I could go out there at all without what you’ve taught me.”

The Ghost smiled as he turned and made for the door. “It was my pleasure. I will be watching your performance!”

He bowed once more and slipped out of the room, the door closing quietly on the chaotic noise outside. Fluttershy went back and put a few finishing touches to her make-up before following after him, heading towards the stage in time for her cue.

One of the Opera House’s finest tenors was languishing backstage as he waited for his scene. His role in the performance was a simple one; he was the love interest of the new singer, hired to replace the leading lady. He only had a hoof-full of scenes, and the number in this scene was the only one where he wasn’t singing a chorus part. He strongly suspected the role had only been written in as an afterthought to add some form of romance to what was otherwise a strongly comedic play. For another reason he couldn’t fathom, Falsetto had decided that he ought to wear a mask. At least, that had been the last minute addition to his costume that he had received the previous night.

He looked down from studying the script to find that one of the stagehoofs had thoughtfully provided him with a refreshing glass of punch. Never one to refuse a drink, he took it and quickly drained the glass dry. It had a stronger flavour than usual, including accents of pineapple and mango, and he made a mental note to ask the catering staff where they had got it from.

Then he passed out.

A masked figure quickly dragged the unconscious singer behind a prop elephant, taking care to bind and gag him, before taking his place.

“Twilight! Look! There she is!” Pinkie hissed, hopping in place on the padded carpet and pointing down at the stage below. Twilight looked up from where she had been quietly scanning the program to see Fluttershy enter the stage, dressed in a simple white linen gown.

The four watched as their demure friend walked back and forth across the stage while the chorus sang, explaining the changing scene to the audience by means of worker gossip translated to song. As they drew to a close Fluttershy began ascending a prop rig that had been set up on the stage, designed to represent a back-stage lighting rig, and consisting of two spiral timber staircases with a bridge connecting them. As she reached the bridge she began to sing, and the orchestra ceased.

Her voice, though still quiet and understated, carried across the auditorium’s vast bowl, boosted by both the genius of the architect and the tricks of the unicorn sound technicians. She sang a quick, light tune, singing to herself about the troubles of a new actress breaking into an established theatrical group, and her rocky relationship with the leading lady she had been brought in to replace. As she continued, the focus of the song changed to how thankful she was for the aid of a friendly tenor, who had been tutoring her in controlling her stage fright, and how best to project her voice.

On cue, the tenor appeared from the other end of the stage, climbing up the tower to join Fluttershy on the bridge. There they began to circle one another, breaking into duet about their experiences together at the opera and the hidden feelings they shared for each other.

Fluttershy became more confident as the duet began, raising her voice and projecting it more clearly over the audience, complementing the deep, rich tones of the tenor. Their back-and-forth dialogue, accompanied by the orchestra, rose to a crescendo at the point when the tenor was to declare his love for her.

All eyes in the opera house were on the two singers as they embraced.

All eyes in the opera house saw the tenor’s mask knocked off when Fluttershy’s nerves finally caught up with her and she tripped on her own gown.

The audience gasped. The orchestra went silent.

Fluttershy looked up at the panicked face of a mule, who glanced in terror at the assembled ponies staring back at him. In a swift and fluid movement, he turned tail and leapt from the rig, snagging a rope in his descent. As he fled backstage, the rope flew along the complex pulley system of the opera and disappeared into the rafters.

From Box Five, Rarity and Falsetto watched in horror as the company on stage dissolved into chaos. The letter on the seat was torn open by Falsetto’s hooves, reading only:

“I hope you enjoy the show.


He was broken from his stunned silence by a loud crack from the ceiling above. The Grand Chandelier, the priceless piece of craftsponyship that provided light and ambience to the entire Auditorium, jolted by a couple of inches, each diamond striking another in ominous cacophony as a couple of candles fell from the rim.

It was Falsetto’s turn to gasp.

“S-Stop it falling! It’s coming down! IT’S COMING DOWN!”

The audience glanced sharply upwards in terror as the chandelier gave another inch, and immediately broke out into mass panic. The Princesses looked on, aghast, as the audience swarmed over their seats and themselves in an effort to escape. The doors to the Royal Box burst open as the guard rushed in, having heard the screams.

On the opposite side of the Auditorium, Applejack scrambled to find a rope she could lasso while Rainbow Dash cursed her dress for hampering her flying. Fortunately, Twilight and the unicorn stagehands were able to act swiftly, and enveloped the fixture in a telekinetic glove as the ropes finally gave, catching the chandelier before it came crashing down on the heads of the entire audience.
Fluttershy was strangely calm, despite all that happened around her. She looked down at the discarded mask, lying on the wooden rig with its ribbon dangling over the side, and felt a sense of responsibility surge in her soul. Her wings snapped open as she leapt from the wooden platform, gliding gracefully down to the stage for a running start, directly on the trail of the fleeing tenor.

She was not alone. As soon as she was sure that Twilight no longer needed any assistance in holding up the chandelier, Rarity had left Box Five and immediately made her way down through the myriad corridors of the building, heading towards Fluttershy’s room. She knew the Ghost would make for the mirror-passage, and aimed to cut him off.

This time she was going to get some answers.

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