The visuals seemed odd.
While researching my first book, River of January, I discovered that Helen, a professionally trained dancer, and central figure in the memoir, performed with a professional troupe in the opera, Faust. The 1932 engagement, in Erba, Italy had been booked back in New York through the William Morris Agency before the girls set sail.
What hung me up was Satan needing backup dancers, and I wrote the episode in that spirit. Grand jetes’ and Beelzebub made strange stage partners.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard the opera played on NPR–specifically the ballet piece, composed by Charles Gounod. Listening to the music piqued my interest in finding video footage of the ballet. And I got lucky thanks to YouTube. Below is a clip of the ballet with a central character, Marguerite, Faust’s love, who has taken vows in a convent. And the dancing is beautiful.
It is lovely.
Helen (lower left) and her mementos from the performance in Erba, September, 1932
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, River of January and River of January: Figure Eight, available at www.river-of-january, and also available on Amazon.com