From the wings of the Teatro dell'Opera, Julia indulged the secret thrill that hearing the dramatic opening chords of Tosca always elicited. Even now, six months after the audition, she had to remind herself that hard work and dedication had got her here, not the fairies. And no, it was not a dream either. Starring opposite two of Italy's most celebrated male singers was no longer an ambition. It was reality. Or, at least, it had been, until yesterday.
"Have you seen him yet?" Liddy, a chorus member and Julia's closest friend here in Rome bustled through the safety curtain, eyes bright.
"Tempi's replacement. The new Cavaradossi."
"Oh, is he here? I didn't think he'd get here so soon. Thought Rolando was going to understudy for the rest of the week. Who have they got?"
"Nobody knows him. Apparently he's on loan from some company out in the boondocks, if they have boondocks in Italy."
"What's his na--"
A man barged through them and out onto the stage. He turned to face the auditorium, which was empty but for the orchestra and director, before opening his mouth and setting free the most perfect sound Julia had ever heard.
"Who...is that?" The words fell quietly from her stunned, slack jaw.
"See! I told you!" Liddy grasped Julia's elbow, urgent fingers dimpling the skin.
"You didn't tell me anything. Seriously, this is Tempi's replacement? Who is he?"
"His name is Luca."
"Does he live on the second floor?" Julia referred to the Suzanne Vega song.
"Don't worry. I'm raving. He's...well, for one thing, he has a stupendous voice."
"And for another," Liddy said, "he could stunt-double for Adonis."
"You don't go for handsome men, do you, though?" Liddy sighed. She had spent the last few months of rehearsal trying to fix Julia up with a selection of Rome's most eligible bachelors.