Chapter 4 (#litres_trial_promo)
Book V. George Green (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 1 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 2 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 3 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 4 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 5 (#litres_trial_promo)
Also by Agatha Christie (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
It was the opening night of London’s new National Opera House and consequently an occasion. Royalty was there. The Press were there. The fashionable were there in large quantities. Even the musical, by hook and by crook, had managed to be there—mostly very high up in the final tier of seats under the roof.
The musical composition given was The Giant, a new work by a hitherto unknown composer, Boris Groen. In the interval after the first part of the performance, a listener might have collected the following scraps of conversation.
‘Quite divine, darling.’ ‘They say it’s simply the—the—the—latest!! Everything out of tune on purpose … And you have to read Einstein in order to understand it …’ ‘Yes, dear, I shall tell everyone it’s too marvellous. But privately, it does make one’s head ache!’
‘Why can’t they open a British Opera House with a decent British composer? All this Russian tomfoolery!’ Thus a peppery colonel.
‘Quite so,’ drawled his companion. ‘But you see, there are no British composers. Sad, but there it is!’
‘Nonsense—don’t tell me, sir. They just won’t give them a chance—that’s what it is. Who is this fellow Levinne? A dirty foreign Jew. That’s all he is!’
A man nearby, leaning against the wall, half concealed by a curtain, permitted himself to smile—for he was Sebastian Levinne, sole owner of the National Opera House, familiarly known by the title of the World’s Greatest Showman.
He was a big man, rather too well covered with flesh. His face was yellow and impassive, his eyes beady and black, two enormous ears stood out from his head and were the joy of caricaturists.
The surge of talk eddied past him …
‘Decadent—morbid … neurotic … childish …’
Those were critics.
‘Devastating … too divine … marvellous, my dear …’
Those were women.
‘The thing’s nothing but a glorified revue.’ ‘Amazing effects in the second part, I believe. Machinery, you know. This first part “Stone” is only a kind of introduction. They say old Levinne has simply gone all out over this. Never been anything like it.’ ‘Music’s pretty weird, isn’t it?’ ‘Bolshy idea, I believe. Noise orchestras, don’t they call them?’
Those were young men, more intelligent than the women, less prejudiced than the critics.
‘It won’t catch on. A stunt, thath all.’ ‘Yet, I don’t know—there’s a feeling for this Cubist thtuff.’ ‘Levinne’s shrewd.’ ‘Dropth money deliberately thometimes—but getth it back.’ ‘Cost …?’ The voices dropped, hushed themselves mysteriously as sums of money were mentioned.
Those were members of his own race. Sebastian Levinne smiled.
A bell rang—slowly the crowd drifted and eddied back to their seats.
There was a wait, filled with chattering and laughter—then the lights wavered and sank. The conductor mounted to his place. In front of him was an orchestra just six times as large as any Covent Garden orchestra and quite unlike an ordinary orchestra. There were strange instruments in it of shining metal like misshapen monsters, and in one corner an unaccustomed glitter of crystal. The conductor’s baton was stretched out—then fell and immediately there was a low rhythmic beating as of hammers on anvils—every now and then a beat was missed—lost—and then came floating back taking its place out of turn, jostling the others.
The curtain rose …
At the back of a box on the second tier Sebastian Levinne stood and watched.
This was no opera, as commonly understood. It told no story, featured no individuals. Rather was it on the scale of a gigantic Russian ballet. It contained spectacular effects, strange and weird effects of lighting—effects that were Levinne’s own inventions. His revues had for long been proclaimed as the last word in sheer spectacular sensation. Into this, more artist than producer, he had put the whole force of his imagination and experience.
The prologue had represented Stone—Man’s infancy.
This—the body of the work—was a supreme pageant of machinery—fantastic, almost awful. Power houses, dynamos, factory chimneys, cranes, all merging and flowing. And men—armies of men—with Cubist robot faces—defiling in patterns.
The music swelled and eddied—a deep sonorous clamour came from the new strangely shaped metal instruments. A queer high sweet note sounded above it all—like the ringing of innumerable glasses …
There was an Episode of Skyscrapers—New York seen upside down as from a circling aeroplane in the early dawn of morning. And the strange inharmonious rhythm beat ever more insistently—with increasing menacing monotony. It drew on through other episodes to its climax—a giant seeming steel erection—thousands of steel faced men welded together into a Giant Collective Man …
The Epilogue followed immediately. There was no interval, the lights did not go up.
Only one side of the orchestra spoke. What was called in the new modern phrase ‘the Glass’.
Clarion ringing notes.
The curtain dissolved into mist … the mist parted … the sudden glare made one wish to shield one’s eyes.
Ice—nothing but ice … great bergs and glaciers … shining …
And on the top immense pinnacle a little figure—facing away from the audience towards the insufferable glare that represented the rising of the sun …
The ridiculous puny figure of a man …
The glare increased—to the whiteness of magnesium. Hands went instinctively to eyes with a cry of pain.
The glass rang out—high and sweet—then crashed—and broke—literally broke—into tinkling fragments.
The curtain dropped and the lights rose.
Sebastian Levinne with an impassive face received various congratulations and side hits.
‘Well, you’ve done it this time, Levinne. No half measures, eh?’
‘A damned fine show, old man. Blessed if I know what it’s all about, though.’
‘The Giant, eh? That’s true, we live in an age of machinery all right.’