I’d had previous memories of a theater with tawdry chandeliers with red, white, and blue plumes, large gas lanterns along the sides, and a fairly intimate stage with an odd, wavy-shaped proscenium that was sort of like a seashell (I wish I could describe it better, I may have to draw it and see if I can get that scanned).
I was watching a production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” done with a somewhat traditional staging and immediately, I started having flashbacks. The first thing I remembered was the smell of old wood soaked in dust and rosin, like you’d smell in the backstage areas of a very old opera house or theater, or the inside of an old piano. Then rosin, sand bags, old-fashioned hemp rope, the way a limelight’s glow starts when you fire it up, these all came back to me. I felt a sense of excitement from the music, and a memory of ropes and sand bags holding up elaborate set pieces.
I believe that in one of my lives, I may have been a stage hand, but exactly where or when is more than I can know. I don’t know if the proscenium I saw was in that theater where I worked, or the one I remember from John’s life. The use of lime lights suggests any time in the later half of the 19th century, though probably between 1860 and 1890. For all I know, John may have had a stint as a stage hand. However the only known occupation besides soldier was farm laborer so I can’t prove it.
Still, it could have been a life before John. “The Magic Flute” is a very popular opera and probably would have been performed quite a lot inside the hundred years or so between its first production and the time John would have begun life in earnest as a worker in his teens. That really doesn’t help narrow anything down.
Neither does “Va Pensiero” from Verdi’s “Nabucco,” the piece that caused me to have the memory of the proscenium and the lighting from the audience’s perspective. That only narrows it down to any time after 1840 so it could still have been a life I lived before I was John.
And yet, I had thought for sure I’d been a sailor in the life I lived before John, after some of the details I’ve remembered. I’d also explored the possibility of having been Charles Dickens or a Chartist agitator, but those turned up nothing I could clearly remember to identify me as any of these people. I am fairly sure I was English but that’s based on the only other memory I have that actually felt substantial.
That memory was a street scene from the 1830s that was pretty generic and gave me little more to go on other than half-timbered buildings. I always had doubts about that one because the streets seemed a little too obsessively clean. I guess it could have been somewhere in Central Europe, like Germany, Switzerland, or Austria which might explain the cleanliness, but would even the Swiss have been that clean in the 1830s?
Perhaps this is nothing, but it’s refreshing to get a clue that doesn’t come strictly from the realm of uncanny coincidences and circumstantial evidence. This was an extremely vivid memory, it didn’t feel forced, vague, and hazy like the memories of being at sea or the chartist rally.
I hope I recall more about this life.