Two tales about the magic of music.
Paulo Coelho | April/May 2010 issue
The stand-in singer
(Sent by Murali)
The story goes that tickets were all sold out for the presentation by a famous tenor, but on the big day, with the house filled to capacity, it was discovered that a traffic problem would prevent him from arriving on time. Disconcerted, the director of the opera appeared on the stage to explain what was happening and ask for a local tenor to act as a substitute.
The audience reacted as expected: with discomfort. Some spectators rose and asked for their money back, while others simply waited to see what lay in store for them, seeing that they had made reservations for dinner and didn’t know how to kill the time.
The substitute tenor came on stage and did the best he could. For two hours he sang with all his heart and soul. At the end, almost complete silence—because it was not exactly him that they had come to hear. Only one spectator applauded. And at a certain moment, a child’s voice was heard: “Daddy, you’re great! Just great!”
The next moment, the whole theater gave the spectacle a standing ovation. A few simple words of love had changed everything.
The old fado singer
(Sent by Cristina Santos)
The veranda of my house faces west and has the advantage of receiving the sunlight almost all afternoon on clear days in winter or summer.
One morning, I was busy with some household tasks when I saw the humble, ragged figure of a man. He may not have been very old, but he had been badly treated by life and time. He used crutches, because one of his legs was withered. And what really impressed me was that even so, he managed to carry an old classical guitar.
He sat down in a bar in front of the house and began to sing. As soon as I heard his voice, I started to shake all over. It was so beautiful, like the voice of an angel, serene and blessed, yet sad. Little by little, it filled the whole atmosphere, echoing against the walls, involving and elevating me. I noticed the involuntary tears that fell to the floor and saw people coming out on their verandas, touched by the music. And children stopped their games, stupefied and thrilled.
I realized I was experiencing a moment of ephemeral eternity, communion with other souls, as if by magic we had been called to another dimension, to a more beautiful universe where perhaps everything made sense… or perhaps not.
At last, his voice grew quiet and a silence remained that had an almost oppressive taste of emptiness. Then hands clapped effusively, smiles lit up and the children cried out enthusiastically for an encore.
But the man, as if he had fulfilled his mission, gathered up his crutches and went on his way. I ran out and only rested when I caught up to him, out of breath. It was so obvious that the fado was his livelihood that I squeezed some money into his hand, but I swear that it was only when I gave him a warm embrace and asked him never to stop singing that his tired, wrinkled face grew soft and he smiled at me.
I never saw the old fado singer again, but I would like to believe that he is walking down other paths, weeping his fado songs, fulfilling his mission. If he happens to stop by near you, please tell him that I have not forgotten him.
Paulo Coelho is the Brazilian author of international bestsellers, including The Alchemist. paulocoelhoblog.com.