The Knight of the Rose


Love is in the air as two singers perform in the grand stage of life;
a comic opera of lovely proportions made sweet
by the joyous passion between two star-crossed lovers!

At the Midas Repair Shop, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania...

Bree sat in the waiting room of the garage as patiently as she could manage, having read the two-month old Newsweek for the third time. The mechanic had just finished explaining that she needed new calipers. She'd been aware of that, but recent events had pushed brakes to the back of the line.

About two hours later the sales guy got her attention and she walked up to the counter.

"You shouldn'ta have let it go this long, Miss." The boy was about fifteen years her junior, but he was speaking to her as if she were a child. Rather than explaining the delay, she just smiled and said,


"That'll be $312.16, Miss." He smiled while emphasizing "Miss," and took her card.

"Credit or debit, Miss?"

"Debit, please?" "Che cosa imbecile?" She said to herself. What an idiot? She looked absent- mindedly at her watch even though she had nothing planned after that other than a long trip across the country by herself. Minutes later she was on the road.

On Rt. 80 going west…

"Well…It's done, sweetie." She said, looking over at the empty passenger seat.

"No…not quite." The Voice said. "There's the matter of the audition."

"We talked about this...I'm not ready," she said loudly.

"You're ready alright, but you're holding on. You've got to let go!" The Voice said again.

"Not until after the audition. I need you to be there," she said as the Voice began to hum inside her head. She found herself singing along the harmony, all the while seeing the girl who had sung the melody in her duet and feeling more hopeless and lonely than ever. Her eyes began to mist as the Voice spoke again.

"You know I wouldn't leave just yet." The Voice sang as if it were a song.

"Jerome knows you, sweetie," the Voice continued. "This may be second tier for him, but he's still got a lot riding on this as well. He and I may be friends, but if you don't have the stones for this honey some other mezzo will get the part." She teased.

"It's more than just a part," Bree said to the Voice. Tears began to fall as she remembered their last performance together.

Months before…

The curtain came down a final time after two curtain calls. Gabriella sang sweeter than she ever had; almost a swan song she felt. She walked to her dressing room, pausing on the way to stop for hugs and kisses.

“Great performance, Miss Pastorelli!”

“You were great as usual, Gabriella!”

Walking into the room, she closed the door behind her. She sat at her dressing table and looked at her reflection as she took off her wig. She stared at the woman in the mirror. No wig cap had been necessary for some time as her beautiful hair had fallen out from her chemo.
“You’re still beautiful, even if I say so myself.”

She looked in the mirror and smiled at her reflection and noticed her brother standing at the door. A smile graced his face but did nothing to hide the tears in his eyes. Her twin. He looked nearly identical save for his thick blond hair and eyebrows. His features were soft and some might have mistaken him for a girl. But the real resemblance lay elsewhere.

“Okay?” Gabriella said, her face beaming. The cancer had done nothing to daunt her spirit.

“Door closed…I’m by myself….cast and crew outside…I’m singing to myself….” She looked back at him, smiling. “Let’s hear it!”

“Sleeping softly, then it seems; Heaven enters in my dreams; Angels hover round me, Whisp’ring they have found me….” He began to sing, but instead of a rich baritone or soft tenor his voice was sweet and airy, not his alto, but her mezzo.

“Gabe?” his sister said softly, “I think this will work.”

Bree drove on, plagued by fear and doubt and accompanied with too much loss as well for her to bear.

“Debi is going to be there” The Voice said softly. “She’s already sewed up the part of Sophie. And of course, Marie knows you’re coming.”

“I can’t imagine how Marie’s gotten through all this,” Bree lamented. “You were so close; as close as us…like sisters. More than sisters.”

“She managed as she always has; her faith and our love has seen her through.” The Voice seemed to lilt, but there was no weeping over the sad memory.

“She’ll be okay. I have it on good authority that we’ll be singing together before year’s end.” The Voice laughed softly.

“She’s in Sydney next month for Cosi Fan Tutti, followed by Carmen in London, and then? Marie's voice will once again mingle with mine, but it will be Handel instead of Bellini, Si?”

Bree smiled through her tears at the thought as she pulled into the motel parking lot.

“Don’t tell her, though, okay?” The Voice teased.

“I won’t breathe a word,” Bree said and laughed softly…

San Francisco Opera House rehearsal hall, a few days later…

Bree stood on the stage, music in hand, trying to shield her eyes from the harsh light. She listened as the piano began the introduction to the aria. While she stood there, the stage was abuzz with activity. Several women and one man stood to the side, watching Jerome pace nervously in front of the orchestra pit as she began singing. He seemed to ignore her as he looked at his watch. The producers were due in about fifteen minutes and he had to make a decision. He glared at her as if to say, “It’s my neck as much as yours.” The glare disappeared under a façade of buoyant praise as he said,

“Gabriella, my dear? Brilliant as always; you are and always shall be my Octavian!” None of the cast would know how close to the truth Jerome Vincenti had spoken.


Bree sat as she waited for Jerome to make his decision. A very attractive woman approached her; all smiles and ebullience, which were authentic.

“Oh, Miss Pastorelli, “I’ve looked forward to this moment,” she said.

“Miss Marchese’ told me your health had improved dramatically, I’m so glad. I’d been worried sick about you.” The young lady leaned closer to touch Bree’s arm. A spark flew between the two, shocking them both.”

“It seems we’ve got that electricity that the critics have been calling for.” Bree said with a laugh. She looked at the younger woman; her own heart practically skipping a beat.

“I haven’t seen your brother, Miss Pastorelli,” the girl began after scanning the hall, but the Bree said softly,

“Please honey, call me Gabriella, or Bree, if you prefer. May I call you Deborah, Miss Levine?”

“Debi, if you don’t mind? Is your brother going to join you?” Debi had made a connection…a very nice connection with Bree’s brother, and was anxious to renew acquaintances, as they say.

“Perhaps,” Bree said. She bit her tongue softly to hide any expression that might betray her feelings.

The show’s producer Marlene Foster held onto Jerome’s arm, as if to prevent him from escaping; at least that’s how he felt.

“We had heard she was ill. We haven’t seen her in anything anywhere for at least six months,” Marlene,said nervously.

“The best ever Der Rosen Kavalier,” she exclaimed. Jerome was not about to disagree, since he hoped Strauss ‘ The Knight of the Rose would signal not only Gabriella Pastorelli’s comeback but his own. Still…

“Not to worry,” Jerome said as he worried secretly about what he had done. “She’s been convalescing after a brief but tenacious illness. She’s quite alright…just listen,” Jerome said as he pointed to the monitor. Gabriella and Deborah had sung the duet, Es ist Traum – It is a dream, the duet at the end of the opera. The combination of mezzo and soprano was dulcet and captivating.

“You see the chemistry they have?” Jerome pointed to the screen. Marlene smiled and patted Jerome on the arm.

“Looks like another fine season, Dearie.” She grabbed his hand and kissed him on the cheek, causing his face to redden.

“Why Marlene, I didn’t know you cared. Be careful, Denis will be jealous, sweetheart!” He laughed nervously. Now if he could only sleep until the final curtain on opening night next month?

“I’m not interested, Mr. Griffin. Flattered, but not interested. Please?”

Bree leaned against the set wall as she tried to dissuade Alex Griffin, her co-star and the highly regarded Bass who would be performing Baron Ochs to her Octavian. She had come from costume fitting, and her appearance, while still feminine, was somewhat disconcerting from her dress as a cavalier…the cavalier chosen by the Baron to deliver a silver rose to his intended, Sophie.

She stared at Griffin and shook her head. He wasn’t dissuaded in the least. He had a reputation as a womanizer throughout the whole circuit, and even more so, he was regarded as a pig by his female cast members.

“But Gabriella, dear, you know how much I adore you.” He said. His voice was almost soothing, but his actions were anything but. Before she could move, Alex had her pinned against the wall, his arms at either side, blocking her exit. She tried to turn, but he kissed her suddenly, his tongue parting her lips forcefully. He pressed against her and would have continued but for the alarming voice beside his right cheek, which whispered,

“Now Alex, you know how naughty you can be…leave the girl…you know she’s spoken for?” The sweet insistent voice was accompanied by a hand, which grabbed the hair at the back of Alex’s head, yanking him away from Bree.

“You’ll have to stand in line for this one, dearie!” She said loudly as she pushed Griffin rudely aside. Marie Marchese’, the show’s Marschallin, the older lover of Octavian glared at the man. And then she kissed Gabriella on the cheek and whispered in her ear with a soft laugh,

“Oopsies…got stuck in the loo! Help is here now, my dear, not to worry. Let’s make this convincing, shall we? Pucker up!” She kissed Bree amorously, and Bree offered no resistance. Enraged at the scene, Alex Griffin stormed off, muttering what was likely an invective of Welsh curses all sounding rich in basso profundo. Marie pulled back and said softly,

“Oh, hell, sweetie. If only you were really my type! By the way, speaking of type, Deborah is looking for you.” She kissed Bree on the cheek once again and was off.

Bayside, Queens, New York City, several years before…

“Quite remarkable,” Jerome Vincenti said as he stared at the children. “If I didn’t know, I’d swear they were identical…even to the voice.”

“The doctor said that it’s a…a” Salvatricia Ardelino paused, grasping for the correct word.

“Bambini, aiutare la madre che cosa è la parola?“

“Anomaly, Momma,” the boy replied.

“Anomaly, Si. The boy is all boy. But he can how you say…” Salvatricia said, looking at Jerome.

“Mimic, Momma,” the girl said.

“Mimic, Si. He can mimic his sister’s voice… e tremolo?” She smiled at the boy, who put his head down, embarrassed.

“Gabriel…tell the nice man the school you go to, per favore?” Salvatricia looked at her son with pride, although he felt very little other than shame.

“Sally Ride Middle School, Mr. Vincenti” The thirteen-year-old said casually.

“Now tell him where your sister goes to school.” Salvatricia said.

“Wait a sec, bro. Let me tell him first?” The girl said and smiled.

“Sally Ride Middle School, Mr. Vincenti.” She said in a sweet almost sing-song voice, high and clear. “Just so you know what I sound like. Okay, Gabe, go ahead.”

“Sally Ride Middle School, Mr. Vincenti,” the boy said once again, but instead of a boyish alto, the same sweet voice as his sister repeated the phrase.

“Absolutely remarkable, but can they sing?” Jerome was almost beside himself. He couldn’t wait to “discover” this talent and bring it to light.

“Avanti, bambini, Si?” Salvatricia said.

Sleeping softly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me,
Whisp'ring they have found me;

“Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck. The two sang with Gabriel singing mezzo to his sister’s soprano.

“Now switch,” Maria said.

Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,
Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.
God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me.

They sang again, this time it was the girl’s dulcet mezzo to the boy’s soprano. The two sounded just as sweet but twice as astonishing.

“Gabriel… Tenor?”

Abends, will ich schlafen gehn,
Vierzehn Engel um mich stehn:

“Remarkable, Indeed!” Jerome said, “Absolutely remarkable.”

After Jerome left, Gabriel turned to his mother and he had tears in his eyes.

“Momma…Mom, I’m a boy. I don’t want to do this.” His sister put her hand on his face and said softly,

“It’ll be okay….it won’t be a lot…and nobody needs to know. Hey, twins stick together, right?

Gabriella smiled as her brother nodded, less nervous but still worried.

“I need you to take care of your sister, mio figlio…for me?” Maria’s eyes and voice pled.

“Okay momma, Si, mia madre, per te.” Gabe said. “For you!”


“I can’t do this without you,” Bree sat in the theater office with the door locked. I miss you so much….” Tear streamed down her face. Mi Mancherai…I Miss You.

“I’ve never been any good without you. I don't even know where I begin anymore.” She said.

“I’ll always be with you, mi sorella,” the Voice said. Bree felt a warm glow fill her heart.

“You have to tell her,” the Voice continued. “You’ll be okay….but you have to tell her…before opening night.”

“I can’t,” the woman said. “I’m afraid she’ll….it will hurt her and the performance will be ruined. The show is too important to risk.” She closed her eyes as the tears continued to flow freely.

“The performance is nothing without the performer…never forget that.” The Voice said softly.

“You deserve to be happy, cari uno.” The Voice said as almost a prayer. “Have I ever steered you wrong?”

“Never,” the woman said and wiped her face with her sleeve. She laughed softly to herself as the Voice said again,

“Tell her!”

Bree stepped out of the office and straight into Alex Griffin's path.

“One more chance, Please?” He stood between her and the stairs to the exit.

“No, Alex…Sorry, but no.” She said, wondering why she was apologizing.

“Oh bloody hell, you bitch!” Alex said as he grabbed her by the wrist, twisting it. She tried to scream, both for the pain and for the abuse, but he pulled her quickly to himself and kissed her again. It was painful as her lip was cut from the impact.

He was about to place his hand on her breast when he felt a sharp pain in his wrist as her nails dug into the Ulnar nerve bundle. He screamed and fell to the floor, her hand still holding his wrist. She twisted it until it was almost unbearable.

“I said no, Mr. Griffin.” She wiped her face with her sleeve and walked away saying,

“See you on stage, Baron Ochs, Che cosa e suino!” (What a pig!)

Two weeks later…

It was the day of the last dress rehearsal before opening night. Debi was sitting in a folding chair by the left wing. She appeared nervous, but not for the performance. She had something weighing heavy on her heart, and it showed; her head was in her hands as she rested her elbows on her knees, crying softly. The silverfish prop rose that was a gift from Octavian to Sophie….she had hoped it would mean more, lay in her lap.

“Miss Levine? Deborah? May I speak with you?” Bree was wearing her costume for Act II and she looked like the man Octavian was, or at least a very attractive woman dressed as a man. Debi looked up and her face was a picture of confusion.

“Oh, Miss Pastorelli, I wanted to talk with you as well,” she sniffled as she wiped her face with a hankie.

“Jennifer is ready to go on in my stead…I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but after what I tell you I’m sure you’ll agree.” She snuffled once again and said, “I just have to tell you this…I can’t keep it in any longer.”

Bree looked at the girl and her own eyes filled with tears.

“I think I know what you’re going to say. “ Bree sighed and continued the thought but unspoken.

“Petra is ready to go on for me as well.”

Debi held up her hand, almost like a schoolgirl answering her teacher.

“Oh, Me first, or I fear I’ll never say what’s on my heart.” Debi took the towel in her lap and wiped her face, ignoring the hankie in her hand.

“Oh, Gabriella…” she paused. It was the first time she had called her by name. “I feel so ashamed for what I’m about to say. I wanted so to get to know you so that somehow you’d help me find a way to reach out to your brother. I fell in love with him the moment we met at your performance at the Met last year.” Her voice began to quiver.

“But he never came…all these weeks and your brother is nowhere to be seen.” She gulped and continued. But getting to know you….you….” She looked at Gabriella and smiled.

“You are such a tender soul…” Debi began to weep freely. After a few moments she spoke again, bolstered perhaps by the soft touch of Gabriella’s hand to her face; the hand that now wiped her tears.

“I’ve grown to appreciate you…you’ve touched my heart in many ways; ways I could never have imagined.” She sobbed softly into the towel. No caress of the hair; Debi was wearing her wig for the dress rehearsal. A soft caress touched her cheek.

“I…I think I love you Miss Pastorelli…Gabriella…Bree…Oh God!” Debi broke down and wept again.

“Tell her!” The Voice said.

She looked at Debi and recalled a sad time only a few months before.

“I’m sorry, Miss Pastorelli, we called as soon as we could…she just took a turn for the worse only this morning.” The nurse blinked out her tears and continued.

“She’s been asking for you…I’m so sorry,” the nurse repeated as she patted Gabriella on the back. “I can see you’re sisters…not just the resemblance, but she’s so kind and sweet like you. She spent all day yesterday singing for the kids in the Children’s Ward.” Gabriella nodded, tears filling her own eyes as she entered the room.

“Oh, here she is…my favorite sister,” the Voice said softly. Gabriella Pastorelli looked up from her bed and viewed her twin; nearly identical save for one important fact.

“Don’t say that,” the woman said as she walked to her sister’s side.’

“Who’s to know…I’ll never tell…I promise,” the real Gabriella laughed. “As far as anyone here knows, I’m Veronica Pastorelli, sister to the famed Gabriella Pastorelli. She smiled as the woman next to her wept.

“My greatest role, Si? My own twin sister to the great Gabriella Pastorelli.” She laughed softly again.

“I’m not ready for this…I can’t do it.”The woman pled.

“Nonsense, you’ve been rehearsing for this all your life. And I’m sorry, but I think the opening curtain is about to go up…” Her voice was fading…she began to cough.

“Closer….Lo vi amo più della vita stessa. Vi sarà grande, mia dolce sorella. Il ruolo di una durata di vita. (I love you more than life itself. You’ll be great, my sweet sister. The role of a lifetime.) She kissed the woman softly and said,

“Knock em dead, baby brother.” She whispered. “Kiss?”

The woman leaned forward and kissed her sister, who said finally, “I love you.”

Gabriella Veronica Ardelino passed gently into eternity even as her brother Gabriel Ardelino also died that day, reborn in a moment as Gabriella Pastorelli She fell on the bed and wept until the nurse came moments later at the sound of the long harsh beep.

“Deborah…Debi ….I have something to tell you…I don’t care what happens. Only that you won’t hate me.”

“Oh, Miss Pastorelli…I could never hate you.” She said but Bree put her finger to her lips to interrupt.

“I hope this will make everything right. Yes? Do you speak Italian?” Debi nodded.

“Deborah?, Anche io vi amo, e hanno fin da quando abbiamo baciò che prima volta.” (Deborah, I love you too, and have ever since we first kissed.) Bree said, softly weeping as well.

“Gabriella…Gabriel? “ Debi's eyes widened in joyful recognition as she pulled Gabriella in for a kiss.

“Si, mi dolce amore.” Gabriella said softly and kissed back. The silver rose in Debi’s lap seemed to glow; a token of love in the opera, a sign of love in real life.


They stood on stage for the final curtain call. Deborah as Sophie clutched the silver rose in her left hand as she held Gabriella’s hand in her right…Octavian, the man portrayed by a woman who was portrayed by a man. A warmth between them that neither had ever known. Sophie kissed Octavian even as Gabriella welcomed her lover’s kiss.

And as the applause died down, just loud enough to be heard over the clamor of the cast and crew celebrating the performance, a voice was heard…the Voice.

“I love you, my sweet brother…good bye my dear sweet ,sister” the Voice said one final time., January 18, 2018, Review by Matthew Gurewitsch.

This production is brilliantly staged by Jerome Vincenti, a traditional take on the classic comic opera by Richard Strauss. As always, Marie Marchese’ as Marschallin is wonderfully nuanced. Alex Griffin, a newcomer to San Francisco, is very good as Baron Ochs, especially when he appears wounded at the end of the performance. But the real stars are Gabriella Pastorelli and Deborah Levine. Of course, the music is dulcet and so connected; with an electricity this reviewer has never before seen. But the acting…It’s as if they truly love each other; made for each other. More to see on MG.


Jerome Vincenti was asked to stay on at the San Francisco Opera House when David Gockley took the position of Director of the Los Angeles Opera. Marie passed in August, just like the Voice said; she’s singing soprano with her best friend and life-long companion, Veronica in a huge production of Handel’s Messiah I’ve been told on good authority. Gabriella and Deborah went on to star in I Capuleti e i Montecchi as well as other operas together.


Gabriella and Deborah were married in a civil ceremony in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. They currently reside in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Deborah is expecting twins, a boy and a girl. The happy couple has vowed that they will do everything they can to ensure that before anything else, their children are safe and happy and that their lives will be filled with love and music.

And a sweet sound is heard every night as the happy couple sing to their babies. A sweet and airy soprano and a lovely, but altogether fitting alto with the soft strains Evening Prayer filling the house.

Sleeping softly, then it seems
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me,
Whisp'ring they have found me;

Two are sweetly singing,
Two are garlands bringing,
Strewing me with roses
As my soul reposes.
God will not forsake me
When dawn at last will wake me.

Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59) The Knight of the Rose is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
The opera has four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, her very young lover Octavian Rofrano, a part sung by a woman, her coarse, skirt-chasing country cousin Baron Ochs, and his young prospective fiancée Sophie, the lovely daughter of a rich Viennese bourgeois.
Baron Ochs, having arranged with Sophie's father Faninal to combine his noble rank with Faninal's money by marrying Sophie, asks the Marschallin to suggest an appropriate young man to be his Knight of the Rose, who will present a silver rose to Sophie on his behalf as a traditional symbol of courtship. She recommends Octavian. When Octavian delivers the rose, he and Sophie fall in love on sight, and must figure out how to prevent Baron Ochs from marrying Sophie. They accomplish this in a comedy of errors that is smoothed over with the help of the Marschallin.

Hansel and Gretel (German: Hänsel und Gretel) is an opera by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as a Märchenoper (fairy-tale opera). The libretto was written by Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, based on the Grimm brothers' fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". It is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being the "Abendsegen" ("Evening Benediction" or "Evening Prayer") from act 2.

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