and, if it doesn't, would Noguer have been considerate enough to let Berta have the side of the bed that faced it? I should write to Noguer in order to find all this out, but from his letter he did not seem to me a very understanding person nor exactly high class. I would have woken up that night, sensing death with my sleeping thoughts, and then I would have woken her up so that she would not die in such anguish, so that she would not die in her dreams.
But to be honest, it takes an enormous effort on my part to remember Berta, to remember that I lived with her and, like Navarro, slept with her, and that she always did her best to be at home, waiting for me whenever I returned from my operatic travels so that I would not be assailed by the same feeling of misfortune—of arriving in a place where no one knew me and where no one was expecting me—that I experienced in every city I visited as I walked into the hotel room reserved for me. I find it inexpressibly hard to recall her cheerful nature and her diaphanous eyes, the sudden touch of her hands and the ill-matched colors of her clothes, her easy laughter, her child-like smell, her slow way of talking, her impassive back turned to me during my hours of insomnia. The fact of her death adds nothing to her, rather it takes something away: not only is she now nothing in my imagination, in my thoughts, in my life, she is nothing in her imagination, her thoughts, in her life. She does not even have a life. From now on, if such a thing is possible, she will grow in my forgetting.
H OW CAN ONE DESTROY OR supplant a man whom one barely knows, about whom one knows little and with whom one has no dealings? That was the question which, as the last week of my stay in Madrid began, tormented me and came to obsess me, as it did for several minutes (dream minutes, long minutes) in my dream this morning. They were the busiest, most complicated days, during which I had the least free time, the days of our final rehearsals for the premiere of Verdi's Otello at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and the days when everything seemed about to end in disaster: suddenly and belatedly, two days before the first night, ancient, conceited Hörbiger, Otello, announced that he was entirely incompatible with and unable to sing with Volte, who kept deliberately confusing him on stage in order to discredit and outshine him; the slimy, insatiable Volte, Iago, inexplicably showed signs of losing his voice, a claim I rejected from the start as false: an utterly unimaginative act of retaliation, an absolute classic among singers; and the lovely, silly Priés, Desdemona, began to neglect her accent and to fluff her words and then delayed the dress rehearsal for two whole hours, engaged as she was in a tempestuous flirtation with the orchestra's ugly and mediocre first violin (a Spaniard), who was also missing from his post (they arrived within a minute of each other, their hair dishevelled and their lips wet with saliva, she still fastening her costume and revealing her breasts, he with his bow tie in tatters). During that time, the conductor broke several batons and argued with everyone: at one point, when all the principal singers flounced out of the room, all of us with our own reasons for feeling offended, thus leaving him with no opponents, he brutally insulted the peace-loving theater staff, who threatened to go on strike on the days of the performances. Everything seemed to point to either cancellation or disaster. Even I, Cassio, for the first time I can remember, scaled down my sacred daily practice sessions and paid scant attention to my own part, strangely captivated by that of the other tenor—the Heldentenor, the heroic tenor, the tenore di forza, Otello, Hörbiger—and distracted by the beginning of my unexpected suffering.
After meeting Manur and seeing his strength, I realized how very brief that extraordinary time was and how it was approaching its end when it had only just started, and