The Leading Lady vs. The Loser
She was the overachieving, hyper-talented diva of our high school. I was the jealous tone-deaf wannabe. Obviously, I hated her—until our paths crossed at the Met Opera twenty years later.
Illustrations by Ayun Halliday
She was a prodigy who’d skipped second grade and finished third in her graduating class, a feminist before the rest of us knew what the word meant and a classically trained singer. Rosalie Sullivan would have been reigning diva of our high school had anybody appreciated her merits.
I certainly didn’t. She inspired me with feelings I’d later recognize in Benjamin Britten’s opera “Billy Budd”: “O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness! Would that I had never seen you. Having seen you, what choice remains to me? None, none! I am doomed to annihilate you; I am vowed to your destruction!”
For most of my life, I’d been known as the Pianist, the Brain, the Most Likely to Get the Hell Out of Dodge. That is, until my senior year, when months of bewildered hammering at Rachmaninoff and several humiliating auditions brought home the realization that I was tone-deaf: Though I could read music and memorize finger positions on the piano keys, I literally couldn’t distingu…