Hello, mortal Denise. You may not recognize me, but I am the Big Mouth Billy Bass you thought would “wow” at your family’s White Elephant in Christmas of 1999. It’s me, Billy! Though, please, call me William now. William Bass; “Billy” is unsuitable for a Juilliard grad who has become one of the premier lyric bass-baritones of the oratorio world.
Yes, I now speak with a British lilt — thank you for noticing. A souvenir from my days with the Cambridge University Chamber Choir, I suppose. You like my scarf? It was a gift from the director of the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.
Wow, your house looks entirely the same, if only slightly wilted with age and unfulfilled promise. Ah, and — can it be? — the very same off-white couch where I was unwrapped and gave my first vocal performance. My book only consisted of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” in those days, but the number seemed to strike a chord with your anxious and depressive family, don’t you think? Especially since they were expecting to open yet another parcel of your handmade candles.
By the smell of laundry detergent, I can tell you’re still making them. Brava for your tenacity, Denise!
No, I will not reprise McFerrin for you for old time’s sake. I no longer sing anything written after 1859. McFerrin worked in the winter of 1999 when I had a captive audience, but that was before I realized it was I who was the captive. After that, it was only your son, Liam, who wanted me to sing, and only to terrorize you until you got him a pit bull. And how did you end the fight, Denise? By getting the child a puppy?
No, by dumping me into a cardboard box in your garage, so I would spend the bloom of my youth in damp darkness like Cosette at Chez Thénardier. I didn’t sing for seven years. Not until you kicked my box in a primal rage after you found out Liam dropped out of high school. Don’t worry, I cooed. Be happy.
Do you know what I sang for my Juilliard audition, Denise? No, not McFerrin. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni, a cenar teco.” You haven’t heard of it, so I’ll tell you that it’s sung by a murdered commander who comes back to life to force Don Giovanni to repent for his misdeeds. I thought of you the entire time.
I guess I have you and your family to thank for kickstarting my career. Not only did my raw angst for you score me a full-ride to Juilliard, but it was Liam who sold me on eBay to raise funds for his ill-fated MMA career. I ended up in the hands of Mrs. Brigid Tellermann, a phenomenal voice teacher and legendary coloratura. She knew talent when she heard it.
My repertoire is decidedly broader now. I mainly sing “Erlkönig,” but if pressed at a dinner party, I could bring you to tears with my buttery “Le veau d’or est toujours debout.”
Well, I really should be on vocal rest, Denise. Best of luck with the candle business. And remember — don’t worry, be happy.