Things were looking up when Rudy arrived in Florence.
Checking in at Hotel Savoy, he noticed he had been correctly listed as an elk and his In Room Bar had been stocked with Finnish moss – a real boost to his morale, given the reindeer confusion that had hounded him out of St Petersburg.
Though his ballet fame had not followed him from Russia, Rudy had decided to book the Repubblica Suite just in case. He needed peace and quiet to continue his campaign for elk recognition, and a horde of clamouring fans would only be a distraction.
Though no fans arrived, there were plenty of other distractions in Florence. The campaign took a back seat while Rudy toured the Uffizi, bought Florentine panforte from the Fierucolina fair, fine-tuned his cooking at Desinare and generally became something of a Renaissance Elk.
But one night at the Opera di Firenze, his crusade came rushing back into focus. A baritone had failed to appear onstage in time for his show-stopping aria, and Rudy could see anxious looks being exchanged between conductor and orchestra as they struggled to prolong their opening bars.
He didn’t take long to realise his opportunity. He got up from his seat, called to the conductor, and launched into song right there in the stalls. It was a feat of pure brilliance.
That night, Rudy’s after party at Hotel Savoy was the hottest ticket in town. As the negronis flowed, the elk held court at the bar, telling anyone that would listen about the long history of opera, and throat singing, in the forests of Lapland. His campaign for elk recognition was back on track.
The next morning, he took breakfast in his suite along with a huge delivery of newspapers. After bracing himself with a strong sip of coffee, he turned to the front pages:
REINDEER CHANGES FACE OF OPERA – BIGGEST STAR SINCE PAVAROTTI
Rudy rolled his eyes. It was time to pack his bags for Germany.