Paris 1858 – Italian Opera house
Paul Morphy stepped out of his carriage, brushed imaginary dust from the sleeve of his black tail coat, and plopped his ridiculously tall stovepipe top hat onto his well combed and oiled hair. He inhaled the thick Parisian air and almost gagged. The sweet odors from a nearby bakery mingled with the humidity and emanation of the substandard sewer system below creating a… interestingly nauseating aroma. The young Creole-American of 21 years could not get into the Italian Opera house fast enough to escape the offensive environment of outdoor Paris. Sometimes he did long to return to his Louisiana home.
Morphy quickly realized that he had traded one nauseating aroma for another. Inside, the colognes and perfumes of the patrons were thick enough in the in the air to catch a buzz. The Opera House interior was ornately decorated, only to be outmatched by the patron Nobles’ attire. Top hats measuring in feet instead of inches stretched into the air like skyscrapers in New York’s cityscape. The women wore full evening gowns that demanded their own area codes. Lace, ribbons, and bosoms spilled out of bodices that were disproportionate to the amount of dress below the waistline. Even amongst the forest of top hats and the overcompensating dresses, Morphy managed to draw some attention. He was considered the strongest chess player of his time, very rarely was he defeated on the checkerboard. He navigated through the pompous royalty offering fake smiles, handshakes, and cordiality until he found his host, The Duke of Brunswick.
Morphy had been looking forward to watching the play ‘Norma’ which he had heard wonderful reviews about. A good friend, The Duke of Brunswick, a German Noble, and fellow theatre enthusiast had been so gracious to invite him to his stageside box for the play. This wasn’t the first time the Duke had extended an invitation to him. Morphy suspected that The Duke had befriended him solely for his talents in the silly boardgame that held Europe’s nobility captivated. Chess.