Friday, March 7, 2014

Whispers of Vivaldi by Beverle Graves Myers

First Sentence: The one thing I never miss about the opera career that had brought me fame and fortune is jolting from one engagement to another in lumbering mail coaches, watching the roadside vegetation unfold in brain-numbing boredom.

Tito Amato is determined to prove himself, to Maestro Torani, as worthy of being the director of the Teatro San Marco. But they are competing for their audience against another theater with a more modern style of programming. When a composer presents to Tito a glorious new opera, styled in the manner of Vivaldi, Tito wants it to be the season opener. The opera house’s patron agrees, but only if Tito can sign Angeletto, a spectacular castrato singer from Naples, to sing. However, is the singer truly a castrato, or a woman in disguise? What is the motive for the brutal attack on Maestro Torani? It all leaves Tito searching for answers.

What a fascinating look at the being-the-scenes wrangling, politics and rivalries of a theater. Myers than takes all those intricacies and incorporates them into the equally complex layers of society and religion.

Oh, how helpful would have been a Cast of Characters. It did become very confusing, at times, trying to remember who everyone was and how they fit into the story. Even so, the characters are fascinating. Tito is the narrator. For those who follow the series, it is interesting to see how his life has evolved. However, it’s of no matter for those who have not as Myers does provide an adequate backstory both for Tito and his wife, Liya. Their relationship adds an extra dimension which brings particular depth to the book and her use of Tarot and scrying set her apart.

The fact that Tito works with the head of investigation, Messer Grande, adds realism to the story. Messer Grande is an interesting character in this own right…”I was familiar with the look that settled on Messer Grande’s face. Documents were leaping from drawer to drawer in the cabinet that made up his spectacular memory.”

The use of Vivaldi as a character was wonderfully done. It is particularly interesting as he never actually appears in the story. It was very nicely done.

Myers has a wonderful voice…”Venice never slept. Well, perhaps you could argue that my city drowsed during the worst of the summer heat, when the wealthy made their annual villeggiatura to cooler mainland estates. But a deep, snoring, head-buried in pillows sleep? Never.” It is also very clear that she knows, and loves, music. Tito’s complaint about the soprano’s style is one with which I agree about many of today’s singers…”His original tutor must have schooled him in nothing but embellishment, so determined was Angeletto to add thrills and tremolos at every opportunity. Neapolitans! They wouldn’t recognize moderation if it smacked them across the fact and challenged them to a duel.”

“Whispers of Vivaldi” is not all about music. There is also a wonderful false path, an excellent plot twist and heart-pounding suspense. I highly recommend it for lovers of music and/or historical mysteries.

WHISPERS OF VIVALDI (Hist Mys-Tito Amato-Venice-1745) – VG+
Myers, Beverle Graves – 6th in series
Poisoned Pen Press, 2014

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