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Thread: Novels about operas?

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    Default Novels about operas?

    I stumbled upon a Sci-fi the other day whose main characters are opera singers and 50% of the plot revolves around the line of work they do. The author is very knowledgeable about the art, the business and is at least an aficionado. Here's the link, not bad at all for a casual read for fun:
    http://storiesonline.net/s/11013/castaway?ind=1

    So, what are some other novels that have a lot to do with the thing we love? Truly great novelists sometimes use opera as a plot device: Dumas père mentioned Guillaume Tell and confused which act which aria belongs to. Leo Tolstoy wrote about opera in both W&P and Anna Karenina but never indicated the names. Madame Bovary went to Lucia...any other works that feature opera more than just a sketch?
    Last edited by russetvelvet; Mar-19-2017 at 09:09.

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    Gaston Leroux's Fantôme de l'Opéra (Phantom of the Opera)!

    Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, one of his Discworld novels featuring Granny Weatherwax. Parodies both opera and The Phantom of the Opera.

    Several detective stories:

    Edmund Crispin's Swan Song (1947) involves a production of Wagner's Meistersinger. Amusing and cleverly written, like all of Crispin's novels.

    H.R.F. Keating's Death of a Fat God (1963) is set at an opera house; the title refers to an imaginary 20th century opera. Thinly plotted but amusing. The opening chapter cleverly tweaks Tosca.

    Gladys Mitchell's Death at the Opera (1934), despite the title, isn't set at an opera at all; it's set at a school production of The Mikado. The motive is (deliberately) far fetched, but related to the performance. Mitchell's books are eccentric but bracing and intelligent (rather like Sayers), and her psychiatrist detective Mrs. Bradley is great fun.

    Agatha Christie studied to be an opera singer; none of her novels are set at the opera, but Wagner and Puccini are vital to Passenger to Frankfurt (1970) and the short story "Swan Song" (in The Listerdale Mystery, 1934). Under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, she wrote Giant's Bread (1930), about a Modernist composer. (Charles Osborne, who wrote one of the best studies of Verdi, was a Christie fan; his Life and Crimes is a good overview.)

    I know there's at least one novel that's based on an opera (rather than the other way round).

    EDIT: Oh, and Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray, of course.
    Last edited by Dr. Shatterhand; Mar-19-2017 at 09:54.

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    John Dickson Carr's Bride of Newgate (1950), set in 1815,, has a scene at the Covent Garden riots.

    George MacDonald Fraser's Royal Flash has another riot at an English opera house, later in the century. The star is Lola Montez, mistress of Liszt, Dumas and Ludwig I.

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    Ever thought of writing your own opera Simon?
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    "Mahatma Gandhi"

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    Mardrew Czgowchwz (pronounced Mardu Gorgeous) is a wonderfully witty and fun novel about a Callas-like soprano.
    https://smile.amazon.com/Mawrdew-Czg...hwz+%28Book%29

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonTemplar View Post
    . . .
    Edmund Crispin's Swan Song (1947) involves a production of Wagner's Meistersinger. Amusing and cleverly written, like all of Crispin's novels.
    . . .
    Years ago a friend and I adapted "Swan Song" for the stage. For practical purposes we had to switch the opera to something more intimate, so we used "Barber."

    The production got mixed reviews, but the best one we received was from Marilyn Stasio, then a theatre critic, but also the detective fiction critic for the New York Times. She, of course, knew Crispin's work, and thus, what we were trying to achieve.

    By the way, Crispin (real name Bruce Montgomery) was also a composer.
    Last edited by jegreenwood; Mar-19-2017 at 14:18.

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    "Bel Canto", a murder mystery by Anne Patchett was loosely based on Renee Fleming.

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    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton opens "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York." The entire first chapter takes place at the opera house. (The 1993 film used the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, as the one in NY was gone).

    There is a Wikipedia page that lists fiction that features opera (though it certainly isn't complete!)

    Perhaps my favorite bit from the list is that Helen Traubel wrote a The Metropolitan Opera Murders, in which the prompter - a famous former heldentenor - dies suddenly during a performance of Die Walküre. The soprano (guess who she is based on!) helps the detective solve the case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mountmccabe View Post
    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton opens "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York." The entire first chapter takes place at the opera house. (The 1993 film used the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, as the one in NY was gone).

    There is a Wikipedia page that lists fiction that features opera (though it certainly isn't complete!)

    Perhaps my favorite bit from the list is that Helen Traubel wrote a The Metropolitan Opera Murders, in which the prompter - a famous former heldentenor - dies suddenly during a performance of Die Walküre. The soprano (guess who she is based on!) helps the detective solve the case.
    Reading Wharton's "The Age of Mirth" at the moment. That also has a scene at the opera. (Maybe more than one _ I haven't finished it yet.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pugg View Post
    Ever thought of writing your own opera Simon?
    I've already written it. It's a tribute piece to Rossini, Wagner and French grand opera. Rossini wrote an aria on a single note (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffZiEgC4Tu0); so is my entire opera. It's scored for kazoo, doodlesack, sackbut, penny whistle, and catgut violin (with the cat still attached and very much alive). It lasts for 23 days, at the end of which the audience is shot, the theatre blown up, and a volcano explodes. Not just erupts, but explodes; I drop an atom bomb into the crater. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding backers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonTemplar View Post
    I've already written it. It's a tribute piece to Rossini, Wagner and French grand opera. Rossini wrote an aria on a single note (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffZiEgC4Tu0); so is my entire opera. It's scored for kazoo, doodlesack, sackbut, penny whistle, and catgut violin (with the cat still attached and very much alive). It lasts for 23 days, at the end of which the audience is shot, the theatre blown up, and a volcano explodes. Not just erupts, but explodes; I drop an atom bomb into the crater. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding backers.
    Ask all the( opera) critics for sponsoring, talking about good riddance.
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    "Mahatma Gandhi"

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    Many years ago I read an SF novel by a classic author (ie, one you would have heard of) that involved an opera company and time travel, whose title and author (and most of the plot) escapes me. At first I thought that was what you were referencing until I followed your link. Now that you've brought up the subject, I'll try to remember. Speaking of SF, Fred Hoyle's "October the First is Too Late" features a classical composer as its principal protagonist.

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    In Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf, the protagonist meets the ghost of Mozart. During this supernatural encounter, music from Don Giovanni is playing in the background.

    Also, Milan Kundera's novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting has a character called Tamina, which I assume is a reference to the character Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute. However, the plot of Kundera's novel seems to have very little to do with the plot of Mozart's opera, except maybe in a very indirect and metaphorical way.

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    Shaw and Hoffmann both wrote short stories about Don Giovanni.

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    Okay, "Narabedla LTD" by Frederic Pohl is about singers, actors, dancers, etc. who are offered the chance to have career ending injuries reversed in exchange for agreeing to perform on a circuit of alien worlds many light years distant. The protagonist is a former opera singer.
    Last edited by MarkW; Mar-21-2017 at 05:37.

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