The Virtuoso

Margriet de Moor, Author, Margriet De Moor, Author
Margriet de Moor, Author, Margriet De Moor, Author Overlook Press $24.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-58567-003-1
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-330-33438-9
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-330-34015-1
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-1-58567-253-0
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Dutch author de Moor makes her American debut with a tempestuous tale of lust, longing and loss among the aristocracy in 18th-century Naples. Carlotta Caetani, who narrates, is 10 when she feels her first sensual stirrings, listening to the angelic voice of 11-year-old choirboy Gasparo Conti. Her wealthy, older father, Paolo, also finds the boy's voice compelling, and, in a game of cards, gets Gasparo's father to submit his son to a life in the opera, starting with the operation that will make him a castrato. Gasparo disappears from their small village, Croce del Carmine, but Carlotta doesn't forget him. Five years later, Carlotta's dowry has been gambled away by her father and she is resigned to marrying a wealthy, middle-aged, homosexual family friend, Berto. When Paolo dies, Berto offers his grieving young bride a respite, allowing her to spend an opera season in Naples. A poetic passage foreshadows what is in store for her there: ""Of course I did not think of Gasparo. But long before reaching the coast the traveler can sense the sea."" Once she sees the now-famous virtuoso perform on stage, his angelic beauty and heavenly voice obsess her. Fortunately, her loving older half-sister, Angelica Margherita, and their childhood maidservant, Faustina Maria Delle Papozze, help stabilize Carlotta through the turmoil of first love. Carlotta's passion informs her mistaken belief that virtuosity equals virtue, failing to see that Gasparo is in fact rather boring and vain, temperamental and hopelessly self-absorbed. The erotic couplings and breathless narrative will certainly draw comparisons to Anne Rice's paean to the castrati, Cry to Heaven. However, de Moor's book is a colorful, passionate story on its own merits, with many rapturous passages musing philosophically and poetically about love, beauty and form. (Jan.)
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