When Miranda Neville approached me about her new operatically themed book, something in her story made me equate Rock Stars and Opera Stars. I asked her if she would opine about this and she agreed.
This history of media is my kind of thing, and mixed with romance, it’s even more so. Is celebrity an invention of the 20th century media or have people who can create music, or tell stories, that move us always been larger than life figures idolized by the masses? I’m excited that an author is looking at opera stars as people and celebrity in an age when information traveled more slowly and recordings were not available.
SECRETS OF A SOPRANO
by Miranda Neville
Publisher: Miranda Neville
Digital and Paperback: 290 pages
Published April 11th, 2016
No one knows the perils of celebrity better than Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer. The public knows her as a glamorous and tempestuous diva, mistress to emperors, a reputation created by the newspapers and the ruthless man who exploited her. Now she has come to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family.
Foscari’s peerless voice thrills all London—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy patron of opera—and lover of singers. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. When his glittering new opera house sits half empty, thanks to the soprano filling the seats of his competitor’s theater, Max vows to stop the woman he unwillingly still desires.
Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirées of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. With her reputation in ruins, Tessa must fight for her career —and resist her burning attraction to the man who wishes to destroy her. http://www.mirandaneville.com/secrets-of-a-soprano/
Opera singers were the rock stars of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, celebrities whose amazing voices, stunning stage presence—especially if they were lucky enough to possess good looks—and offstage exploits, fascinated the European public. The first stage idols were the castrati, male sopranos who had been castrated as boys to preserve their voices. We don’t know what they sounded like but reportedly their voices were as pure as a boy’s, as flexible as a woman’s, with all the power of a man’s. I can’t say I regret that this unnatural practice went out of fashion!
High voices continued to be those most in demand and the great women sopranos took the castrato’s place in the firmament. Only later were tenors as much admired as their female counterparts.
In creating Teresa “Tessa” Foscari, the heroine of Secrets of a Soprano, I drew on incidents from the lives of two of the period’s most renowned, Angelica Catalani and Maria Malibran.
Catalani (for some reason sopranos are known by their last names) was a beautiful Italian who dominated European opera early in the nineteenth century. During several years in London she earned fabulous sums—an estimated sixteen thousand pounds in 1807—not bad when we remember that the super-wealthy Mr. Darcy only had ten thousand a year! Malibran, who introduced Italian opera to New York, was known for her love affairs and her tragic death aged 28, collapsing on stage as a result of injuries caused by falling off a horse.
Both ladies had personal problems. Catalani’s husband ran her career badly and gambled away much of her fortune. Malibran married a much older banker in order to get away from her dominating and exploitative father. Alas, Mr. Malibran went bankrupt and his wife had to support him from her earnings.
My heroine Tessa Foscari also has problems with men and money. Her deceased husband ran through her money and she comes to London almost penniless, in need of a big paycheck. Everything looks good until she meets an old lover, her teenage sweetheart Max who now runs a rival opera house and is determined to see her fail.
Naturally Max is ultimately a good guy. I wanted Tessa to shake off the male exploitation that dogged so many great female artistes throughout history. She finds her happy ever after with the man she still loves while retaining her rich musical life. An abiding love and respect for the art of music and singing unite the couple as well as more earthy attractions!
From Miranda’s Website:
Readers of my first book, NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION, may be interested to learn that the couple in that book, Jacobin and Anthony, Earl of Storrington, appear in this one. http://www.mirandaneville.com/secrets-of-a-soprano/