Category Archives: Opera fiction

an imagined cast list for Don Juan in Hankey, PA

Kimberly A. Bennett, poet

Editor’s note: This post is the fourth stop on the Eye-Popping, Jaw-Dropping, Gob-Smacking Blog Tour to launch my novel with an opera backdrop, DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA.

by Kimberly A. Bennett, guest blogger

I am going to start out a little serious here—but in no way is Don Juan in Hankey, PA meant to be a serious novel. It is populated with a madcap ensemble of characters looking for love, bent on bringing big-time opera to small-town, Hankey—it is bursting with outlandish plot snarls and tension-relieving plot twists—it is an entertaining ride.

However, I will be serious for a bit because I want to call attention to what might be overlooked—in fact, it took several days to pinpoint the element of Martin’s novel that had me wondering how she made me care what happened to each character.

Gale Martin’s skill with point of view reminded me of not another novelist, but the technique of another talented storyteller—Robert Altman, director of MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and more recently, Gosford Park. How so? Like Altman, Martin achieves what seems impossible—each character has his or her own starring role. While the narrative focuses on a character, while he or she is “on screen” I believe it is all about Deanna, or Richard, or his well-meaning phantom-wife, Mary. Martin’s dexterity with what critic David Jauss calls, “the locus of perception,” in his essay, “From Long Shots to X-rays: Distance and Point of View in Fiction,” enters us into the minds and hearts of her characters, so that we believe it is his or her story.

Deanna Lundquist, guild chair, as envisioned by the author

Without Martin’s skill with showing, not telling (she opens each chapter with a cleverly subtitled summary) her point of view technique would fall flat. Page after page, I watched on the “movie screen of my mind’s eye” the unfolding of events—one of my favorites finds two male characters in the wrong place at the wrong time, “in the raw,” in bed, and in the dark of night! From beginning to end, Martin keeps readers enthralled with her flawed, but loveable opera zealots.

Look at Gale Martin’s character photos to see how she envisions her cast, otherwise maybe you will agree with my imagined casting call using Gale Martin’s “cast of characters” with slight age alterations:

Julianne Moore as Deanna Lundquist

  • Deanna Lundquist, A Community Organizer and Socialite, Recently Divorced: Julianne Moore
  • Dr. Richard Rohrer, A Retired Physician and Widower: Jeremy Northam
  • Vivian Frantz Pirelli, The Heiress to the Frantz Ketchup Fortune, Famously Divorced: Naomi Watts
  • Oriane Longenecker, Hankey Native and Amateur Opera Singer: Emily Browning
  • Carter Knoblauch, Impresario born in Cincinnati: Bradley Cooper
  • Donato Bianco, Aging Professional Baritone Whose Star Has Lately Dimmed: Colin Farrell
  • Leandro Vasquez, A Dashing Professional Opera Singer of Dissolute Habits: Ben Stiller
  • Ben Stiller as Argentine baritone Leandro Vasquez

    Mary Rohrer, Richard’s Late Wife, A Ghost of Saintly Demeanor: Ellen Greene

  • Arnaud Marceau, Local Balloon Entrepreneur and Clairaudient Medium: Sam Rockwell
  • Maestro Schantzenbach, Diminutive Conductor of the Hankey Opera Company and Lover of Dachshunds: Gary Oldman
  • Paylor Frantz, Vivian’s Mother, a Lonely Widow: Bette White
  • Jeannie Jacobs, A Wealthy Widow, Originally from Hankey: Melanie Griffith
  • Donny of Donny’s Catering, A Metrosexual Caterer: Fred Armisen

 

Kim Bennett's book

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About today’s guest bogger, Kimberly Bennett: Kim is a poet and author of a poetic sequence, Soiled Doves, a series of historical poems set in a Seattle working-class brothel, c. 1910, now available on Amazon

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Filed under Guest post, opera and fiction, Opera and humor, opera challenges, Opera fiction

eye-popping, jaw-dropping blog tour for new novel

A host of talented bloggers with varied gifts–authors, artists, writers and opera experts–are opening up their blogs as part of a thirteen-stop tour to launch my soon-to-be-released opera novel Don Juan in Hankey, PA.

David Karlin's blog at Bachtrack.com

The tour kicks off on November 22 with Bachtrack founder David Karlin’s blog and continues through January 17, 2012. You can expect to read revealing Q&A’s and get a glimpse of the cinematic world of small-town opera that fill the book’s pages.

The blog tour is also an opportunity to meet some of the characters who bring the pages of Don Juan in Hankey, PA to life: the Argentine baritone Leandro Vasquez singing the title role in Don Giovanni–unleashed, as you’ve never seen him before; Maestro Schantzenbach, aka the Teeny Tyrant, the resident conductor of the Hankey Opera Company; and Deanna Lundquist, guild chair–shrewd, Machiavellian–determined to see the Hankey Opera Company succeed.

Stop by one or two of these blogs over the next several weeks or take in every worthy whistlestop!

All the tour dates are also online here with thumbnails of each blog.

Nov. 22 – Scintillating Q&A with Bachtrack founder David Karlin at his blog.

Nov. 23 – Some author to author dishing with Margo Candela at her website.

Nov. 29 – Guest post at author Amye Archer’s blog— where we get up-close-and-personal with fictional barihunk Leandro Vasquez.

Nov. 30 – Poet Kim Loomis Bennett crashes Operatoonity.com right here.

Dec. 2 – Probing Q&A with UK author Gordon Darroch  at “Unreal Domain.”

Dec. 4 – Guest post at UK children’s author Martin King’s blog to discuss writing creatively.

Art Life & Stilettos - Diana Di Mauro's magazine

Dec.  7 – Interview with Diana Di Mauro, doyenne of  the online magazine Art Life and Stilettos.

Dec. 9 – Book review and giveaway at Kathy Sprinkle’s amazing, energizing blog, “Bliss Habits”.

Dec. 12 – Guest post at author and educator Ami Hendrikson’s blog “MuseInks.”

Dec. 13 – Guest post at The Wagnerian where we will meet  Maestro Jan Schantzenbach, resident conductor of the Hankey Opera Company.

The Wagnerian

Dec.15 – Q&A with writer Kirsty Stanley at “KIRSTYES”  who will also talk with Deanna Lundquist, the main character in Don Juan in Hankey, PA.

Jan 15 – Book review and mini Q&A with sparkling opera aficionado Lucy at “Opera Obsession”.

Jan 17 – Guest post at Maine native Sharon C. William’s blog, “The Musings of a New Englander”.

 



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Filed under opera blogs, Opera fiction

have you read ‘Bel Canto’?

Editor’s Note: Since I will soon be publishing my own opera novel, I thought I’d repost a review of a very fine, award-winning opera novel.

I don’t do many book reviews on “Operatoonity,” but since we are featuring North American opera this month, I wanted to mention a beautiful read by a North American author that employs classic opera as a backdrop. 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The book is called Bel Canto, and for me it was a life-changing read. Bel Canto is a highly acclaimed novel by Ann Patchett that bridges literary and suspense writing. It won both the Orange Prize for fiction and also the Pen/Faulkner Award in 2002. An opera motif is a major thematic thread in the story. 

As you most likely know, “Bel canto” is a term from opera that refers to a style of singing that emphasizes beautiful tone, good phrasing, and a clean articulation of words, popularized in the 19th Century in Europe. 

More than any other single work, his book conveyed to me the importance that opera holds in some people’s lives. Granted, that could be because I’m a writer, and I respond to the language of words before the language of music. 

If you don’t know the book, here’s what it’s about:  

Bel Canto revolves around a famous opera singer who is taken hostage by local insurgents while singing at a private birthday party for a Japanese businessman. The siege takes place in the home of the vice president of an unstable South American country. The kidnappers’ plan is foiled from the beginning—their target—the president of the country is a no-show; he decided not to attend the party after all. So the guerrillas make a list of demands, which neither the police nor the government intend to meet—none of the hostages are very valuable, except for the opera singer. 

This is a character-driven piece of literary fiction with a strong plot. The inciting incident, the siege, is a riveting plot point, setting the stage for deep character development. The end is also gripping. What’s interesting about this book is that language is always in the foreground—that’s what makes it literary. The author doesn’t care whether the reader has any knowledge of opera in building the story—it’s only used as a tool for developing character and plot. 

Bel Canto does an exquisite job conveying there are people around the world with a fervent, even reverent love for opera—that the human voice is a powerful seductress and may be the best and the finest instrument in the world as “played” by some. That listeners have a deep and visceral connection with opera. That certain composers and arias can awaken things in the human soul that other forms of art cannot. And of course, opera celebrates the human voice. No one comes to the opera primarily to hear the orchestra. Opera is also an acquired taste, and I like the way Ann Patchett showed how these characters acquired their love for opera, when it applied, and what about opera and opera singers other characters less familiar with opera came to love. 

If you haven’t read the book and you enjoy both an engrossing read and classic opera, you absolutely must put it on your reading list.

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Filed under Bel canto opera, Classic Opera, North American Opera, Opera fiction