I am often asked why does opera play such an important role in my novels.
To answer that question, I will first turn to my literary mentor, J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien put it best in giving advice to writers when he said to let your interests drive your writing. Tolkien loved languages and mythology. That was where his interest lay. He wrote Lord of the Rings so that he could create his own world, his own language, and his own mythology. He followed his interests. I take what Tolkien said, but add one further clarification. Yes, write about your interests, but most importantly; make sure you are passionate about that interest. After all, writing is a long, arduous process, which requires dedication, and to write about things you don’t really care about, makes it even harder. One passion in my life is opera.
I grew up in New Orleans in a very large Sicilian-American family. Music was always around my home. My earliest memories were watching Mario Lanza movies with my family, where that glorious voice of his sang songs in a language that I did not understand, but touched something deep in my soul.
When I got to high school, I purchased my first opera recording, Tosca by Puccini.
The rest as they say was history. A lifelong love affair was born.
Over the years, more and more opera recordings were purchased and I went to some of the greatest opera houses around the world and saw some of the greatest singers, including Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras. I also started to develop a keen interest in the history and lore of opera composers and singers.
All of which brings us to a night many years ago, when my son was first born. I stayed up with him late one night and when I went to bed, an idea of a story came to me about a young singer growing up in Milan. This story, Tempesta’s Dream, allowed me to share my love of opera as well as the history of opera to others.
Unbeknownst to me when I first started writing, I had found a niche. I became in the literary genre world – an Italian Historical Fiction author. Not bad for a guy from New Orleans.
Of course, after finishing that first novel, my thoughts turned to writing a second one. So again I turned to opera.
Enrico Caruso has long fascinated me. He is, after all, regarded as the greatest opera singer who ever lived. There was a wonderful biography written on his life by his son. I remember vividly the story about his wife running off with his chauffeur and Caruso, being humiliated, fled Florence to get away from the press.
What would happen if there were a small village in Sicily, who had problems of it’s own. And somehow, Caruso would play a role in the story. Opera once again took center stage in a beautiful story of redemption and sacrifice set among the Sicilian hills. This story eventually became A Song for Bellafortuna.
That novel not only became an Amazon Bestselling novel but is was also awarded the BRAG Medallian award for Historical Fiction.
So, in closing, why opera? Writing gave me an outlet to share my love and knowledge of this glorious art form to others; but to do so not through non-fiction, but through story telling. What a fun journey it has been.