Thursday, May 13, 2010
Renee Ryan here. I’m about to become an empty-nester. But I’m not going to whine about that. No, seriously. With every ending comes a new beginning. I’m really looking forward to more time with my husband. And more hours in the day to devote to my writing, which also means more time doing my favorite part of the writing process. Researching.
Speaking of which, I had a lot of fun researching my latest release, LOVING BELLA. My heroine is an opera singer. And since I know nothing about opera I had the opportunity to delve into a brand new, exciting world.
Opera, put simply, is an art form in which singers and musicians work together to perform a dramatic story set to a musical score. Duh, right? Opera was born in Italy at the end of the 16th century. Although England, Germany, and France soon developed their own traditions, Italian opera dominated most of Europe for centuries after its birth. Even Mozart, probably the most renowned opera composer and an Austrian, is famous for his Italian comic operas, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.
The words that are sung in an opera are called libretto. Some composers often write both the music and the libretto. Mozart was not one of them. However, he did work closely with his librettist, a man called Lorenzo Da Ponte. Traditional operas consist of two types of music/singing—the recitative or passage that drives the plot and the aria, where the singer gets to express the character’s emotional reaction to an event in the storyline. My heroine, Bella, is brilliant at arias.
LOVING BELLA is set in late 19th century, during the “golden age” of opera. Bella loves being an opera singer. She also loves William Gordon, Lord Crawley. She believes he’s going to ask her to marry him after one of her more stellar performances. He proposes all right, suggesting she become his mistress, since he’s already married. Poor Bella, she’s become (gasp) a tragic heroine in her own life. Afraid she’ll succumb to the scandalous offer, she runs off.
She heads straight to her brother’s home in Denver, Colorado. Her brother is a preacher at a church connected with an unusual orphanage called, CHARITY HOUSE, where the children are by-blows of prostitutes and gunslingers. Bella, feeling as though there’s no turning back for her, tries to earn repentance as a doctor’s assistant. Shane, the local doctor with his own scandalous past, grows to love Bella and she begins to love him in return. All is well, until her past comes looking for her.
This book resonated with me on so many levels. Not on the opera level, but rather by way of solidarity with Bella. How many of us, women especially, have made a terrible mistake or watched a friend make a terrible mistake because of the unfortunate decision to put a boyfriend ahead of common sense? How many of us have allowed a past mistake to define who we are in the present?
I pray we all learn our lesson like Bella did, before it’s too late.
And I bet that’s all you ever wanted to know about opera. I’ll probably never make it to the Met, but one of these days I plan to watch a performance at my local opera house. I owe it to Bella. ;-)