My novel, A House Near Luccoli, soon to be published by All Things That Matter Press, focuses on chance encounters, beautiful music, and the paradox of genius through an imagined intimacy with one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque Music.
In 2002, while driving to work, I was fortunate to be near enough to the Canadian border to listen to CBC Radio 2, specifically a program called In the Shadows. The show highlighted the lives and works of artists—mainly musical—who for a variety of reasons had been largely ignored or forgotten.
One morning a 17th Century Italian composer, whom I and obviously many others had never heard of, was featured. His music was stunning: fluid and melodic, with clear expressive vocals and distinct instrumentations. His story was replete with romance and intrigue, triumphs and tragedy, like an opera drawing on the divinity and failings of gods and men.
By the time I pulled into the parking lot at work, I knew why I was listening. I “knew” Alessandro Stradella. I recognized his distinct voice, his swaying form, his infectious smile, and his wandering heart. I had witnessed the rise and fall of his talents, how his music had showered him with forgiveness if not fortune. I spent the rest of that morning and many hours more in pursuit of him, my writer’s urge “to do something with him” easier stirred than accomplished. He was so little on the pages of Google searches and music histories; a desire to create something significant out of my interest in him was soon frustrated and abandoned.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I returned to Stradella as the novel subject I was looking for. The timing must have been right, for “suddenly” resources, although still not in abundance, were easier to find. As I read my costly used copy of Alessandro Stradella, the Man and his Music by musicologist Carolyn Gianturco, I found an opportunity for imagining my way into his story, focusing on his last fateful days in Genoa–not to change history but quietly humanize it, not merely to appreciate a great musician but personalize him, to reveal the ordinary in the extraordinary and the significance of the insignificant. Equipped with specifics and speculation, a growing CD library of his music, and a fictional female protagonist stepping out of my own hopes and disappointments, I was ready to begin.
Stradella (1639 – 1682) was cultivated but also something of a vagabond. His life seemed to be a struggle between the discipline of his work and the restlessness of his behavior. Throughout his career, Stradella’s output was versatile and copious, including operas, oratorios, serenatas, madrigals, and incidental music. He worked royally and nobly for the theater and the church, for grand and domestic occasions, celebrating life and love, using allegory and heart and humor, challenging singers and instrumentalists and the inventiveness of himself. Whether acting on a patron’s whim or his own impulse, uncertainty and risk were inevitable for Stradella. It was his nature to embrace them, indulging in possibilities, captivating men and women known and unknown, seducing posterity with his reputation for making messes but also masterpieces.
Please click here to read a short excerpt from A House Near Luccoli.
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This is an exciting time for me (my first published novel) and I sincerely thank you, dear friends, for letting me share it with you!
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