Year of Grace, Day 11. Bel Canto

Three new books — what treasure! And by authors I’ve never read before. There is nothing like holding a new book in my hands and anticipating what a pleasurable time I will have reading. I’ve just been loaned these books by a very dear friend, the same one who brought me rose-petal sweets the other day. I am ever so grateful she is a bookworm like me. The temptation to guzzle through them is, shall we say, overwhelming. But I behave myself. I usually read for enjoyment just before I go to sleep, a few pages at a time. This way I get to slowly savour the story as it unfolds. I love to string out the pleasure of a writer’s way of telling a story.

As I write this, a jay – a European jay which, unlike North American jays, has quite subdued colouring of taupe and beige and black and white, but with a startling streak of bright blue underwing – has just landed on a yew branch outside. Before I could get my camera, it flew away just as quickly as it landed. The photos I’ve included are from this spring, just as the elderflower was in bloom in the backgarden, as you can see. On a nearby branch, a male blackbird (the female is brown; why is it that male birds get the stunning plumage?) has just scoffed a red yew berry. I am oh so thankful to have these yew trees positioned at precisely the right place for bird viewing, and at certain times, red squirrel viewing too.

My current reading treasures are Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Peter Tremayne’s Absolution by Murder, and Velma Wallis’s Two Old Women. I have a feeling I’ve read Two Old Women before, but good books always bear re-reading, much as one can listen to music that one loves again and again. To my ears there are melodies embedded in certain authors’ ways with words. There are books that I return to from time to time, longing to read them once more, to hear those soothing wordsongs.

I truly enjoyed reading Bel Canto. It didn’t engage me right away, I have to admit. But since I was reading myself to sleep and not to be so taken by it that I wouldn’t, I continued reading. About a third into the book, I found my interest truly engaged. It was a pleasure to be introduced to the magic of opera singing, to its effect on receptive ears. It also helps that some of the protagonists are Japanese. One very dear friend is a huge opera fan and shares a house with a soprano. Now I have begun to understand a little of her deep fascination. I have been to very few operas, and although I cannot fail to be moved when I hear Un Bel di Vedremo and Nessun Dorma, I am close to totally ignorant of this great art. I do love classical music though, and this book has made me want to learn more about opera to understand them and learn to enjoy them as well. The author has kindly pointed out some good reference works. I don’t wish to spoil your reading, but I have to say that the ending was totally unexpected. I am grateful to have my curiosity awakened and also thankful that there is an opera house in Bonn. The first time I went, it was an ultra-modern production of Don Giovanni that didn’t move me. I shall be more selective next time, and with Ann Patchett’s recommended Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera by Fred Plotkin, I hope to be able to do so.

Imagine: a whole new world of art to be discovered! I am thankful, very thankful, to be given the chance.

2 thoughts on “Year of Grace, Day 11. Bel Canto

  1. I do not listen to opera but I too am familiar with Un Bel di Vedremo and Nessun Dorma. It’s very nice to hear that you have such a nice friend living close by who brings you lovely treats and can lend you such nice books!


    • It is indeed, Murasaki Shikibu! She’s an angel — of the highest order 🙂 M does not include among his pleasures being confined in an opera house in formal attire for hours 😉 I guess this new adventure into art is going to have to be a solo one, he he…


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