LUCY BURDETTE: Remember a few months ago when we talked it about what fun it would be to have a Jungle Red book club? And then Bel Canto came up as a perfect book to discuss, and Kristopher Zgorski came up as the perfect discussion leader? Well we're going to make it happen! Kristopher has very kindly come up with some good questions--and some Youtube clips to get you in the mood. All you have to do is read the book and think about these questions by January 18. Mark your calendars, ok?
1. Bel Canto has been bestowed with (or saddled with) the moniker of being a “literary” novel, and yet it contains many of the hallmarks readers associate with genre novels – crime fiction in particular. Why do you think critics feel the need to label things “literary” as a way to elevate them? And do you agree that Bel Canto is more “literary” than thriller?
2. How does the closed environment setting of the mansion work to elevate the suspense?
3. Think about the role language plays throughout Bel Canto. Keep in mind that music is referred to as “the universal language.” How do music and language serve different roles with in the action of the novel?
4. Think about which characters are the most interesting to you and try to get a sense of why that might be. Do you think Ann Patchett intended readers to feel closer to some characters over others?
5. Bel Canto was released in May 2001, just a few months before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Do you think US readers experience the novel differently now that the risk of such attacks on home soil is no longer unthinkable?
Listen to performances of two opera arias important within the story of Bel Canto. It is worth noting here that Renee Fleming is generally accepted to be the inspiration for Roxanne Coss – the diva in the novel.
Renee Fleming performing Song to the Moon:
Angela Gheorghiu performing O mio babbino caro:
Lastly, in November 2015, Bel Canto (the novel) was turned into Bel Canto (the opera) having a premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Here is a sampling of the music, sets, and costumes from that production:
Lucy again: The system for our discussion will probably be a little clunky--I'm thinking you can post any answer any time on 1/18--just label it with the corresponding number. But suggestions welcome! And thank you Kristopher Zgorski!