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Friday, May 10, 2013


I'm one of the featured authors this week at Books We Love, with interview and an excerpt from my most unloved book, RED MAGIC.


Some twenty-five years ago I worked my tail off to write a full blown, old-fashioned traditional heroine-in-jeopardy romance, but you can see how well that worked out, especially if you check out some of the puzzled/and/or/angry reviews my attempt received.  Caterina is not a heroine to start with. She's more of headstrong child, but she becomes a veritable Valkyrie in the course of the book. Likewise, her husband, the celebrated rake, Christoph von Hagen, who featured in such a studly way in MOZART'S WIFE, evolves into a good husband, although the child bride with whom he's been saddled is often a genuine teen-age pain.

I responded, in my contrary way, to all those I disappointed, by making RED MAGIC the start of a series. The next story, BLACK MAGIC, belongs to tall, dark Goran, the eldest son of Caterina and Christoph, and the fateful encounter he has with an ancient Power which inhabits his birthplace. All of this takes place on the majestic Alpine Heldenburg during the 1820's, when Europe is still bruised and bleeding from the Napoleonic Wars.  Goran, a weary, war-worn cavalryman, has come home hoping to recuperate and to get married, but in Vienna he discovers that his fiancĂ© has eloped with a wealthy, debonair older man, dashing his dreams. I hope to have this story completed before Christmas, and see if another attempt at a popular formula will prove more pleasing.

WHITE MAGIC and GREEN MAGIC are on the drawing board. After all, Christoph and Caterina have a family of handsome sons and beautiful daughters, just as you'd expect. The next two books, however, will be set in the England and Cornwall. In the first, Goran von Hagen's twin sister, Mina, will marry an Englishman and encounter the feisty Little People who believe they are the true proprietors of the family estate.

~~Juliet Waldron

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Of Castratos and Countertenors


“Not often they give us Handel!”  I spoke with enthusiasm to the older gentleman seated nearby as we waited for Met @ the Movies to start. I was excited about hearing this nearly 300 year old piece, but as all he said was “Thank God - no!” I understood he wasn’t as jacked as I was about this afternoon's broadcast.

Giulio Cesare was first performed in 1724. It was a hit in its day and has again acquired traction among fans of Baroque opera.  I was familiar with the music because during the 80’s, when I’d been researching Mozart, I’d acquired a Handel CD called “Arias for Senesimo,” featuring Drew Minter, a countertenor. I knew that in the 1770’s, the young Mozart had written for castratos, who were still a feature of the operatic world. (In case you're wondering: the Italians castrated young male singers in order to preserve their soprano/mezzo range.)   These days, we make do with women dressed as men for such roles, or, more recently, with countertenors, men who are able to sing into a higher range, by using “head voice,” a.k.a.,  falsetto.

 As was usual at the Met @ The Movies, I was the youngest person present, a phenomenon which saddens me.  I sincerely hope that opera, this glorious, arcane slice of Western Civ. is not on its way to the cultural junkyard.  I have to admit that Giulio Cesare is definitely not the kind of opera you’d take a neophyte to hear/see. Not everyone can handle a middle aged man with a beard singing in a beautiful soprano voice. Dramatically, too, this kind of Opera Seria was already considered “old-fashioned” in Mozart’s time, fifty years later. There isn’t a lot of character development or action. The structure of the arias is not complex, either—a statement and a restatement, varied only by the addition of increasingly florid vocal embellishments. (An “Aria of Love,” an “Aria of Rage,” an “Aria of Sorrow.”)  
I admit I spent the next 4 ½ hours watching two fabulous male leads who acrobatically sang, soprano and mezzo, and a marvelous female soprano playing the part of a boy in what is called a “trouser role.” (As I’ve said before, this is not everyone’s scene. ) The multi-talented Natalie Dessay, who sang Cleopatra, performed some astonishing “song and dance” numbers which showed that not only could she sing Handel, but she could dance to him, too, deft as any Broadway hoofer.   

Juliet Waldron