Painted Veil

Written by Beverle Graves Myers
Review by Nicole Leclerc

It’s May 1734 in Venice. In honor of the wedding of the doge’s daughter, an extravagant opera has been commissioned. Castrato singer Tito Amato gets double billing when the set decorator is murdered, adding investigation to his musical duties. The setting is vivid and helps get through a long lento beginning. The presentation of the theater’s backstage and its denizens is fascinating but at some cost to the flow of the story. Luckily, the rhythm picks up and a brisk allegro settles in until the denouement. By then, the story also moves to the world outside, and we are privy to glimpses of the daily lives of the Venetians, including the considerable influence of the Church in the midst of the Inquisition, the social reality of the first Jewish ghetto, and the clash between the two faiths. The characters are well-defined if somewhat superficial. The plot lacks complexity but ends with some fireworks, which is befitting since, to quote Tito, “Any singer can sing, a castrato must astonish.” All in all, this is a pleasant outing in the world or music and an interesting look at the castrato fad, which has happily since ended.