Tenor of Love


In her second novel, award-winning poet Mary di Michele tells the story of the great tenor Enrico Caruso through the eyes of the women who loved him. When the young singer comes to Livorno in the summer of 1897 to share the stage with the prima donna Ada Giachetti, both she and her younger sister Rina, an aspiring soprano herself, fall in love with him. Although he promises to marry Rina, Caruso decides to live with the already-married Ada, who becomes the mother of his two sons. After Rina’s career takes off, she begins an affair with Caruso, which comes to an abrupt end when Ada catches them together. Not long afterwards, Ada leaves Caruso for his chauffeur, causing a huge scandal. Later, while singing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Caruso meets a young American woman, Dorothy Benjamin, who eventually wins his heart and becomes his wife.

The first part of the novel is narrated by Rina, and the second by Dorothy. In Rina’s section of the book, Caruso is a young tenor just beginning his career, and forced to choose between the two rival sisters. By the time he meets Dorothy, he is already the world-famous star of the Metropolitan Opera. The two narratives give the reader contrasting views of the great tenor, and he seems much more likable in the book’s second half.

My only criticism is that the author focuses too much on Caruso’s love life, and does not give us enough of a sense of what made his voice so great. But that could be my own bias, since I am a long-time opera fan. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves opera, and I think that even people who do not will find the love story compelling.

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