Cover image for The virtuoso
The virtuoso
Moor, Margriet de, 1941-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Virtuoos. English
Publication Information:
Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
201 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Translation of: Virtuoos.

"Published by arrangement with Macmillan Publishers Ltd"--T.p. verso.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
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In Margriet de Moor 's prizewinning novel a strange and extraordinary love story unfolds amid the carriages, churches, and shadowed harbors of eighteenth-century Naples. For one entire opera season, Carlotta, a Neapolitan duchess, sits in her candle-lit box captive to her passion for Gasparo, the tantalizing castrato with whom she has been smitten since their childhood together in a small Italian village. De Moor recreates the world of Italian music and Naples' fashionable aristocracy with a sensuality that takes the breath away.

First published in Holland, and since translated into thirteen languages, this unusual tale of song and sensuality has seduced readers around the world. A novel of sweeping gestures with delicate grace notes, The Virtuoso is a story of an exceptional place and and exceptional passion.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Passion in many forms is brought to life in this lush depiction of love and opera in eighteenth-century Naples. Music has always been an important facet of Carlotta's life, both in the small village where she grew up with her father and in her cosmopolitan existence as a duchess in Naples. She and her husband get along well in their arranged marriage, and both seek men as lovers. When Carlotta hears the castrato Gasparo sing, she remembers hearing him when they were children, and how music changed in her village after he went away for the operation. She sees him as her ideal in form and voice, and initiates an affair. Their relationship is all-consuming for her, but Gasparo cares more for his singing. They stay together during the opera season, but Carlotta is aware that at the end she and Gasparo must part. De Moor offers a richly atmospheric portrayal of a sybaritic lifestyle, and brings alive a time when castration was not aberration but a method for producing profound beauty. --Patty Engelmann

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dutch author de Moor makes her American debut with a tempestuous tale of lust, longing and loss among the aristocracy in 18th-century Naples. Carlotta Caetani, who narrates, is 10 when she feels her first sensual stirrings, listening to the angelic voice of 11-year-old choirboy Gasparo Conti. Her wealthy, older father, Paolo, also finds the boy's voice compelling, and, in a game of cards, gets Gasparo's father to submit his son to a life in the opera, starting with the operation that will make him a castrato. Gasparo disappears from their small village, Croce del Carmine, but Carlotta doesn't forget him. Five years later, Carlotta's dowry has been gambled away by her father and she is resigned to marrying a wealthy, middle-aged, homosexual family friend, Berto. When Paolo dies, Berto offers his grieving young bride a respite, allowing her to spend an opera season in Naples. A poetic passage foreshadows what is in store for her there: "Of course I did not think of Gasparo. But long before reaching the coast the traveler can sense the sea." Once she sees the now-famous virtuoso perform on stage, his angelic beauty and heavenly voice obsess her. Fortunately, her loving older half-sister, Angelica Margherita, and their childhood maidservant, Faustina Maria Delle Papozze, help stabilize Carlotta through the turmoil of first love. Carlotta's passion informs her mistaken belief that virtuosity equals virtue, failing to see that Gasparo is in fact rather boring and vain, temperamental and hopelessly self-absorbed. The erotic couplings and breathless narrative will certainly draw comparisons to Anne Rice's paean to the castrati, Cry to Heaven. However, de Moor's book is a colorful, passionate story on its own merits, with many rapturous passages musing philosophically and poetically about love, beauty and form. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gasparo Conti is an 11-year-old boy blessed with a beautiful voice. He lives in a small village in Italy and sings in the church choir. Carlotta, a young girl, is enchanted by Gasparo's voice. One day, the young lead soprano disappears, for this is 18th-century Italy. Taken to Norcia for "an operation," Gasparo has been chosen to be a castrato. Carlotta notices his absence but continues with her life. At 15, she is promised to Benedetto Conti, a wealthy family friend, who is well over 40 years old. Carlotta is happy enough with married life: her father is pleased with the match, and she runs a large household with many servants. When her father grows ill and dies, Benedetto takes Carlotta to Naples for the opera season where she hears Gasparo again and falls madly in love with him. They engage in a passionate affair despite his castration. Dutch writer de Moor's love story, her first U.S. publication, contains some structural problems. The narrative flow is interrupted several times by flashbacks and irregular shifts in narrator. For the average reader, this is a confusing read, full of distracting technical musical terminology. Recommended for large literary collections or collections with a music emphasis.--Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.