Bel Canto, the 2001 winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, by author Ann Patchett, follows the story of an evening of opera gone horribly awry. The book takes place in an unknown South American country, during a party in which the star attraction is a beautiful American Soprano. In the midst of the celebration, a rebel group storms in and takes the entire party hostage. What ensues is a story which blends the beauty of music with the brutality of terrorism, and the complex relationships that form in the midst of these powerful emotions.
Taking both the passion of music and the drama of a hostage situation which suffuse the pages of Bel Canto, composer Dr. Elena Ruehr has created a concert for string quartet which mirrors the narrative and musical spirit of the book. Dr. Ruehr chose Bel Canto as her inspiration for her newest string quartet composition because it is both contemporary in style and traditional in its connection to music. Both the book and Ruehr draw from classics like Vissi D’arte of Puccini’s Tosca and Song to the Moon to Dvorak Rusalka. Ruehr explains her working process: “I wrote music that played with those songs, sometimes quoting them, sometimes playing them out in more modern ways. It is a piece that moves between the music of Puccini and Dvorak with mixes of Latin American dance rhythms (the book is set in South America) and a slightly more modernist veneer.”
This love letter to the book brings the music from the pages alive and will surely be a unique and exciting experience. Taking place in the Cullen Hall at the University of St. Thomas, 7pm on April 21st, the event will contain readings from the book by Justin Doran along with Elena Ruehr’s composition. For more information, click here.