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Historical Mysteries

United States - New York, 1915

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

Prima Donna at Large

by Barbara Paul

Opera fans will love this light, humorous story which fictionalizes the doings of the New York Metropolitan opera diva Geraldine Farrar. They particularly will appreciate the book’s reenactments of parts of operas in which Farrar performed her “signature” roles. Farrar’s beauty, fiery temper, and numerous flirtations become part of the plot in which a visiting French baritone who has antagonized everyone uses a throat spray laced with ammonia. His vocal chords, indeed his voice, are permanently damaged. “He might as well be dead,” intones Farrar, and soon her words come true. With herself as a major suspect, Farrar, urged on by Enrico Caruso, initiates her own investigation, which turns out to be a delightful romp.

Surrounding Farrar are stars who were a major part of her life during the Mets “golden age.” The author has created wonderful fictional sketches of Caruso, Pucinni, Emmy Destinn, Pasquale Amato, Toscanini, and actor David Belasco. Even Farrar’s young female fans, the famous “gerryflappers,” are given a part to play. The short Epilogue tells you what happened to these personalities in the following years.

A more serious leitmotif is the constant references to the looming European war. Most of the singers are from lands increasingly drawn into the conflict. Memories of good times there are recalled amid the growing realization that that the war might last, that America may be drawn into it, and that the inevitable war relief tours will become standard fare. These tense moments are lighten by descriptions of the singers hangouts, the Met and Belasco theaters, Mulberry Street on the Italian immigrant Lower East Side, and, above all, the numerous backstage dramas.

Second of three in Paul’s Opera Series.

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