In a heady historical, passion and ambition shape the parallel fortunes of an obstetrician and an opera singer.
Erotic and lush if not always convincing, McDonnell’s debut brings a 21st-century sensibility to bear on events in the early 1900s as Dr. Ravell, a Boston practitioner of questionable ethics, not above sleeping with his patients or helping abort the unwanted children of the poor, is invited to treat the infertility of luminous mezzo soprano Erika von Kessler. When Ravel, infatuated with Erika, discovers that the fault is not hers but her sterile husband Peter’s, he substitutes his own sperm for the artificial insemination. Erika falls pregnant but the child is stillborn, while Ravell, ruined by accusations of sexual impropriety, is forced to quit Boston to become a plantation manager in Trinidad. Peter and Erika visit him there and Peter knowingly absents himself, allowing Erika and Ravell to have an affair which again leaves her pregnant. A son is born, Quentin, but when he is four Erika abandons her marriage to fulfill her musical destiny in Italy. Some five years later, Erika returns to Quentin and takes him to meet Ravell. Then the doctor and the diva head for Italy where her “grandissimo talento” is finally recognized.
Sensitivity and sensuality elevate a melodramatic story line but fail to bring it to life.