Murderous intrigue behind the scenes of an opera production in 1734 Venice.
Male soprano Tito Amato has no reason to celebrate the Teatro San Marco’s production of Cesare in Egitto, by the carefully unnamed G.F. Handel. Rival castrato Francesco Florio steals the show as surely as Caesar stole Egypt. Nor is Tito’s love life any healthier. He’s not interested in the hothouse curiosity of Isabella Morelli, amorous wife of the powerful Ministro del Teatro, and seamstress Liya Del’Vecchio doesn’t seem to know he’s alive. When scenic artist Luca Cavalieri disappears, director Rinaldo Torani authorizes Tito to search high and low for him, but Luca’s lying lower than Tito can reach—until his bloated corpse rises to the surface of a nearby canal. Ottavio Grande, the chief of the Venetian constabulary, agrees with popular sentiment, inflamed by an anti-Semitic pamphlet, that Liya’s cousin Isacco shared an illegal partnership with Luca and killed him to protect his secret. But after an angry mob burns the Del’Vecchios’ home and lynches Isacco, Tito and his new friend, aspiring English painter Augustus Rumbolt, realize that the killer will remain forever secret unless they expose him.
The mystery is routine, but Myers (Unfinished Aria, not reviewed) powerfully evokes a long-ago world where beauty walks with treachery, and an intrepid hero who can’t afford to lose his voice.