A production of Tosca at the Kennedy Center is nearly upstaged by real-life murder in the 22nd in Truman’s Capital Crimes series (Murder at the Washington Tribune, 2005, etc.).
Charise Lee, a young soprano the Young Artists Program brought to the Washington National Opera, makes a big splash, though not exactly in the way she’d planned, when her body is discovered tucked away above the main stage—or the deck, as the stagehands call it. The suspects include her petulant roommate (but not her lover, he insists), Canadian pianist Christopher Warren; their dodgy agents, Philip Melincamp and Zöe Baltsa; and whoever killed Georgetown music professor Aaron Musinski six years ago and made off with manuscript copies of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn. In the fine old tradition of Agatha Christie, nearly everybody on the scene is guilty of something. But Truman has nothing of Christie’s command of clues, mystery or detection. Her stolid sleuths—law professor Mackensie Smith, his gallery-owner wife Annabel and the staff of Metro Homicide—do little but question suspects, suffer heart attacks and wait for the revelations to spring forth. There’ll be international intrigue, an assassination plot and betrayals by old friends, all of it presented with Truman’s signature lack of conviction.
The tidbits of opera lore are more interesting and less intrusive than the lists of anti-terrorist agencies and policies, which read as if they were downloaded from the Web.