GALA by William Lewis


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First-novelist Lewis is a veteran operatic tenor--but don't expect either backstage authenticity or musical texture in this cardboard melodrama: a far-fetched mÉlange of love-triangles, cloak-and-dagger encounters, and vengeance killings. Peter Camden, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (partially modeled on Schuyler Chapin), has planned a fund-raising super-gala featuring five world-class tenors, all of whom are on their way to Manhattan. Each of them, however, has some nasty secrets--as we learn in disjointed slivers of flashback: the USSR's Sergei Petrov is a KGB courier; Francois Charron of France, potent only with prostitutes, betrayed his true love back in 1945 when he discovered she was Jewish; Germany's Horst Ludwig is a boorish homosexual with neo-Nazi affiliations; rich, politically active Renato Corsini got away with murdering his tycoon-father; and American singer Walter Prince is a foully selfish womanizer. Furthermore, the Gala Committee includes bisexual conductor Randolph Martinson (Horst's bygone lover), Charron's ex-wife Mimi, and aging Broadway producer Eva Stein--once one of Prince's bedmates, now the adulterous passion of general manager Camden (who feels just terrible about cheating on wife Jill). When the tenors start dying, then, murder-motives abound. And it certainly seems as if different killers are responsible for the assorted mayhem: the JDL takes credit for Petrov's execution; a bitter, jealous, gay Metropolitan bass stabs Ludwig; Prince is being stalked by a cuckolded husband; etc. But the awkward finale reveals that one tormented soul is the moving force behind a convoluted plan to eliminate all five tenors. As a murder-mystery, this is clumsy nonsense, without the wit and brio found in such lighthearted music-world thrillers as Robert Barnard's Death on the High C's or Edmund Crispin's Swan Song. As a behind-the-scenes soap opera, it's juiceless (despite graphic sexual tidbits), without the zesty characters and convincing details that made Brown Meggs' Aria an irresistible opera-novel. But intense buffs may find enough gossipy tidbits here--more general innuendo than á clef portraiture--to keep reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Dutton