Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Venice in February: Balzac’s Massimilla Doni and Corona’s The Four Seasons
Venice in February event and found them strikingly similar. The first was Honoré de Balzacs classic novella Massimilla Doni, which forms part of his masterwork, La Comedie Humaine. One of my goals for this year was to read some of the classics I’ve missed up until now, and Balzac was on that list, so I figured I’d test the waters with one of his shorter works. I actually enjoyed it, but his flowery style and the treacly heroine made it a bit slow-going at times. Emilio Cane is a prince with no money, thanks to the conquering Austrian’s usurpation of the family patrimony. He falls in love with the beautiful and virtuous Massimilla Doni, an heiress who has been married off in a loveless marriage to the aging Duke Cataneo, and they hold hands and yearn for each other while chastely occupying her fabulous villa for what seems like the first half of the novella. But when renowned soprano Clarina Tinti and the great tenor Genovese arrive in Venice, the lovers quickly head back to town for the musical season. This is when the book becomes really interesting, as the tempestuous Clarina becomes – through a set of pretty unbelievable circumstances – Massimilla’s rival for Emilio’s affection. The Duke, as it turns out, would like an heir, but has no interest in helping Massimilla out in that way, so he and apparently everyone else in Venice are anxious for Emilio and Massimilla to just get on with it. Balzac leads the characters down a circuitous road that involves opium, stage fright and suicide, examining the impact of passion on both relationships and art, and also manages to give the reader a nifty synopsis of Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, all in the course of a 120 page novella. Phew! Back to the Classics 2012 Challenge, and The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice counts toward the Historical Fiction Challenge 2012. Thanks to Sarah Reads Too Much and Historical Tapestry for hosting!