belcantoSomewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends and loves.

Differing opinions about a book brings out a lively discussion, regardless of the subject matter. But this month’s read gave us fascinating material … music, culture and political struggle with a dash of humour, romance and operatic drama.

When I say differing opinions, our group’s scores for Bel Canto ranged from 2 to 10. The low scores found the story slow and filled with mundane details regarding the hostages’ confined stay. There were also comments regarding the fantastical nature of the story, with little connection to the Lima Crisis of 1996, which it was based on.

Our high scores found the story enthralling with characters that drew you in and moved you emotionally. They found empathy for all of them, hostages and insurgents alike. It was mentioned that music itself became a character and that the whole story read much like an opera (Intentional? We think so), setting a scene, building the characters and rising to a climax.

The story could easily be represented on a stage, so this idea is not unrealistic and it found sound credit with us.

We had a great discussion on opera and how it resonates with people’s emotions. Combined with the cultural diversity of the hostages and their evolving relationships, most of us found the whole concept a thoroughly entertaining and worthy read.