Any similarities between the heroine of Ethan Mordden's The Venice Adriana
, Adriana Grafanas (a Greek American soprano famed equally for her thrillingly dramatic performances on stage and her fits of temper off stage), and the real-life diva Maria Callas
(also a Greek American soprano famed equally for her thrillingly dramatic performances on stage and her fits of temper off stage) are obviously intentional. Mordden, author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction on operatic and other theatrical themes, has recreated Callas after her glory years and added a fictional version of himself to the mix. Mark Trigger is a young gay American sent by his employer, a publisher, to Venice in 1961 to help the legendary soprano Adriana Grafanas work on her long-promised, long-overdue autobiography. Grafanas, who has blown out her voice with high living and bad decisions, is a maddening combination of the lovable and the loathsome. Mark, while adoring her as a performer and often as a person, finds her frequently expressed homophobia difficult to take, particularly because many of the people who made her art and success possible, from directors to fans, were gay. Mordden grants Grafanas a far better (and earlier) end than life handed Callas, and although Mark fails to get the book written, he achieves several other ends that are important to him personally: he learns more about his sexuality and receives a valuable legacy from Adriana.
The Venice Adriana explores both the realm of the diva and the peculiar world of the pirate tape--illegally made recordings of live performances--and its collectors with well-informed wit. Adriana Grafanas is very much Callas, right down to specific anecdotes, but without the humiliation of the Onassis years or the sad end, alone, in Paris in 1977. Note: Mordden deliberately aims his story at a rather narrow readership, and the book contains graphic scenes of sexual relations that some may find offensive.
From Library Journal
Mordden's seventh work of fiction comes on the heels of his recent Some Men Are Lookers (LJ 5/15/97). Set in the early 1960s, the novel concerns narrator Mark Trigger's tenacious search for a recording of Adriana Grafanas singing the title role in Adriana Lecouvreur. Trigger is living with her in Venice and writing her biography, and he senses a clue to Adriana's identity in her performance. And therein lies the subject of this fiction?identity, whether self-identity, the image of ourselves that we deliberately fashion and encourage others to believe, or the aura surrounding a public figure, in this case a diva. The notion is supported by a parallel plot on the seeds of gay identity and the public perception of gay men and women. There are good reasons to compare the title character with gay icon and opera legend Maria Callas, beginning with her Greek origins and ending with Adriana's drug-laden last days. Mordden is in top form here, displaying the same high level of artistry as in his other novels. This book must be read slowly to appreciate the subtleties of character and theme. Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Roger W. Durbin, Univ. of Akron, Ohio
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.