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The Venice Adriana Hardcover – February, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (February 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312182023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312182021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,375,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In his imagined memoirs of the ghost-writer of a fading opera diva inspired by the legends of Maria Callas, Ethan Mordden has gone a step beyond his prior gay buddies novels. While some of the delightful breezy humor from the former books is present, this book is ready to take on more serious issues, such as homophobia in the performing arts. I found it compulsively funny and insightful, and would recommend it highly, especially to the legion of Callas admirers! And tell us, Ethan, is there really a Venice Adriana tape, or must we remain consoled by the two arias from Cilea's opera that Callas recorded in 1954 in an aria collection conducted by Serafin?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Owen Keehnen on February 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
THE VENICE ADRIANA, is a real literary page-turner. Set in 1962 Venice the book focuses on a young gay writer (Mark Trigger) sent to ghost write the autobiography of fiery opera diva Adriana Grafanas (a character closely modeled upon Maria Callas). Over the course of a year the book traces Mark's awakening sexual identity as well as his tumultuous relationship with Adriana. Over time he discovers the woman behind the legend, a woman obsessed with acceptance while facing the erosion of her talent, a woman whose life has become her greatest performance and whose truth is ultimately an operatic tragedy of mythical proportions.

As an ardent fan Mark is promptly swept up in Adriana's life and dramas, a world populated by a cast of profoundly fabulous and colorful characters - a sexy leading man, a jet setting princess, a gay Italian film director, gossips, critics, "omosensualis" galore, and many more. Even Venice itself is brought vividly to life, given characterization through precise description and a brilliant use of language that made me want to drop everything and learn Italian.

In addition to being a sexy lot of fun the book also explores the tangled skein of issues involving the artist -- the state of celebrity, self-invention and transformation, gay identity, determination verses destiny, redemption and acceptance, the elements of genius, the enduring nature of art by all too human creators, and much more. Operatic to say the least! This is a fascinating stew to consider with no easy answers, which seems to be the ultimate truth of great art and the ultimate deception of all who attempt to define it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Ethan Mordden's novel The Venice Adriana is a masterful, compulsively readable bright spot in an already exemplary writing career. Long-time Mordden readers can expect the wit and insight that have made him famous, as well as the most intriguing, sultry setting his characters have ever explored. New readers will marvel at Mark Trigger and his adventures in Venice with the aging Adriana Grafanas and her cohorts. Though much of the plot centers around opera and most of the action takes place within opera circles, no knowledge of opera is neccessary to enjoy this book. All you need is an appreciation of great writing, an eye for poetry, and a sense of humor. You won't be disappointed in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wendell Ricketts on March 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is an awfully good reason, it turns out, why this is among Mordden's least known books: It is dull. Just as dull as you'd expect it to be to listen to a gaggle of egocentric neurotics talk about (and talk about and talk about) themselves. In fact, what fails utterly about the novel is that so much of it is one long, uneventful conversation after another--and by uneventful, I mean simply that all that talk neither moves the plot forward nor aids in character development, and the participants are not (by a very long shot) interesting enough to keep you turning pages just for the transcendental joy of reading their bons mots. Mordden's command of Italian, meanwhile, isn't nearly as good as he thinks it is, and his portrait of Vieri, a sort of grown-up Tadzio, one supposes (and the protagonist's love interest, though I would defy anyone to explain why - Vieri is cute, but he's an idiot; but then again, so is Mark Trigger, the "hero" of the piece), is an insult to Italians. (Yes, folks, the men ARE all bisexual. How's that for meaningful cross-cultural insight?) The nucleus of the novel, the Greek opera diva, Adriana Grafanas, is broad. In all senses of the word. If Grafanas is meant to be a mock-Callas, her psychodramas are tired and her tantrums are not delicious enough to be called temperamental. No, all Grafanas is, is an over-privileged brat. Callas was a piece of work, but at least she was interesting.Read more ›
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