The Italian Girl – Italy, New York and London – Lucinda Riley


Imagine yourself in a grand theatre near the canal in Naples, sitting in the darkened auditorium, scared to breath as you don’t want to break the silence of anticipation. What awaits you is a musical spectacle with some of the greatest performers of their age..

The curtain rises, you shiver with excitement..

What must it feel like for those performing right in front of so many expecting eyes, focused and just waiting to capture every single moment of the spectacular that unfolds..

Lucinda Riley allows us to go behind the curtain of the most glittering opera houses in Italy and those of Convent Garden and New York to meet two great performers whose story behind the scenes was as operatic if not more so than that on the stage..

Settings – Naples, the Metropolitan Opera house in New York and La Scala in Milan. (to name but a few)

Rosanna Menici is just a girl when she meets Roberto Rossini. She has dreams of becoming a great opera singer like him and her journey to becoming a singer with some of the greatest opera houses over the world is a journey paved with obstacles, hardships and an obsessive love. When they fall in love, that’s when Rosanna’s life really starts to play out as if on the stage itself.

Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl
Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl

Rosanna ‘s journey starts from her humble beginnings in the back streets of Naples – in the Piedigrotta. As she writes in her diary –

Walking down the Piedigrotta, it looked as though the residents were in state of perpetual celebration , with the different-coloured clothes on washing lines strung high above our heads.

The locations, as always with Lucinda’s books are stunning and evocative in every way by the sights, sounds, smells and the air around you. You are with Rosanna and her brother as she stands in the garden of a local singing teacher and performs hoping to catch his ear –

The found themselves on the corner of a gracious terrace decorated wit large clay pots filled with dusty-pink geraniums and deep-purple periwinkles.

From that moment, Rosanna’s career begins and as she performs in front of her unsuspecting family who haven’t known she has been having singing lessons, we are sitting in the audience willing her family to accept her –

As the last notes died away, there was silence from the audience. Rosanna stood in a trance as her mamma’s face, the face she had sung to for the past few minutes, disappeared. A storm of Rapturous applause broke in her ears..

What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala
What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala

The setting of the opera scene was not one that I had ever been immersed in before. I’m not an opera fan and have never even been to a performance but that didn’t matter reading this as now I feel as if I was right beside Rosanna every step of the way and that I felt the tension of what it meant to want to be on that stage so badly, and to sing so that the silence afterwards was deafening.

Rosanna’s career takes off yet she never forgets the man who inspired her – Roberto Rossini and the fact she wrote in her diary as a child that one day they would marry. When their paths cross again, an obsessive love forms and we really catch a glimpse of the large personalities that we imagine the opera world to be famous for –

Roberto Rossini –

The packed bar was buzzing with talk of Roberto, who was producing an outstanding vocal performance. Even Paolo had relaxed as he’d watch him command the stage his magnetism eclipsing the other members of the cast.

Roberto was portrayed as this great maestro in the opera world who despite being quite odious at times, certainly self-absorbed, prone to acting like a drama queen, was still capable of sympathy and understanding to some degree.

It was Rosanna that totally captured me though as this was her journey from Naples to standing on the stages of the opera houses of New York and Covent Garden – this world and the palatial homes she lived in a result were wrapped up in Lucinda’s captivating prose – hard to believe this was one of her earliest books rewritten. Rosanna, was a worthy leading lady..

Rosanna had settled in to her new life in la Scala with surprising ease. She enjoyed the performances to study and learn from the principal singers she worked with

Then there is Covent Garden –

Covent Garden opera house
Covent Garden opera house

Handsome opera stare Roberto Rossini was caught outside one of London’s finest restaurants yesterday holding hands with his co-star, the beautiful young Italian soprano Rosanna Menici. The tow of them are singing La Traviata to packed houses at Covent Garden.

And the metropolitan opera house of New York – 

The Met in New York
The Met in New York

In a few hours time I will stand on the  stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York  and sing an aria……. especially for Roberto Rossini

All growing dreams but as the scenery gets more sumptuous and more glittering, Rosanna finds that the old cliche is true and that all that glitters is certainly not gold. For her obsessive love for Roberto is not nurtured in the way that it should be by him and she finds out secrets from the past are always waiting in the wings….

Take a bow Italian girl...
Take a bow Italian girl…

A glorious epic story of two singers – crackling with the passion and the prima donna mood swings that we might associate with huge stars at times.

But its the story behind the wings – of how they got there and the sacrifices they made along the way which is the most thrilling story of them all.

Take a whirlwind tour of the worlds most stunning opera houses and enter in to the musically crafted world of Lucinda Riley. Rapturous applause

2 thoughts on “The Italian Girl – Italy, New York and London – Lucinda Riley

  1. Andrea

    I absolutely loved this book. I just finished it a few days ago, and I’m already reading it for a second time. The locations were beautiful, and the characters are haunting. Riley’s writing is so gorgeously lyrical that reading her prose is almost like listening to a beautiful aria sung by a master. And the ending of the book made me sob like a baby — I loved the bittersweetness of it, and the hope and love that shine through in the last few paragraphs.

    1. What lovely things to say about Lucinda’s novel and so so true. Wouldnt this be good as a film – imagine the settings and the music! Her latest Angel Tree is out and this looks good too! Have you read The Storm Sister? Also has a nice musical link in there and also should be a film.

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