The Queen's Sopranoby Carol Dines
Seventeen-year-old Angelica Voglia has the voice of an angel. But in seventeenth-century Rome, the pope has forbidden women to sing in public. To make matters worse, her controlling mother is determined to marry her off to a wealthy nobleman, even though Angelica is in love with a poor French artist. Angelica's only hope to sing before an audience—and escape
Seventeen-year-old Angelica Voglia has the voice of an angel. But in seventeenth-century Rome, the pope has forbidden women to sing in public. To make matters worse, her controlling mother is determined to marry her off to a wealthy nobleman, even though Angelica is in love with a poor French artist. Angelica's only hope to sing before an audience—and escape a forced marriage—is to flee to Queen Christina's court, where she will become the queen's soprano. But she soon discovers that the palace walls are not completely secure . . . and her freedom will require even greater sacrifice than she imagined.
"Readers . . . will admire the young woman's steadfast devotion against tremendous odds."School Library Journal
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
- Age Range:
- 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
The first person to look inside my heart, to really see me, was a monk. He came to teach me how to play the harpsichord, and when he heard my voice rise above the chords, he put his hands over his face and wept.
I was eleven. Chubbier then. My hair was covered in a white scarf, and the gray smock I wore chafed my breasts. My mother and Father Zachary, the priest who acted as my patron, were drinking coffee in the garden. Father Zachary always waited while the tutors he had hired gave me music lessons.
When I saw the monk wipe the tears from his round face, I stopped singing. My heart pounded and my cheeks burned. Resting my hands in my lap, I spoke softly. “My song displeases you?”
The monk raised his watery eyes, then brushed his cheek with the sleeve of his brown robe. “Dangerous,” he whispered, his eyelids closing.
“What is dangerous?” I asked.
“Your voice.” He spoke with closed eyes. “You are a child . . . but you sing with a woman’s voice. It’s unsettling . . . disturbing.”
I shook my head; I didn’t understand.
He was nervous. His lips trembled, and sweat glistened above his thick brow. “Music awakens the passions . . . stirs feelings . . .” He stared at his hands, lying still on the harpsichord keys. “Excuse me. But I have never heard a voice like yours. You sing with such joy, it moves me deeply. I cannot stay here.”
With that, he stood and stepped quickly across the room and out the door. He did not ask Father Zachary to pay him, and he did not say good-bye.
I have forgotten his name, but I remember his words, for they settled inside me like a deep sigh. As a young child, I sang before I could speak, humming the melodies I heard in church. By the age of five, I dreamed of music while I slept, and when waking in the morning, I would sing the songs that had filled my dreams. I took to instruments naturallythe guitar and harpsichordknowing how to play them by touch and sound. Father Zachary brought tutors from the Jesuit College to teach me the theories and practice of music. We always began with scales and vocal exercises. Then I would sing whatever they put before mepsalms, motets, ariasas if each melody had been born inside my own heart. When I finished their lessons, they shook their heads, refusing to return. They claimed their years of training had been wasted, that already I’d surpassed them in skill.
All my life, others had told me my talent was a gift from God. But as I grew older, I felt my own power reveal itself in song. I did not speak of this feeling. I didn’t dare. Yet music was as much a part of me as the air I breathed. It lived in my bones, my blood, my heart. No matter what I was doingsweeping the floor, pulling water from the well, chopping onionssongs rose through me. I tried to rest my voice, as Mother commanded. I learned to hold a song inside my thoughts, swaying silently. But lately, with so many songs bursting inside me, I’d grown tired of living by Mother’s strict rules.
No, I was not the daughter my mother thought me to be . . . wished me to be. I lacked obedience. And obedience, as Mother reminded me daily, was a girl’s most valued quality.
Mother had many theories. About daughters, about marriage, about husbands. Only part of me still listened.
I was not like my sister, Bianca. She was obedient. She listened. She had the sturdiness of an iron plate, reflecting whatever stood above it.
Nor was I hardworking like my brother Franco, who spent his days beside Papa making windows for the most beautiful churches and palaces in Rome. I neglected my chores, preferring music to mending.
And I certainly wasn’t sweet like my nine-year-old brother, Pietro. He’d been born with a deformed chin, a cliff of flesh and bone, made worse by the thrust of his bottom teeth. He hid his chin in public, trying to avoid the taunts of our neighbors who called his chin the devil’s work, crossing the street to avoid him, calling out, “Hee-haw, hee-haw . . . it’s the donkey boy.” Often as we walked to and from church, Pietro took my hand and held it, as if by squeezing my fingers, he might soak up some of my good fortune.
And I was not patient like Papa. Good, kind Papa. He was shy with me, his eldest child. He called me his angel but watched me from a distance, as if he knew my talent would take me far away from him someday.
I loved my family, but I learned nothing of myself from them. If my family looked inward, they never spoke of their feelings. They spoke of the grape crop, the new priest who stuttered, the barber’s wife whose body was barren. Mother and Papa spoke of my father’s earnings, the nobles and bishops who failed to pay him. We spoke endlessly of food: Why is the soup watery? How tough, this mutton . . . how salty, these beans.
And we prayed. We prayed before the Virgin Mary on our wall. Sometimes I felt her eyes watching me, the left one chipped so that she always looked as if she were winking, telling me not to be afraid, to sing louder, to lift my voice to God.
For sixteen years, Mother had kept my sister and me enclosed in the house and courtyard, except for our frequent visits to church, and even then Mother made sure our faces were hidden, our cloaks pulled tight, always reminding us, “A gentleman prefers a modest wife.”
On the morning of my seventeenth birthday, I woke to the sounds of chickens clucking, wooden wheels creaking on the cobbled street, the barber’s wife weeping in the courtyard. I lay in bed listening to my sister’s prayers as she knelt beneath the Virgin Mary, and my father’s loud boots clomping below as he got ready to leave for church, which he and my brothers attended every morning on their way to the workshop.
Everything the same. Except for me. I wanted my life to be changed on this day. . . . I wanted to raise my voice beyond this house, this neighborhood, to sing in the grand palaces across the river!
I hurried downstairs, to find an orange, a chocolate, and a pair of leather shoes with shiny buckles waiting for me on the table. Papa lifted me off the floor with his hug. “Happy birthday, Angelica.”
“Grazie, Papa.” I tried on my new shoes with the square toes, the same gift I received every year. “Where do you go today, Papa . . . a church or a palace?” I always asked, I always wanted to hear about the palaces across the river.
“Palazzo Riario . . . Queen Christina’s palace,” my brother Franco told me. “The queen wants a glass house built over her garden shed, so her gardener can grow flowers in winter.”
“Your brother’s feet should move as fast his mouth.” Papa pulled on his coat. “Come, Franco. You, too, Pietro. The church bells are already ringing!”
Pietro jumped from the loft above the fireplace, planted a kiss on my cheek, then rushed after them. But as Papa opened the door and stepped outside, mud poured across the door-way.
“Gesummaria!” Mother pushed my brothers into the rain and bolted the door behind them. “By your talents, Angelica, I hope one day we’ll leave this neighborhood.”
Our house stood in a small alley off the Piazza Santa Cecilia, in the quarter known as Trastevere. Here, the narrow winding streets were lined with workshops where glassmakers, wood-carvers, and stonecutters plied their trades. Even though this side of the river often flooded, Papa said we were lucky. Our house had a courtyard in the back, with a small well and a garden we shared with our neighbors.
As I sat drinking a cup of watery coffee and eating a slice of bread, I could hear the tradesmen on their way to work, calling out to me, “Sing a song for us, Signorina.”
I stood quickly before the tall mirror that rested against the walla gift from Father Zachary so that I could watch my movements as I sang. Every day Mother advised me to hold my eyes open and avoid nervous habits. “Do not sway too much, and make sure your hands do not clutch your smock or dig into your pockets.”
But music blinded me. As my voice rose, I saw nothing of myself in the mirror. I saw grief, joy, jealousywhatever feeling existed in the words of the song. I learned more by ear than by formal training, and I never tired of practicing the music I heard in church, especially the solos sung by the castratithose male singers who had been castrated as boys so that their voices would maintain the power and purity of the high notes. These days, whenever an oratorio was posted outside the church, Mother made sure we attended. I learned much from listening to the sacred music and poetry, performed free to the public.
Copyright © 2006 by Carol Dines
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
CAROL DINES is the author of two previous young adult novels, Talk to Me and Best Friends Tell the Best Lies. She lives half of each year in Rome, where she discovered and researched Angelica's story, and the other half in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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When I I read the first few pages I didn't think it was a good book but I was proven wrong it is such a wonderful and touching book I even cried a little bit I recommend this book to everyone
I loved it so much, it's about a girl who isn't rich or anything but has beauty and a voice to go along with it, and how she had given up a rich guy for a guy that she never met but rather secretly wrote letters to. It's amazing, and worth a read.
It was the cover of the book that first got my attention. The girl on the cover of THE QUEEN'S SOPRANO was wearing a beautiful gown fit for royalty. Little did I know at the time that this book was a fictionalized account of Angelica Voglia, who became Queen Christina's soprano during the time of Pope Innocent XI.
All Angelica wants to do is sing, but the pope has forbidden women to sing in public. Angelica has a voice that was able to bring people to their knees weeping. People come from all over Rome to stand beneath her window to hear her sing. She had many suiters, all arranged by her mother, but the one she was interested in was a poor but talented French artist, Jean Theodon. Jean courts her in secrecy, exchanging messages and drawings with her via the servant girl that works for her family.
Her mother, though, has other ideas. She plans on giving Angelica up to the highest bidder on the hopes that the family's status will be elevated. Angelica's determined to sing and realizes that the only way to do that before an audience and escape a forced marriage arranged by her controlling mother is to flee to Queen Christina's court, where she will become the queen's soprano.
Dines tells Angelica's story beautifully. The characters are all richly developed. I was really able to feel Angelica's determination to accomplish her goals despite the odds stacked against her. Of course there is more to the story, but you will have to read the book to find out what else happens.
I will tell you, though, that the rest of the story is filled with romance, betrayal, death, intrigue, and action. The book will keep your attention until the very end. If you are a historical fiction fan then this is a book that you should place on your list of must-reads. Definitely recommended!!
I thought this book was really good. I just finished reading it. Its about an Opra Singer named Angelica Voglia. She lived during the time when girls and women were forbidden to sing. I didnt like her mother too much. She kept trying to use Angelicas voice so she could force her to marry a Nobleman or a Prince. Then Angelica escapes the fate her mother chooses for her and sings for Queen Christina. Angelica sisters name is Bianca. Thats my name too. I recommend it ages 13 and up. There is talk of sex in the book. There is another time where a Bishop rapes Angelica. But other than that its a great book.
the author dragged and dragged and the characters were soooo dull.. Lucia annoyed me because she's suppose to be a servant but she tries to over step her position and butts in on EVERYTHING.. she's so nosy.. Angelica should rely more on her sister and be more cautious like her but it's a good thing she escaped and ranaway because now she's finally free and it won't be as boring from then on!!!..
The Quuen's Soprano is a beautifully written and elegantly detailed lush book telling the tale of a young repressed opera singer who is forced to hide her amazing talent due to religiuos beliefs and family pressure. if you enjoy historical fiction you will love every single page down to the last when you wish with all your heart there were more!
I picked up this book because I needed a light read, and was suprised to discover that it turned out to be one of the best books I have read in a very long time. The author makes the characters very real. Every time I felt that this book was going to resolve into some predictable scenario the story did something entirely unexpected. I highly recommend this book!
This book is is a great historical novel. It is very romantic and the story is true