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The Queen's Soprano
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The Queen's Soprano

3.9 12
by Carol Dines

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Gifts and talents, while wondrous to possess, may also possess the owner. Angelica Voglia's musical talent beguiles the poor and the powerful, the peasant and the priest. Nevertheless, the pope has decreed that it is illegal for women to sing in public. The time is 1670, and although Pope Innocent XI rules most of Rome, there is yet one quarter where musical performance by ladies is encouraged and enjoyed by all who are invited to listen. The patron of this court is Queen Christiana, a native of Sweden, but Catholic by choice and living in Rome. A multi-layered plot drives this novel for mature readers. Angelica's unscrupulous mother is determined to marry her daughter above her social rank, and uses her daughter's flawless voice and beautiful face as bargaining tools to benefit the entire family. Angelica has fallen in love with a French sculptor, but does not know how to escape her mother's demands. The voice itself almost takes on a life of its own, and eventually draws Angelica under the protection and authority of Queen Christiana. Intrigue, death, attempted rape, betrayal, loyalty, pride, and shame blend as the story reaches a memorable crescendo. Dines' absorbing novel is based on a true story that she discovered in an old library book in Rome. 2006, Harcourt, Ages 16 to 18.
—Janice DeLong
Life in seventeenth-century Rome is difficult for a beautiful and exceptionally talented girl, especially one born into a humble family. Seventeen-year-old Angelica Voglia does not question her ambitious mother or the generous priest who funds her musical education until orphan Lucia becomes her family's servant and Angelica's best friend. Lucia warns Angelica that her mother means to sell her to the highest bidder in order to advance her own station. Among the many suitors who gather daily beneath Angelica's window, the teenager favors French artist Theodon. Although poor, handsome, and gifted, Theodon has prospects. They court secretly with Lucia as a go-between. When Angelica discovers that her mother intends to deliver her to a married nobleman at the conclusion of a performance, she arranges to enter the service of Swedish Queen Christina and to live protected in the only quarter of Rome where women are permitted to sing. What follows is a series of intrigues and dangerous encounters as Angelica seeks to chart her own course among powerful, opposing factions. Written by a celebrated author and based on a factual story, the novel is genuinely gripping. Its innocent and brave heroine does not arrive at a happy ending; nonetheless her growth in understanding through sorrow and her commitment to self will ring true with today's young readers. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Harcourt, 336p., $17. Ages 11 to 18.
—Laura Woodruff
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This novel, inspired by the life of a real court singer in late-17th-century Rome, re-creates a time under Pope Innocent XI when women were not allowed to sing in public. Angelica was born into a modest tradesman's home with a magnificent gift-a beautiful voice that she can only exercise in the privacy of her home or a convent. Admirers from artisans to cardinals line up outside her house to listen to her practice. Her mother intends to use the girl's gift to secure her a wealthy husband and raise the family's status. Romance blossoms as a young French artist falls in love with the teen and the two begin an innocent exchange of drawings and notes through a servant girl. Angelica's voice grows with passion as she sings to Theodon through closed shutters. To avoid her mother's entrapping marriage plans, Angelica runs away to join the court of Queen Christina, a Swedish queen who converted to Catholicism and rules a quarter of Rome, where she defies the pope by allowing women to perform. As long as the Queen lives, her ladies are safe, but when her death is imminent, each one must plot her way to safety from the pope's guards. A slice of courtly life tinged with sexual misconduct by clerics, betrayal by Angelica's mother, and heartbreaking sorrow, this tale will appeal to female readers, who will admire the young woman's steadfast devotion against tremendous odds.-Kathy Lehman, Thomas Dale High School Library, Chester, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the late 17th century, Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne, became a Catholic and moved to Rome, where she ruled a quarter in the city and jockeyed for power with Pope Innocent XI. Part of their struggle was over music: The pope proclaimed that women must not sing in public, whereas Christina was a great patron of music and opened an opera house. Dines tells this story in the voice of Angelica Voglia, who at 17 sings like an angel indeed. Angelica's mother sees in her talent only a way to better the family's livelihood. Angelica, fearing she will be locked away in a convent, is accepted into Queen Christina's household where she becomes the queen's favorite singer and conducts a star-crossed romance with the French artist Jean Theoden. There are rich details of food, dress, manners and habits overlaid with much political intrigue, and nearly all the characters, including the composer Arcangelo Corelli, are historical figures. A terrifying-and historical-near-rape scene comes at the climax and allows readers to experience how much Angelica must endure to have the simple freedom to practice her art. Riveting in both action and description. (Historical fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Riveting."—Kirkus Reviews
"Readers . . . will admire the young woman's steadfast devotion against tremendous odds."—School Library Journal

Product Details

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 naturally—the guitar and harpsichord—knowing 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 me—psalms, motets, arias—as 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 doing—sweeping the floor, pulling water from the well, chopping onions—songs 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 wall—a 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, jealousy—whatever 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 castrati—those 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.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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.

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Queen's Soprano 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Stella98 More than 1 year ago
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
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SillyChi More than 1 year ago
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.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!..
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is is a great historical novel. It is very romantic and the story is true