Cry to Heaven

Cry to Heaven

by Anne Rice

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In this mesmerizing novel, the acclaimed author of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES and the LIVES OF THE MAYFAIR WITCHES makes real for us the exquisite and otherworldly society of the eighteenth-century castrati, the delicate and alluring male sopranos whose graceful bodies and glorious voices brought them the adulation of the royal courts and grand opera houses of Europe, men who lived as idols, concealing their pain as they were adored as angels, yet shunned as half-men.
As we are drawn into their dark and luminous story, as the crowds of Venetians, Neopolitans, and Romans, noblemen and peasants, musicians, prelates, princes, saints, and intriguers swirl around them, Anne Rice brings us into the sweep of eighteenth-century Italian life, into the decadence beneath the shimmering surface of Venice, the wild frivolity of Naples, and the magnetic terror of its shadow, Vesuvius. It is a novel that only Anne Rice could have written, taking us into a heartbreaking and enchanting moment in history, a time of great ambition and great suffering—a tale that challenges our deepest images of the masculine and the feminine.
"To read Anne Rice is to become giddy as if spinning through the mind of time."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Dazzling in its darkness...Spellbinding."
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780523420639
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/16/1983
Pages: 544

About the Author

Anne Rice is the author of thirty-two books. She lives in Palm Desert, California.


Rancho Mirage, California

Date of Birth:

October 4, 1941

Place of Birth:

Rancho Mirage, California


B.A., San Francisco State University, 1964; M.A., 1971

Read an Excerpt

GUIDO MAFFEO was castrated when he was six years old and sent to study with the finest singing masters in Naples.
He had known only routine hunger and cruelty among the large peasant brood to which he was born the eleventh child. And all of his life, Guido remembered he was given his first good meal and soft bed by those who made him a eunuch.
It was a beautiful room to which he was taken in the mountain town of Caracena. It had a real floor of smooth stone tiles, and on the wall Guido saw a ticking clock for the first time in his life and was frightened of it. The soft-spoken men who had taken him from his mother’s hands asked him to sing for them. And afterwards rewarded him with a red wine full of honey.
These men took off his clothes and put him in a warm bath, but he was so sweetly drowsy by that time he was not afraid of anything. Gentle hands massaged his neck. And slipping back into the water, Guido sensed something marvelous and important was happening to him. Never had any one paid him so much attention.
He was almost asleep when they lifted him out and strapped him to a table. He felt he was falling for an instant. His head had been placed lower than his feet. But then he was sleeping again, firmly held, and stroked by those silken hands that moved between his legs to give him a wicked little pleasure. When the knife came he opened his eyes, screaming.
He arched his back. He struggled with the straps. But a voice beside him came soft, comforting in his ear, scolding him gently: “Ah, Guido, Guido.”
The memory of all this never left him.
That night he awoke on snow white sheets that smelled of crushed green leaves. And climbing out of bed in spite of the small bandaged soreness between his legs, he came up short before a little boy in a mirror. In an instant he realized it was his own reflection, which he had never seen before save in still water. He saw his curly dark hair, and touched his face all over, particularly his flat little nose which seemed to him like a piece of moist clay rather than the noses of other people.
The man who found him did not punish him, but fed him soup with a silver spoon, and spoke to him in a strange tongue, reassuring him. There were little pictures on the walls, brightly colored, full of faces. They came clear with the rising sun, and Guido saw on the floor a pair of fine leather shoes, shiny and black, and small enough that they would fit on his feet. He knew they would be given to him.
It was the year 1715. Louis XIV, le roi soleil of France, had just died. Peter the Great was the czar of Russia.
In the far-off North American colony of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was nine years old. George I had just taken the throne of England.
African slaves tilled the fields of the New World on both sides of the equator. A man could be hanged in London for the theft of a loaf of bread. He could be burned alive in Portugal for heresy.
Gentlemen covered their heads with great white wigs when they went out; they carried swords, and pinched snuff from small jeweled boxes. They wore breeches buckled at the knee, stockings, shoes with high heels; their coats had enormous pockets. Ladies in ruffled corsets fixed beauty marks to their cheeks. They danced the minuet in hooped skirts; they held salons, fell in love, committed adultery.
Mozart’s father had not yet been born. Johann Sebastian Bach was thirty. Galileo had been dead for seventy-three years; Isaac Newton was an old man. Jean Jacques Rousseau was an infant.
Italian opera had conquered the world. The year would see Alessandro Scarlatti’s Il Tigrane in Naples, Vivaldi’s Narone fatta Cesare in Venice. George Frederick Handel was the most celebrated composer in London.
On the sunny Italian peninsula, foreign domination had made great inroads. The Archduke of Austria ruled the northern city of Milan and the southern Kingdom of Naples.
But Guido knew nothing of the world. He did not even speak the language of his native country.
The city of Naples was more wondrous than anything he had ever beheld, and the conservatorio to which he was brought, overlooking town and sea, seemed as magnificent as a palazzo.
The black dress with its red sash he was given to wear was the finest cloth he’d ever touched, and he could scarcely believe he was meant to stay in this place, to sing and play music forever. Surely it wasn’t meant for him. They would one day send him home.
But this never happened.
On sultry feast day afternoons, walking in slow procession with the other castrati children through the crowded streets, his robes immaculate, his brown curls clean and shining, he was proud to be one of them. Their hymns floated on the air like the mingled scent of the lilies and the candles. And as they entered the lofty church, their thin voices swelling suddenly amid a splendor he’d never before seen, Guido knew his first real happiness.
All went well for him over the years. The discipline of the conservatorio was nothing. He had a soprano voice that could shatter glass; he scribbled melodies every time he was given a pen, learning to compose before he could read and write; his teachers loved him.
But as time passed, his understanding deepened.
Early on, Guido realized that not all the musicians around him had been “cut” as little boys. Some would grow up to be men, to marry, to have children. But no matter how well the violinists played, no matter how much the composers wrote, none could ever achieve the fame, the riches, the pure glory of a great castrato singer.
Italian musicians were wanted the world over for the church choirs, the court orchestras, the opera houses.
But it was the soprano singer whom the world worshiped. It was for him that kings vied and audiences held their breath; it was the singer who brought to life the very essence of the opera.
Nicolino, Cortono, Ferri, their names were remembered long after the composers who’d written for them were forgotten. And in the little world of the conservatorio, Guido was part of an elect, a privileged group who were better fed, better dressed, and given warmer rooms as their singular talent was nourished.
But as the ranks swelled, as older castrati left and new castrati came, Guido soon saw that hundreds were submitted to the knife each year for a handful of fine voices. They came from all over: Giancarlo, lead singer of a Tuscan choir, cut at twelve through the kindness of the country maestro who brought him to Naples; Alonso, from a family of musicians, his uncle a castrato who arranged for the operation; or the proud Alfredo, who had lived so long in the house of his patron he did not remember his parents or the surgeon either.
And then there were the unwashed, the illiterate, the little boys who didn’t speak the language of Naples when they came—boys like Guido.
That his parents had sold him outright was now obvious to him. He wondered had any maestro properly tested his voice before it was done. He could not remember. Perhaps he was caught in a random net, sure to ensnare something of value.
But all this Guido perceived from the corner of his eye. Lead singer in the choir, soloist on the conservatorio stage, he was already writing out exercises for the younger pupils. By the age of ten he was taken out to hear Nicolino at the theater, given a harpsichord of his own, permission to stay up late to practice. Warm blankets, a fine coat, his rewards were more than he would ever have asked, and now and then he was taken to sing for delighted company in the dazzle of a real palazzo.
Before the doubts of the second decade of life, Guido had laid for himself a great foundation in study and regimen. His voice, high, pure, unusually light and flexible, was now an official marvel.
But as happens with any human creature, the blood of his ancestors—despite the mutation of his castration—continued to shape him. Of a people swarthy and stocky of build, he did not grow into a reed of a eunuch as did many around him. Rather his form was heavy, well proportioned, and gave a deceptive impression of power.
And though his curly brown hair and sensuous mouth lent a touch of the cherub to his face, a dark down on his upper lip made him appear manly.
In fact, his would have been a pleasing appearance had it not been for two factors: his nose, broken by a childhood fall, was flattened exactly as if a giant hand had squashed it. And his brown eyes, large and full of feeling, glinted with the wily brutality of the peasants who had been his forefathers.
Where these men had been taciturn and shrewd, Guido was studious and stoical. Where they had struggled with the elements of the earth, he gave himself violently to any sacrifice for his music.
But Guido was far from crude in manner or appearance. Rather, taking his teachers as models, he imbibed all he could of gracious deportment, as well as the poetry, Latin, the classical Italian taught to him.
So he grew into a young singer of considerable presence whose stark particularities lent him a disturbing seductiveness.
All his life some would say of him, “How ugly he is,” while others would say, “But he is beautiful!”
But of one thing he was quite unaware; he exuded menace. His people had been more brutal than the animals they tended; and he had the look of one who might do anything to you. It was the passion in his eyes, the squashed nose, the lush mouth—all of it put together.
And so without his realizing it, a protective shield enveloped him. People didn’t try to bully him.
Yet all who knew Guido liked him. The regular boys liked him as much as did his fellow eunuchs. The violinists loved him because he became fascinated with them individually and wrote music for them that was exquisite. And Guido came to be known as quiet, no-nonsense, the gentle bear cub, not one to be afraid of once you came to know him.

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Cry to Heaven 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An avid reader of Anne Rice beginning with her Vampire Chronicles, once I exhausted that series I gravitated towards her numerous other novels. Out of all the non-series related work, Cry To Heaven is a testament to why I, and so many others, love Anne Rice. With Rice's characteristic talent for recreating eras of old and infusing rich prose with historic detail, the story not only shines with lush detail but is a tribute to what Rice does best: turning human process 'the training of the castrati' into a vivid, sensuous piece of art. Rice never fails to be an author whose stories catch me in their grip, and this novel is no different. I got so caught up at one point that I literally sat for two or three hours straight to finish the story through. A tale of dark secrets and tabboo love, and most importantly the tale of Tonio's revenge, the only fault that I could find is that the ending comes much too soon and much too suddenly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was completely captivated by Cry to Heaven. I didn't want the story to end. Now that it's finished, it is hard to find a book that even interests me. Be prepared to spend hours caught up in this story. It's hard to put down, and even harder to forget.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written. The story is so dark. Rice transports the reader to another time and culture very skillfully. One of my keeper books.Not for the faint of heart
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! The author truly takes you back in time and paints every detail with such become part of that world. My only complaint was there was too much descriptive sex which seemed to take away from the meat of the story....but that is just me and i just skipped over most of it. Other than that it is a gorgeous story and i learned about a practice i never knew existed....highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read.
Joey301 More than 1 year ago
Such a good story. Was one of my favorite Rice characters. A little different than her usual characters and a great yarn as well.
Mildred More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. It combines history of Baroque Venice with Castrati or Virtuoso singers from that era. Although this book is not considered among the pornographic novels from this authoress, it contains a few hetero-homosexual sex scenes, which seem appropriate with the characters used for this novel. The plot was really good, hard to put down once I started.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was long, but fast paced. I love that Anne touches on subjects that few would dare to. in this book the subject is the castrati, boys who were castrated so that they maintained their soprano voices. Also, being an Anthropology major, I love how she puts so much history into her novels. She paints a beautiful, and sometimes grisly, portrait of Rennaisance Italy. This novel kept my attention the whole way through!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book truly showcases Anne Rice's marvelous and graceful writing. The story cannot be easily of the moment there are no words that could grant this story justice, all I can say is that Cry To Heaven is mesmerizing. You can easily get caught is the whirlwind of Tonio's story.... Cry To Heaven is simply beautiful... to say the least.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually read this novel about three years ago and just recently while at B & N, I decided to purchase the book; I still found it captivating, this is a dazzling book. Cheers to Anne Rice for her great work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read every single book she's written, there is no question...this is Anne at her absolute best. The story is beautifully written, and the love amongst all of these characters just jumps off the pages. It's my very favorite (it would make for gorgeous musical theater).
AprilHamilton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review of unabridged Audible audiobook.Yes, it's a little trashy and yes, it's got melodrama to spare, but I still recommend this audiobook very highly. The historical detail on the livesof castrati is fascinating, and Tim Curry's narration is outstanding.
MoiraStirling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very nicely written in the typical gilt and blood style of Anne Rice. A bit much on the homoerotic side for me, and I got the feeling this was (yet again) her attempt to come to grips with her son's sexuality. However, I really enjoyed the depth and layers of Castrati history and fiction together. As usual, her visualizations were beautiful, and a joy to get lost in.
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tonio Treschi is the young son of an aging Venetian, the Grand Counsellor, he lives in his father¿s great palazzo with his young mother, not knowing other children to play with. But his real love is singing, and this he enjoys with his talented mother and his tutors. Guido Maffeo has no heritage, but is simply a young boy from a large and very poor family; he has known only hardship and ill treatment. That is until his beautiful voice, a voice which at a very young age will cost him his future manhood, takes him away from all this. He is taken to Naples and trained by the finest singing masters. The lives of Tonio and Guido will eventually becoming inextricably linked when Toni¿s father dies and his banished brother returns to claims his inheritance. Cry to Heaven is a remarkable epic of love, betrayal and vengeance. Yet that is to put it far too simply, for the loves are complex, often unselfish but always beautiful; the betrayal is perhaps of the most shocking nature; the vengeance ultimately unsought. Anne Rice writing with an assured hand plunges us into the flamboyant, luxurious and at times sordid world of eighteenth century Venice, Naples and Rome with an eye for detail that brings it all vividly to life. Her cast of characters is beautifully drawn, the handsome Tonio being especially appealing. Her careful research into the music and musical practices of the period lends the whole plausibility. The result is a gripping, tale which at times luxuriates in the sheer pleasure of life, and others is drawn to the depths of despair. A tale where one act of barbarism may have even the reading needing time to come to terms with. It is a moving, at times heart-wrenching, story of triumph over adversity.
Cats_Critters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good book with an intersecting story to tell. This is a story about a boy about to become a man, who has that and his future stolen from him. If you love Anne Rice this is worth the read.
Alinevada on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite book by Anne Rice. It utterly transported to me to a world that I knew nothing about, opera, Venice and the unique lives of the castrati. None of these are topics of usual interest to me and I was fascinated with each and every detail of the story. Well written and a refreshing change of pace from the Vampire writer.
Menagerie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is Anne Rice at her finest. She takes a subject little is known about - castrati singers - and opens it up to people everywhere. Her story about a boy who is kidnapped and forcibly castrated, making him a castrati singer, is gripping and dramatic. It is a story about revenge, redemption, and finding a way to live with regret. This book is memorable and one of Rice's best.
thioviolight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How I missed the lush writing and opulent worlds of Anne Rice! I very much enjoyed the journey I took in "Cry To Heaven" and loved the vivid Italian landscapes that Rice has painted. (In general I enjoy the Venetian setting in stories.) I felt the characters and became deeply engrossed in the tale of Tonio Treschi. The novel is now one of my favorite works of Rice. A fine and marvelous read!
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne Rice is an author who showed great promise in the early stages of her writing career. She then devolved into mass produced, contrived, poorly written dreck. I always found that very disappointing because some of her early work is quite good. This is one of those books.Cry to Heaven is the story of a Venetian castrato in the 18th century. Unlike most castrati, Tonio wasn't cut as a child, but rather as a teenager - right before the onslaught of puberty & the inevitable change in voice. There are a lot of reasons for why this happens to him that I won't go into here, but the story is rich & wonderful.The novel follows Tonio & Guido - a castrato cut as a child who nevertheless lost his voice, but became a composer. These two stories intertwine to create a story that brings to life the colors of its settings & the sheer beauty of the music. If you've never listened to Baroque opera, now is the time. It's not what you think it is.The story is poignant & beautiful & it is a joy to watch these characters move through their changes. All of the characters are fully fleshed & complex & believable as is the plot. This book is a pleasure. I wish she'd kept writing at this level.
aripie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore this book. I must have read it maybe 15 times. It really reflects what young men had to go through in order to pursue their passions as opera singers. I always wince when they discuss the castration of the boys...but then become uplifted again at the love that is produced from such tender and fragile souls. I think Anne Rice was probably the first person to introduce me to the enjoyment of boys loving boys and equally as interesting male love in general. As a woman, I am certainly not a pervert considering who wrote the book...haha, but seeing the gender that exemplifies masculinity and machismo still keep their balance while confessing love to one another, truly makes my heart flutter.
erikitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite a beautiful book. Describes the life of castrati including joyful and morose times taking the reader through many emotions. I have never read any of the vampire chronicles so I can't compare but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone.
valentipoetry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I prefer cry to heaven and feast of all saints over the vampire novels.
simris2k on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of my favorite books by Anne Rice. I like the off-angle tangent of a book about castrati. Who in their wildest minds would write on such a subject or even give it any common-day thought. The book allows you to look into the qoutidien life of Renaissance Italy and get a non-fictional glimpse of past fluid sexuality.
thairishgrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting topic for a book. I'm not sure how much of the information about castrati is accurate, but it was facinating.
Bestine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, dark, erotic. Not so much 'homosexual' as 'pansexual.' This historical novel of love, hate, despair, exaltation, music, art and revenge set in early 18th century Venice, Naples and Rome is my favorite of all of Ms. Rice's works.