I have a Facebook Page
Visit my blog
A House Near Luccoli focuses on chance encounters, beautiful music and the paradox of genius through an imagined intimacy with one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque music, Alessandro Stradella.
Highly Recommended by the Historical Novel Society
The remarkable Baroque composer Alessandro Stradella stands at the center of Denton’s bright, sparkling novel A House Near Luccoli. Unmarried, mid-thirties Genoese woman Donatella encounters the volatile, slightly disreputable genius and at first is appalled by his manners and eccentric ways, but she and others are also gradually taken by his undeniable charm.
Denton is an unapologetically enthusiastic writer (exclamation points abound), imbuing even her minor secondary characters with three-dimensional life. Her research into all aspects of the period is thorough but not wooden; this is foremost a book of characters and character-study, ultimately in many ways a book about how friendships form ... immensely enjoyable ... Highly recommended.
Stephen Donoghue, Historical Novel Society Review
From dedication of la forza dell/amor paterna ...
One of the most beautiful distinctions of the sun is to disburse the mine of its golden splendors not only over the nearest countries but also to the most remote lands.
~ Alessandro Stradella, Genoa 1678
Alessandro Stradella 1639-1682
It is over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice and Turin.
By 1681 Stradella’s professional and personal life have begun to unravel again, losing him a prime position at la Teatro Falcone and residence on the city’s street of palaces, la Strada Nuova. Returning from a performance in Modena, Stradella is offered—by the very man he is rumored to have wronged—a respectable if slightly shabby apartment in a house near la via Luccoli and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in with a flourish met with curiosity and consternation by the caretakers who are also tenants, three women whose reputations are only of concern to themselves.
Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet like the city she lives in there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule not cure for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first she is in awe of Stradella and certain she will have little to do with him. Slowly his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.
Alessandro Stradella (1639 - 1682): who was he?
When informed that "jealousy was the motive to it" Purcell lamented Stradella's fate, and "in regret of his great merit as a musician", said he could forgive him any injury in that kind.
~ From Purcell studies by Curtis Price
Born in Nepi near Rome of minor nobility, Stradella was cultivated but also a vagabond. His life seemed to be a struggle between the discipline of his work and recklessness of his behavior. Yet, whether acting on a patron's whim or his own impulse, uncertainty and risk were inevitable. It was his nature to embrace them, indulging in possibilities, captivating men and women known and unknown, seducing posterity with his reputation for making messes ... but also masterpieces.
Stradella's output was versatile and copious, including operas, and oratorios, serenatas, madrigals and incidental music. He worked royally and nobly, for the theater and the church, for grand and domestic occasions, celebrating life and love, using allegory and heart and humor, challenging singers and instrumentalists and the inventiveness of himself. He developed the aria and concerto grosso, his work no less significant than Vivaldi's or Corelli's, if anything more passionate and pioneering, his text interpretation and melodist abilities impressing Scarlatti and even Handel who freely borrowed from him.
... loving the wrong women and angering the wrong men held grave consequences and caused centuries of neglect for the fervent 17th century Italian maestro. But, as Henry Purcell recognized, the shame was on the perpetrators of Stradella's demise. By the second decade of the 18th century Stradella's compositions were rarely performed, instead his escapades played over and over in largely inaccurate biographies, novels and operas. Fortunately there has been some renewed interest in his music, but it remains obscure and underperformed as he only very slowly emerges from the shadows of his seemingly better behaved contemporaries.
Which brings me to ...
How I came to write about Alessandro Stradella ...