Bel Canto Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Bel Canto : Character

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Total Votes: 94
  1. General Alfredo

    General Alfredo is one of the three leaders of the terrorist group that takes the party guests hostage. He appears to be a veteran of guerilla conflict, since he has been shot several times, in the stomach and neck, and there are two fingers missing on his left hand.

  2. Father Arguedas

    Father Arguedas is a twenty-six-year-old hardworking Catholic priest who is taken hostage. He is given an opportunity to leave with the other hostages who are being freed but he elects to stay in the house with the other detained people. He is an opera fan and used to listen to opera recordings whenever he couldbut he had never heard opera sung live until he gets an invitation to the party at which Roxane Coss is to sing.The invitation came through the help of the cousin of the vice president’s wife, who noticed the priest and also had an interest in music. During the hostage standoff, Father Arguedas makes himself consistently useful, encouraging people, saying Mass. He is happy to be there doing God’s work and “found cause to smile often” (p. 105).

  3. Beatriz

    Beatriz is one of the young terrorists. At first she is taken for a boy, which is not as surprising as it might seem since she is not pretty and does not have a feminine manner. She is quite tough and can also be aggressive. On one occasion she threatens to shoot Simon Thibault when, against the rules, he takes hold of a knife to cut up an eggplant. She softens a bit later on, perhaps in part due to the intervention of Father Arguedas, who gets her to make confession. Beatriz’s favorite activity is watchinga soap opera on television.

  4. General Benjamin

    General Benjamin is one of the three leaders of the terrorists. He is suffering from a shingles outbreak, which is visible on the left side of his face.In his own mind he is dedicated to the cause of the people, and it seems that he has been deeply affected by the violence he has known: “Most days it seemed like half the people he knew were dead. . . . murdered, slaughtered in a host of ways that prevented him from sleeping well at night” (p. 85). One of his main motivations is to get his younger brother Luis released from prison. Luis is a political prisoner whose only offense was to distribute flyers for a political protest. It is this incident that turned Benjamin into a radical. Before that, he had been a grade school teacher. Messner finds him more reasonable than the other generals.

  5. Carmen

    Carmen is one of the terrorists. She is about seventeen years old and is initially taken to be a boy by the hostages. Gen notices her delicate, intelligent-looking face, “like a fine-boned Madonna” (p. 95).Carmen takes a liking to Roxane and regards herself as the singer’s bodyguard. She is illiterate but intelligent and conveys to Gen that she wants to learn how to read and write in English and Spanish. She soon falls in love with Gen, and he with her. Along with the other terrorists, Carmen is shot dead when the authorities storm the building.

  6. Cesar

    Cesar is one of the young terrorists. From the beginning he is respectful of Roxane and takes to humming the songs he has heard her sing. He has a gift for remembering the music and also the words, even though they are in a language he does not understand. Eventually he sings out loud in the living room so that everyone hears him. People take notice because he obviously has talent. When Roxane hears him she offers to be his teacher; she is so impressed that she thinks he has a future as an opera singer.

  7. Christopf

    Christopf is Roxane’s accompanist. He is in his thirties and hails from Sweden. When the hostages are first taken, he is extremely protective of Roxane. It transpires that on the airplane trip over, he declared to Roxane that he was in love with her, an announcement that did not please the singer. It was a departure from Christopf’s customary quiet, reserved manner. Christopf dies early in the novel; he is a diabetic and does not receive the insulin that he needs to survive.

  8. Roxane Coss

    Roxane Coss is a world-famous lyric soprano who is paid a high fee to sing at the party in the vice presidential home. She is invited because she is known to be a favorite singer of Mr. Hosokawa, a man the government wants to impress so he will invest in the country. Roxane, who is in her late thirties and grew up in Chicago, is a spellbinding singer, and even those who do not like opera respond to the magic of her voice. Unlike the other women who are initially taken hostage, Roxane is not released. Many of the male hostages find themselves falling in love with her and plotting ways in which they can declare their love. Roxane herself endures the ordeal with a certain resigned calm although she cries at night in her bedroom. She is the only hostage who is permitted a bedroom, which is closely guarded by Carmen. After two weeks of captivity, Roxane decides that she must start singing again. After that she sings for several hours every day, and it almost seems as if she is the one with the power, rather than the terrorists. Her personal magnetism is intimately bound up with her singing, since she is not presented as being especially beautiful: “Without makeup or jewelry, without her hair to frame her face [she has pulled her hair up and away from her face], a person might have thought her plain or even tired looking if he didn’t know what she was capable of” (p. 219).  Roxane falls in love with Mr. Hosokawa and they develop an intimate relationship. She also recognizes the raw talent of Cesar and plans to help him develop into a professional singer.

  9. Esmerelda

    Esmerelda is the governess in the vice president’s house. When called upon to stitch up the wound in the vice president’s face she uses her sewing kit very efficiently. She is released with the other female hostages.

  10. LotharFalken

    LotharFalken, one of the hostages, is the president of a German pharmaceutical company. When the hostages go outside for the first time, he takes the lead in exercise, running around the perimeter of the lawn.

  11. Victor Fyodorov

    Victor Fyodorov is one of the Russian hostages. He is forty-seven years old and smokes a lot, which he has been doing since he was twelve. He spends much of his time smoking and playing cards with the other Russian hostages, but he is also a cultured man with an interest in art and music. Hefalls in love with Roxane and insists on telling her so, using Gen as an interpreter, since he speaks no English.

  12. Gilbert

    Gilbert is one of the young terrorists, bigger than most of the others. He can be aggressive, and on one occasion puts the muzzle of his gun on Simon Thibault’s throat.

  13. Dr. Gomez

    Dr. Gomez is a hospital administrator who gave up his medical practice years ago. He does not volunteer his services when the terrorists call for a doctor to attend to Ruben Iglesias. He is nervous that he would not be able to perform the task required. He is released with the women after he falsely claims he needs dialysis treatment for his kidneys.

  14. General Hector

    General Hector is the sternest of the three generals. The youngterrorists are scared of him, and even the other generals are cautious when around him. He is an enforcer of discipline and beats the young terrorists if they fight amongst themselves. He wears gold wire glasses that have lost one arm.

  15. Mr. Hosokawa

    Mr. Hosokawa is the fifty-three-year-old founder and chairman of Nansei, a Japanese electronics company. He worked tirelessly to build up the company, to the exclusion of his family life, even though he had a wife and two daughters. The business was successful, but he could not say that it brought him happiness. Happiness in his life had come to him only from music. His father took him to the opera when he was a boy, and from that point on he was hooked. Roxane Coss became his favorite opera singer. He was invited to the party in South America because the government of the country hoped that his company would build a new factory there. Mr. Hosokawa has no intention of doing so, however. He attends the party solely to hear Roxane sing. When they are all taken hostage, Mr. Hosokawa feels some sense of responsibility for it, since it was a party given in his honor. While in captivity, Mr. Hosokawa, a reserved, private man, makes an attempt to learn Spanish, jotting down notes in his notebook every day. But his main focus is in listening to Roxane sing. They sit together often and an intimacy develops between them that develops into love, even though they do not speak each other’s language. Through this relationship, Mr. Hosokawa achieves a happiness that he has never known before. Tragically, he is killed trying to protect Carmen when government forces storm the house.

  16. Ruben Iglesias

    Ruben Iglesias is the country’s vice president, in whose house the party takes place. He is short, and was selected as vice president in part for this reason, since had he been taller it was thought that he might have made the president look weak. He is the only hostage to be injured when the terrorists first take charge of the house; he is hit in the face with the butt of a gun, which leaves him with a bleeding wound that heals only slowly. Ruben is married withthree children. He is a decent man who does his best to look after his guests and take care of the house. He serves the food, washes the dishes, mops the floors, and vacuums the carpets, although he is aware of the lowly status he has come to occupy in spite of his formal title. He fears that he has become “some kind of fancy lapdog” (p. 177). Everyone becomes very fond of him, however, except for the generals, who have little respect for him and ridicule him a lot. Ruben becomes particularly close to Ishmael. After Ishmael is shot when government troops storm the building, Ruben tenderly holds Ishmael’s head in his hands.

  17. Ishmael

    Ishmael is the smallest of the young terrorists, and he is just approaching his fifteenth birthday. His uncle recruited him to the revolutionary cause. He sticks closely to Ruben and brings him ice even when not asked. He thinks of the vice president as a friend. He shows an interest in chess and learns the game simply by watching General Benjamin playing against Mr. Hosokawa. Oscar Mendoza offers to employ him when the standoff is over, and Ruben tells him he will be able to live in the vice presidential house.

  18. Tetsuya Kato 

    Tetsuya Kato is a senior vice president of Nansei who is taken hostage. He is in his early fifties. He is a quiet man who has a reputation at Nansei for being good with numbers. He is also a pianist. At home he was used to practicing for an hour every day. When the call goes out for a pianist, Kato steps up to the piano and plays flawlessly. He then becomes Roxane’s accompanist during their captivity.

  19. Manuel

    Manuel is a music teacher and friend of Father Arguedas who lives near the vice-presidential mansion. At the request of the priest, he supplies Roxane with all the sheet music she needs.

  20. President Eduardo Masuda

    President Masuda is the country’s president. He was invited to the party but he does not attend, since he prefers to stay at home and watch his favorite soap opera on television. He never appears directly in the novel.

  21. Oscar Mendoza

    Oscar Mendoza is one of the hostages. He is a contractor who lives only five miles from the vice presidential house where he is being held. He had planned to make a bid on the factory he understood Mr. Hosokawa’s firm would be developing. He is married with five daughters, but this does not stop him falling in love with Roxane Coss.

  22. Joachim Messner

    Joachim Messner is a Swiss citizen and a representative of the International Red Cross. He is forty-two years old and has had a very successful career with the Red Cross.He is caught up in the hostage situation because he happened to be on vacation in the city and his services were called upon. A cool-headed, experienced man who has been in similar situations before, he acts as a liaison between the terrorists and the government. He speaks many languages but only a little Spanish. He is admired by the hostages because he always stays calm.

  23. Monsignor Rolland

    Monsignor Rolland is a Catholic priest who is taken hostage. He is an ambitious man who has a high idea of his own worth and expects to be made a bishop soon. He isreleased with the women and the workers but is furious that the other priest, Father Arguedas, elects to stay, because he thinks it makes him, Monsignor Rolland, look like a coward.

  24. Edith Thibault

    Edith is the wife of Simon Thibault. She is described as an elegant woman. She is released with the other female hostages, telling her husband not to do anything stupid. After the crisis is over, she attends the wedding of Gen and Roxane with her husband.

  25. Simon Thibault

    Simon Thibault is the French Ambassador to the South American country.He has been married to Edith for twenty-five years and they have two children. Although he has not always been faithful to Edith he loves her nonetheless, and his love for her was rekindled in the country to which he was reluctantly sent as ambassador—reluctantly because he would have preferred to be made ambassador to Spain. Before she is released by the terrorists, Edith tells him not to do anything stupid. Simon is a diplomatic, amiable man, and he becomes very useful in the kitchen, since he is one of the few people in the house who knows how to cook. Ironically, he twice incurs the wrath of the young terrorists, first when he unexpectedly switches the television on by remote control, which takes them completely by surprise, and second when he takes hold of a knife in the kitchen to peel an eggplant, when the hostages are forbidden to use the knives. After the crisis is over, Simon attends the wedding of Gen and Roxane.

  26. Gen Watanabe

    Gen Watanabe is a Japanese translator who works for Mr. Hosokawa.He is in his late twenties. In his work before the hostage taking, he was regarded as “intelligent, quick, and professional” (p. 17). He knows English, Spanish, Russian, French, German, Greek, Polish,and other languages too. He is kept constantly busy, since so many of the hostages are unable to communicate with one another or with their captors because of the language barrier. Gen is a steady, diplomatic man who translates for others but does not get too involved in their affairs. Gen falls in love with Carmen, and he teaches her to read and write. They meet in secret every night in the china closet and study and make love. After the long hostage crisis, Gen finds work translating books, and he marries Roxane.


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