Bel Canto : Chapter 7
Summary Chapter 7
It is now mid-November. The weather is improving. The garúa has gone and the sun is shining. The hostages look out onto the garden, where the vegetation is growing. The previous Sunday, Father Arguedas was allowed to say Mass for the first time, and almost everyone had been present, whether Catholic or not. Roxane had sung “Ave Maria.”
On the morning the rain ends, Roxane sings as usual. Carmen, who has been observing her, tells Gen that Roxane is in love with Mr. Hosokawa. Gen already knows that Mr. Hosokawa is in love with Roxane but had not realized that Roxane’s returned the feelings. Gen is in love with Carmen, although he has not told her so. They have been meeting in secret every night and he has been teaching her to read. He thinks she is very intelligent.
Meanwhile, Fyodorov has finally decided that today is the day that he must speak to Roxane. He had been putting it off for a week. He comes to find Gen, who is to translate for him. Gen and Carmen have just kissed for the first time, but Gen drags himself away. When he finally meets Roxane, Fyodorov is extremely nervous. He wants to say that he is in love with Roxane, which surprises Gen. However, before he can manage this confession, he tells Roxane a long story about his earlier life. He says he has been an opera fan since he was in college in St. Petersburg. Then he goes back even further, to his childhood. His grandmother had a very large book of reproductions of the work of the Impressionist painters. As a child he grew to love and appreciate art because of this book, which is still in the possession of his family. He finishes the story by saying that because he has a deep understanding of art he is therefore qualified to love Roxane. Then he tells her that he loves her. Roxane has listened patiently to his story and takes his declaration in stride. She says it was a wonderful story. She is about to make a comment about his love for her, but he interrupts her, saying it is a gift and she doesn’t have to say anything about it.
After the others leave the kitchen, Cesar is left alone. He loved listening to Roxane sing, and now he sings an aria softly to himself, remembering it from Roxane’s practice that morning.
The love theme is steadily developed. Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa are developing an unspoken emotional intimacy even though they do not understand each other’s language. They are able to communicate through their mutual love of music, Roxane as performer and Mr. Hosokawa as appreciative listener. Carmen and Gen are falling in love, an example of how a relationship can grow in this confined space between terrorist and hostage. In contrast to the almost wordless relationship between singer and Japanese businessman, the love between Gen and Carmen grows through words and language—not so much what they say to each other about themselves but through the lessons in Spanish and English that Gen conducts with Carmen as his willing pupil every night in secret. These two growing love affairs are contrasted with the sincere but wordy and rather absurd declaration of love for Roxane that is made by Fyodorov, which despite his high-flown explanations seems rather intellectual and superficial compared to the real love that is blossoming elsewhere.
The power of Roxane’s singing is well established by now, but in this chapter it is shown reaching an unlikely recipient—the boy terrorist, Cesar. It seems that music indeed knows no bounds. Roxane’s singing affects him deeply not only emotionally but also physically—he is sexually aroused by it.