Bel Canto : Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “All of the orchestra supports her now, it reaches with the voices, lifts the voices up, the beautiful voice of Roxane Cossis singing her Gilda to the young Katsumi Hosokawa. Her voice vibrating the tiny bones deep inside his ear. Her voice stays inside him, becomes him. She is singing her part to him, and to a thousand other people. He is anonymous, equal, loved.”

    p. 50

    Mr. Hosokawa recalls a time when he was a boy, and his father took him to hear the opera Rigoletto, by Verdi, with Roxane Coss singing the role of Gilda.

  2. “Never had he thought, never once, that such a woman existed, one who stood so close to God that God’s own voice poured from her. How far she must have gone inside herself to call up that voice.”

    p. 54

    Father Arguedas’s thoughts after he hears Roxane Coss sing at the party. He has long been an opera fan but has never heard opera sung live until this point.

  3. “The kind of love that offers its life so easily, so stupidly, is always the love that is not returned.”

    p. 87

    This comment by the narrator is about how Christopf the accompanist, who had been released and could have sought the medical treatment he needed, instead chose to return to Roxane, who was still being held hostage. His return cost him his life. He was in love with her, but she did not care for him.

  4. “They [televisions] were always broken. That was the nature of televisions. There was talk, big stories about what a television once had done, but no one believed it because no one had seen it.”

    p. 115

    The view of the young terrorists who have been raised in poverty. They see the television in the vice president’s study, and have never seen a working one and don’t even realize then that this one works until SimonThibault switches it on.

  5. “Their eyes clouded over with tears for so many reasons it would be impossible to list them all. They cried for the beauty of the music, certainly, but also for the failure of their plans. They were thinking of the last time they heard her sing and longed for the women who had been beside them then. All of the love and the longing a body can contain was spun into not more than two and a half minutes of song, and when she came to the highest notes it seemed that all they had been given in their lives and all they had lost came together and made a weight that was almost impossible to bear.”

    pp. 152–53

    The people in the house have just listened to Roxane Coss sing “O miobabbinocaro,” an aria from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi.  It has the same effect on them as her singing always does. Using the moment, she demands, after she has sung the aria, that the box of sheet music be delivered to her straightaway and not delayed. If it is not, she says, she will not sing again as long as the hostage situation goes on.

  6. It was odd the way they never spoke but always seemed to be in communication.” 

    p. 210

    This is Gen’s observation about Roxane Coss and Mr. Hosokawa. It shows how love can transcend language. Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa do not speak the same language but they are nonetheless able to communicate deeply with each other through music and gesture.

  7. “Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don't you think? It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.”

    pp. 218–219

    Victor Fyodorov speaks to Roxane Coss. He has just explained to her how he is a cultured man who appreciates art and music, including opera. He is a great admirer of Roxane and is about to declare his love for her, with the explanation that his appreciation of culture somehow qualifies him to love her.

  8. “When you think of love you think as an American. You must think like a Russian. It is a more expansive view.”

    p. 222

    Victor Fyodorov speaks to Roxane. He has just told her that he loves her. She has responded by asking what if she has nothing to give in return?Fyodorov explains that love is a pure gift that requires nothing from her. Love is not a business transaction. He equates that with an American view of loverather than a Russian one.

  9. “Mr. Hosokawa had a private life now. He had always thought of himself as a private man, butnow he saw that there was nothing in his life before that had been private. It didn’t mean that he had no secrets then and now he did. It was that now there was something that was strictly between himself and one other person, that it was so completely their own that it would have been pointless to even try to speak of it to someone else.

    p. 290

    Mr. Hosokawa has always been a reserved man, but his relationship with Roxane that develops during their period of captivity shifts him to a new, previously unknown level of interiority. Their relationship is so unique and inexpressible that it is literally beyond words. It seems to exist in silence.

  10. “It makes you wonder. All the brilliant things we might have done with our lives if only we suspected we knew how.”

    p. 300

    General Benjamin speaks to Gen and Messner. The context is Cesar’s sudden and completely unexpected emergence as an exciting singer. 

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