Page 4. " Verdi's Rigoletto "
by hector
Creative Commons AttributionRigoletto - Credit: Fabio, Flickr

Rigoletto, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), is based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo.  

Rigoletto is a hunchback jester in the court of the Duke of Mantua, who wins favour with his patron by ridiculing the courtiers.  Without knowing her identity, the Duke develops a passion for Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda.  Conspiracy abounds, and soon Rigoletto is plotting the assassination of the Duke.  But this is the blackest of tragedies, and ultimately it is his own daughter who is murdered.


Page 4. " Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall "

Also known as Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, this important arts venue opened in 1961 to provide a centre for opera and ballet performance in the city.  A striking example of modern brutalist architecture, it possesses a Main Hall (seating an audience of 2,303) and a Recital Hall (seating 649) which is used for recitals and chamber music.  There is also a restaurant, café, florist, gift shop and Music Library.  Tokyo Bunka Kaikan enjoys hosting both domestic performers and renowned international groups.  

Page 5. " early in the second act, when Rigoletto and Gilda sang together "
by cm

It's not obvious which passage Patchett has in mind.  Possibly she means the first appearance of Gilda, which comes in the first act:

Listen on Spotify

Or this darker duet at the end of the second act:

Listen on Spotify

Page 5. " Handel's Alcina "
Georg Friedrich Händel
Public DomainGeorg Friedrich Händel - Credit: Thomas Hudson

 Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) was a Prussian-born composer who moved to England in 1712. He was a prolific composer whose works include 120 cantatas, trios and duets, 42 operas and 29 oratorios. Amongst his best known compositions are the collection of orchestral movements known as the The Water Music, the anthem Zadok the Priest and the oratorio Messiah.

Handel's opera Alcina was first performed in 1735 at the Covent Garden Theatre, London, but it did not immediately enter the operatic repertoire. However, following its revival in Leipzig in 1928, there were several major performances of the opera during the 1960s. In a 1999 production (staged by the Opéra National de Paris and the Lyric Opera of Chicago), the role of Alcina the sorceress was performed by Renée Fleming, who has been described by Ann Patchett as 'the living embodiment of art'.

Listen on Spotify to Tornami a vagheggiar ('Return to me to languish'), one of the arias of Alcina the sorceress, and to Verdi prati ('Green meadows'), one of the arias of the knight Ruggiero.



Page 6. " a recording of Lucia di Lammermoor "

Lucia di Lammermoor is a tragic opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), which is loosely based on The Bride of Lammermoor, a novel by Sir Walter Scott. It was first performed in Naples in 1835.

The opera is particularly well known for its penultimate scene, often known as ‘the mad scene’: Lucia appears distraught and blood-soaked before her assembled wedding guests, having murdered the husband she has just been forced to marry.

Listen here on Spotify to Il dolce suono ('The sweet sound'), the aria Lucia sings following the murder, when she imagines herself with Edgardo, the man she loves.



Page 6. " He saw La Sonnambula three nights in a row "
by hector
La Sonnambula
Public DomainLa Sonnambula - Credit: William de Leftwich Dodge

La Sonnambula is a "semi-serious" opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835).  It is the story of a young woman who wanders asleep into a stranger's bedroom and is consequently accused of infidelity by her fiancé.  Her innocence is only proven when she sleepwalks across a dangerous mill bridge. 

Listen on Spotify



Page 7. " If a human soul should dream of me, may he still remember me on awaking! "

Rusalka is a Czech opera by Antonín Dvořák, composed in 1900.  The text was written by poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868–1950), and is based on Czech fairy tales.  A Rusalka is a water sprite in Slavic mythology.  The opera was first performed in Prague in 1901, and quickly became a huge success.  The most popular aria is "Song to the Moon" in Act I:

I am here, waiting
If a human soul should dream of me
May he still remember me on waking
Dear moon, oh, shine for him…

Listen on Spotify

Page 9. " birds of paradise and tightly wrapped canna lilies, banks of lamb's ear and emerald fern "
Birds of Paradise
Public DomainBirds of Paradise - Credit: Scott Bauer

Birds of Paradise, also called Strelitzia, are perennial plants native to South Africa.  They are also sometimes called crane flowers.  

Canna lillies
Public DomainCanna lillies - Credit: Kerri

The canna lily (which is not really a lily) is related to banana plants and strelitzias.  In addition to producing large flowering plants, it is also one of the world's richest starch sources.  It is found in the tropics, but is easy to grow in most countries with sunny summers.  

Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran.  It is cultivated in temperate regions as an ornamental plant.  

Lamb's ear
Public DomainLamb's ear - Credit: Kerri

Emerald fern, or Sprenger's Asparagus, is native to South Africa (and is not really a fern).  "Sprenger's Asparagus" refers to Carl Ludwig Sprenger, who made it popular in Europe as an ornamental plant. 

Emerald fern and Lamb's ear
Public DomainEmerald fern and Lamb's ear - Credit: Kerri
Page 9. " blossoms of bougainvillea "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBougainvillea - Credit: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên

Bougainvillea is a tropical vine plant native to South America. Its actual flowers are small and insignificant, but they are surrounded by clusters of showy bracts that make for an arresting visual display. These come in a variety of vivid colours, from magenta to scarlet to yellow. The plant is named after the French explorer Louis de Bougainville.

Page 16. " and the Olympics "
by hector

The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan.

It was the first time snowboarding and curling were included in the Olympics.


Page 17. " a performance of Orfeo ed Euridice "
Christoph Willibald von Gluck
Public DomainChristoph Willibald von Gluck - Credit: Joseph-Siffred Duplessis
'Orpheus and Euridice'
Public Domain'Orpheus and Euridice' - Credit: Frederic Leighton

 Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) is a three-act opera by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787) which was first performed in 1762.

It is based on the Greek myths relating to Orpheus, the legendary musician of divine origin, and his wife Eurydice, the wood nymph. The myths tell of how Orpheus goes to the Underworld (Hades) to search for his wife following her death. He is given permission to lead her back to the land of the living on condition that he does not turn around and look at her during the journey. Orpheus is unable to keep to this condition, and Eurydice is forced to return to Hades for ever.

In the opera, there is a happy ending  when Amore, the god of love, brings Euridice back to life and reunites her with Orfeo.

Listen on Spotify to Trionfi Amore ('May Love Triumph') which is sung at the culmination of Act 3.




Page 17. " looked out over the Acropolis "
The Acropolis
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Acropolis - Credit: AJ Alfieri-Crispin


Athens' most famous monument is the Parthenon on the Acropolis, a flat-topped rock that rises high above the city.

The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.


The Parthenon by Night
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Parthenon by Night - Credit: Demos
Page 18. " a drink called an Areopagus "
by hector

The Areopagus from the Acropolis
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Areopagus from the Acropolis - Credit: AJ Alfieri-Crispin
Named after the Rock of Ares, near the Acropolis.


Google Map


Page 21. " the elaborately patterned Savonnière carpet "
Louvre Grand Gallery Savonnerie carpet 1670 -1685
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeLouvre Grand Gallery Savonnerie carpet 1670 -1685 - Credit: PHGCOM

Savonnerie was a highly prestigious European maker of knotted-pile carpets, the height of fashion  between 1650 and 1685.  The carpet manufacturer was established in a former soap factory (French savon) near Paris in 1615, by Pierre DuPont.  In 1627, Louis XIII granted DuPont a monopoly, with a patent of eighteen years, to manufacture carpets façon de Turquie ("in the manner of Turkey.")  The carpets were made of wool, with some silk in the smaller details, knotted using the Ghiordes or Turkish knot.  Until 1768, these carpets remained exclusively the property of the Crown. Savonnerie carpets were among the grandest of French diplomatic gifts. 

Page 22. " bright red river of shingles "
by hector
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeShingles - Credit: Fisle, Wikimedia Commons

Shingles is a rash caused by the virus responsible for chicken pox, Varicella zoster.

It affects around one in four people, usually later in life.