Meet the Contessa…

Cover Contessa 1

Introducing the Eccentric of Lucca, her singing “Angels”, her Maltese poodle and her irrascible maid…

…di Capezzani-Batelli, or simply plain Pen to her friends. She is also regarded as something of an eccentric by her army of admirers.

ERRANT ANGELS is the first in a series of novels about Penelope Strachan, the Contessa, and her group of dedicated opera singers in the picturesque city of Lucca in Tuscany. Just how a gifted English pianist studying at the Royal Academy of Music before the Second World War came to end up bearing an ancient and much respected Italian title is all part of the journey of discovery as you wander through the pages.

Now in her later 70s, the Contessa is the doyenne of the music circle in Lucca and, together with her Chamber Opera Group of Lucca – COGOL for short – is a major fundraiser for a whole host of charitable causes. She regards her singers as her “Angels”, but she has no illusions about their flaws, some of which could be considered as rather serious. Perhaps one of the most flawed characters, but for only the very best, well meaning of reasons, is Elizabeth McGraunch, her faithful maid of nearly half a century.

The character of the Contessa is based on two very real women, both of whom were instrumental in the establishment of an operatic tradition in South Africa during the 20th century: Désirée Talbot, my singing professor at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town (and her pet Maltese poodle, who had a much better relationship with people than does the Contessa’s Carlo Quinto)

Désirée Talbot

Désirée Talbot, Emeritus Professor of Voice at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town.
Albina Bini, founder of the Florence Chamber Opera Group.

Albina Bini, founder of the Florence Chamber Opera Group.

and Albina Bini, an early giant in the establishment of opera in South Africa and founder of the Florence Chamber Opera Group in Cape Town.

Visit my website for a full biography of both of these remarkable musicians.

What can one say about the assortment of characters who go to make up COGOL – not to mention the others characters who cross the pages at reasonably regular intervals ? When you get to know them I’m sure that you’ll recognize characteristics of people you have met over the course of time.

After all … it’s all really just observation, isn’t it ?

ERRANT ANGELS is published by the Book Guild in hardback and is also available in e-book formats and through Barnes & Noble in the United States. The next novel in this series – FEELINGS OF GUILT– is due for publication in 2014.

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