Atria, Nov 2003, 16.00, 133 pp.
At five years old Johannes Karelsky heard a traveling gypsy perform in a violin and knew that is what he wanted to do. Two years later he is making the rounds of the late eighteenth century European courts receiving accolades as a great violinist though a child prodigy.
Almost a quarter of a century later in 1796 Napoleon drafts Johannes to serve on the Italian front. He is mortally wounded during a battle, but instead of dying a mysterious woman gives comfort by singing to him though the night. Somehow that visit gives Johannes the will to live because she and her voice serve as a reminder that he still needs to compose the greatest opera ever. Johannes remains in Venice residing in the home of Erasmus, a maker of violins. When Johannes sees the BLACK VIOLIN he has a deep obsessive urge to play with this exquisite instrument, but Erasmus warns him to look and admire, but don't touch. Will he use the violin anyway; will the woman who rescued him on the battlefield return; and finally what about the most beautiful opera in the world?
Though intriguing in terms of insight into the European Classical period of music, THE BLACK VIOLIN at times turns to syrupy in its bittersweet look at the Napoleonic Age in Italy. The key three characters are delightful in different ways so that fans of the period will appreciate this novella especially when it avoids the unnecessary sweetener.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner