Ann Patchett’s writing can be best described as lyrical. I have voraciously read all five of her novels beginning with Bel Canto years ago. Based in Nashville, Patchett has the ability to transport her reader to exotic and remote locations: the Amazon (State of Wonder), a secluded home for unwed mothers (Patron Saint of Liars), or even an unnamed city in South America (Bel Canto).
Patchett’s bestselling book Bel Canto has now inspired an opera commission by Lyric Opera of Chicago. To my mind, the real challenge for the opera’s creators – composer Jimmy Lopez and librettist Nilo Cruz – will be pacing the book’s detailed scenario in a style that reflects Patchett’s quiet narrative. The basic story is about what happens when terrorists crash a birthday party in honor of Japanese businessman Mr. Hosokawa and hold the party guests captive for months. But, the riveting aspect of Patchett’s book is really the description of how these hostages begin to adapt to that captivity, settling into daily routines and romances.