The Tenor is a sweeping tale of historical fiction in the style of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” and De Burniere’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” It swiftly moves from Pino Vaggi’s youth in pre-war Italy, to his coming of age as a soldier in war-torn Greece, before ending in a shattering surprise finale at Maria Callas’ historic final performance ever on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1965. It is based loosely on the stories and anecdotes that the author learned from several of Maria Callas’ personal friends and from nearly a dozen trips to Italy and Greece to research the subject.
Pino Vaggi is a child prodigy, an opera singing sensation on the fast track to a superstar international career. At the age of eighteen, he is about to become the youngest tenor in history to sing at Italy’s La Scala, when, on the eve of his debut, WWII breaks out. The theater is closed. The season is cancelled. Pino is drafted. After a horrific basic training, he is stationed in war-torn Athens, where he hears and ultimately falls in love with another child prodigy, the young Maria Callas. There is one major problem: she is the enemy. However, as famine devastates Athens, (a famine created by the diversion of humanitarian aid meant for the Greeks to the Russian front to feed the German Army) the artist in Pino can’t fathom the thought of the greatest singer the world will ever know perishing, especially if he is in a position to prevent it. With a firing squad in the balance, he repeatedly risks his own life to protect and feed the young girl and her family. In the process, his love for her deepens, until something tragic happens – something with devastating consequences that blows the young lovers apart.