Cry to heaven, p.1
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       Cry to Heaven, p.1

           Anne Rice
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Cry to Heaven


  In Cry to Heaven, the acclaimed author of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES and the LIVES OF THE MAYFAIR WITCHES makes real for us the exquisite and otherworldy society of the eighteenth-century castrati, the delicate and alluring male sopranos whose graceful bodies and glorious voices brought them the adulation of the royal courts and grand opera houses of Europe, men who lived as idols, concealing their pain as they were adored as angels, yet shunned as halfmen.

  As we are drawn into their dark and luminous story, as the crowds of Venetians, Neapolitans, and Romans, noblemen and peasants, musicians, prelates, princes, saints, and intriguers swirl around them, Anne Rice brings us into the sweep of eighteenth-century Italian life, into the decadence beneath the shimmering surface of Venice, the wild frivolity of Naples, and the magnetic terror of its shadow, Vesuvius. It is a novel that only Anne Rice could have written, taking us into a heartbreaking and enchanting moment in history, a time of great ambition and great suffering--a tale that challenges our deepest image of the masculine and the feminine.

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Part I

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Part II

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Part III

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Part IV

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Part V

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Part VI

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Part VII

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Other Books By This Author

  About the Author

  Afterword

  Copyright

  This book is dedicated with love to

  Stan Rice

  and

  Victoria Wilson

  a cognizant original v5 release november 24 2010

  PART I

  1

  GUIDO MAFFEO was castrated when he was six years old and sent to study with the finest singing masters in Naples.

  He had known only routine hunger and cruelty among the large peasant brood to which he was born the eleventh child. And all of his life, Guido remembered he was given his first good meal and soft bed by those who made him a eunuch.

  It was a beautiful room to which he was taken in the mountain town of Caracena. It had a real floor of smooth stone tiles, and on the wall Guido saw a ticking clock for the first time in his life and was frightened of it. The soft-spoken men who had taken him from his mother's hands asked him to sing for them. And afterwards rewarded him with a red wine full of honey.

  These men took off his clothes and put him in a warm bath, but he was so sweetly drowsy by that time he was not afraid of anything. Gentle hands massaged his neck. And slipping back into the water, Guido sensed something marvelous and important was happening to him. Never had anyone paid him so much attention.

  He was almost asleep when they lifted him out and strapped him to a table. He felt he was falling for an instant. His head had been placed lower than his feet. But then he was sleeping again, firmly held, and stroked by those silken hands that moved between his legs to give him a wicked little pleasure. When the knife came he opened his eyes, screaming.

  He arched his back. He struggled with the straps. But a voice beside him came soft, comforting in his ear, scolding him gently: "Ah, Guido, Guido."

  The memory of all this never left him.

  That night he awoke on snow white sheets that smelled of crushed green leaves. And climbing out of bed in spite of the small bandaged soreness between his legs, he came up short before a little boy in a mirror. In an instant he realized it was his own reflection, which he had never seen before save in still water. He saw his curly dark hair, and touched his face all over, particularly his flat little nose which seemed to him like a piece of moist clay rather than the noses of other people.

  The man who found him did not punish him, but fed him soup with a silver spoon, and spoke to him in a strange tongue, reassuring him. There were little pictures on the walls, brightly colored, full of faces. They came clear with the rising sun, and Guido saw on the floor a pair of fine leather shoes, shiny and black, and small enough that they would fit on his feet. He knew they would be given to him.

  It was the year 1715. Louis XIV, le roi soleil of France, had just died. Peter the Great was the czar of Russia.

  In the far-off North American colony of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was nine years old. George I had just taken the throne of England.

  African slaves tilled the fields of the New World on both sides of the equator. A man could be hanged in London for the theft of a loaf of bread. He could be burned alive in Portugal for heresy.

  Gentlemen covered their heads with great white wigs when they went out; they carried swords, and pinched snuff from small jeweled boxes. They wore breeches buckled at the knee, stockings, shoes with high heels; their coats had enormous pockets. Ladies in ruffled corsets fixed beauty marks to their cheeks. They danced the minuet in hooped skirts; they held salons, fell in love, committed adultery.

  Mozart's father had not yet been born. Johann Sebastian Bach was thirty. Galileo had been dead for seventy-three years; Isaac Newton was an old man. Jean Jacques Rousseau was an infant.

  Italian opera had conquered the world. The year would see Alessandro Scarlatti's Il Tigrane in Naples, Vivaldi's Narone fatta Cesare in Venice. George Frederick Handel was the most celebrated composer in London.

  On the sunny Italian peninsula, foreign domination had made great inroads. The Archduke of Austria ruled the northern city of Milan and the southern Kingdom of Naples.

  But Guido knew nothing of the world. He did not even speak the language of his native country.

  The city of Naples was more wondrous than anything he had ever beheld, and the conservatorio to which he was brought, overlooking town and sea, seemed as magnificent as a palazzo.

  The black dress with its red sash he was given to wear was the f
inest cloth he'd ever touched, and he could scarcely believe he was meant to stay in this place, to sing and play music forever. Surely it wasn't meant for him. They would one day send him home.

  But this never happened.

  On sultry feast day afternoons, walking in slow procession with the other castrati children through the crowded streets, his robes immaculate, his brown curls clean and shining, he was proud to be one of them. Their hymns floated on the air like the mingled scent of the lilies and the candles. And as they entered the lofty church, their thin voices swelling suddenly amid a splendor he'd never before seen, Guido knew his first real happiness.

  All went well for him over the years. The discipline of the conservatorio was nothing. He had a soprano voice that could shatter glass; he scribbled melodies every time he was given a pen, learning to compose before he could read and write; his teachers loved him.

  But as time passed, his understanding deepened.

  Early on, Guido realized that not all the musicians around him had been "cut" as little boys. Some would grow up to be men, to marry, to have children. But no matter how well the violinists played, no matter how much the composers wrote, none could ever achieve the fame, the riches, the pure glory of a great castrato singer.

  Italian musicians were wanted the world over for the church choirs, the court orchestras, the opera houses.

  But it was the soprano singer whom the world worshiped. It was for him that kings vied and audiences held their breath; it was the singer who brought to life the very essence of the opera.

  Nicolino, Cortono, Ferri, their names were remembered long after the composers who'd written for them were forgotten. And in the little world of the conservatorio, Guido was part of an elect, a privileged group who were better fed, better dressed, and given warmer rooms as their singular talent was nourished.

  But as the ranks swelled, as older castrati left and new castrati came, Guido soon saw that hundreds were submitted to the knife each year for a handful of fine voices. They came from all over: Giancarlo, lead singer of a Tuscan choir, cut at twelve through the kindness of the country maestro who brought him to Naples; Alonso, from a family of musicians, his uncle a castrato who arranged for the operation; or the proud Alfredo, who had lived so long in the house of his patron he did not remember his parents or the surgeon either.

  And then there were the unwashed, the illiterate, the little boys who didn't speak the language of Naples when they came--boys like Guido.

  That his parents had sold him outright was now obvious to him. He wondered had any maestro properly tested his voice before it was done. He could not remember. Perhaps he was caught in a random net, sure to ensnare something of value.

  But all this Guido perceived from the corner of his eye. Lead singer in the choir, soloist on the conservatorio stage, he was already writing out exercises for the younger pupils. By the age of ten he was taken out to hear Nicolino at the theater, given a harpsichord of his own, permission to stay up late to practice. Warm blankets, a fine coat, his rewards were more than he would ever have asked, and now and then he was taken to sing for delighted company in the dazzle of a real palazzo.

  Before the doubts of the second decade of life, Guido had laid for himself a great foundation in study and regimen. His voice, high, pure, unusually light and flexible, was now an official marvel.

  But as happens with any human creature, the blood of his ancestors--despite the mutation of his castration--continued to shape him. Of a people swarthy and stocky of build, he did not grow into a reed of a eunuch as did many around him. Rather his form was heavy, well proportioned, and gave a deceptive impression of power.

  And though his curly brown hair and sensuous mouth lent a touch of the cherub to his face, a dark down on his upper lip made him appear manly.

  In fact, his would have been a pleasing appearance had it not been for two factors: his nose, broken by a childhood fall, was flattened exactly as if a giant hand had squashed it. And his brown eyes, large and full of feeling, glinted with the wily brutality of the peasants who had been his forefathers.

  Where these men had been taciturn and shrewd, Guido was studious and stoical. Where they had struggled with the elements of the earth, he gave himself violently to any sacrifice for his music.

  But Guido was far from crude in manner or appearance. Rather, taking his teachers as models, he imbibed all he could of gracious deportment, as well as the poetry, Latin, the classical Italian taught to him.

  So he grew into a young singer of considerable presence whose stark particularities lent him a disturbing seductiveness.

  All his life some would say of him, "How ugly he is," while others would say, "But he is beautiful!"

  But of one thing he was quite unaware; he exuded menace. His people had been more brutal than the animals they tended; and he had the look of one who might do anything to you. It was the passion in his eyes, the squashed nose, the lush mouth--all of it put together.

  And so without his realizing it, a protective shield enveloped him. People didn't try to bully him.

  Yet all who knew Guido liked him. The regular boys liked him as much as did his fellow eunuchs. The violinists loved him because he became fascinated with them individually and wrote music for them that was exquisite. And Guido came to be known as quiet, no-nonsense, the gentle bear cub, not one to be afraid of once you came to know him.

  Reaching his fifteenth year, Guido woke one morning to be told that he must come downstairs to the office of the Maestro. He was not anxious. He was never in any trouble.

  "Sit down," said his favorite teacher, Maestro Cavalla. All the others were assembled around him. And never had they been so informal with him before, and something about this ring of faces was unpleasant to him. He knew at once what it was. It reminded him of that room in which he had been cut, and he shrugged it off as meaning nothing.

  The Maestro behind the carved table dipped his pen, scratched large figures in ink, and handed the parchment to Guido.

  December 1727. What could it mean? A slight tremor ran through Guido.

  "That is the date," said the Maestro, drawing himself up, "upon which you will appear in your first opera in Rome as primo uomo."

  So Guido had done it.

  It would not be the church choir for him, not the backcountry parishes, nor even the great city cathedrals. No, not even the Sistine Choir. He had soared past all that, right into the dream which inspired them all, year after year, no matter how poor they were, no matter how rich, no matter from where they came: the opera.

  "Rome," he whispered as he stepped out, quite alone, into the corridor. Two students stood near, as if waiting for him. But he walked past them into the open courtyard as if he did not see them. "Rome," he whispered again, and he let it roll off his tongue, that thick explosion of breath that men have said with awe and terror for two thousand years: Rome.

  Yes, Rome and Florence, and Venice, and Bologna, on to Vienna, and Dresden and Prague, to all the front lines where the castrati conquered. London, Moscow, back again to Palermo. He almost laughed aloud.

  But someone had touched his arm. It was unpleasant to him. He couldn't shake loose the vision of the tiers of boxes, and audiences roaring.

  And when his vision cleared he saw it was a tall eunuch, Gino, who had always been ahead of him, a blond and willowy northern Italian with slate eyes. And beside him stood Alfredo, the rich one, who had money always in his pockets.

  They were telling him to come into town; they were telling him the Maestro had given him the day for celebrating.

  And he realized why they were here. They were the conservatorio's rising stars.

  And he was now one of them.

  2

  WHEN TONIO TRESCHI was five years old, his mother pushed him down the stairs. She hadn't meant to do it. She had only meant to slap him. But he had slipped backwards on the marble tile, and fallen down and down, a panic engulfing him before he reached the bottom.

  Yet he might have forgo
tten that. Her day-to-day love for him was full of unpredictable cruelty. She could be full of desperate warmth one minute, and savage to him the next. In fact, he lived torn between appalling need on the one hand, and on the other, pure terror.

  But that night, to make it up to him, she took him to San Marco to see his father in procession.

  The great church was the Ducal Chapel of the Doge and Tonio's father was Grand Councillor.

  It was like a dream to him afterwards; but it was no dream. And all his life he remembered it.

  He had hidden from her hours after the fall. The great Palazzo Treschi swallowed him. The truth was, he knew the entire four storeys of the crumbling Renaissance house better than anyone else, and familiar with every chest and closet in which he could hide, he could always get away for as long as he wanted.

  Darkness meant nothing to him. Being lost here or there didn't bother him either. He had no fear of rats. Rather he watched their quick passage through the corridors with vague interest. And he liked the shadows on the walls, the ripples of light from the Grand Canal flashing dimly on ceilings painted with ancient figures.

  He knew more of these moldering rooms than of the world outside. They were the landscape of his childhood and all along his labyrinthine path lay landmarks of other retreats and pilgrimages.

  But being without her, that was the pain for him. And anguished and shivering, he crept back to her finally as he always did when the servants had despaired of finding him.

  She lay sobbing on her bed. And there he appeared, a man of five years, bent on revenge, his face red and streaked with dirt from his crying.

  Of course he was never going to speak to her again as long as he lived. Never mind that he could not stand being without her.

  Yet as soon as she opened her arms, he flew into her lap and lay against her breast as still as if he were dead, one arm around her neck, the other hand clutching her shoulder so tightly he was hurting her.

  She was little more than a girl herself, but he didn't know it. He felt her lips on his cheek, on his hair. He melted into her gentleness. And deep within the pain that for the moment was his mind, he thought, If I hold her, hold her, then she'll stay as she is now, and that other creature won't come out of her to hurt me.

  Then she drew herself up, stroking the stiff unruly waves of her black hair, her brown eyes still red but brimming with sudden excitement. "Tonio!" she said impulsively, rocking like a child. "There's still time, I'll dress you myself." She clapped her hands. "I'm taking you with me to San Marco."

 

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