About the Book
Mozart’s Blood is historical fiction based on a real-life character, the opera singer Teresa Saporiti, who created the role of Donna Anna in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The story spans four centuries and takes place in half a dozen great opera houses. It’s all about an abiding passion for music which even time and death cannot extinguish.
The cover art is by Jon Paul, and the jacket design is by Kristine Mills-Noble.
“Marley, a musician and writer, has produced a stunning drama inspired by the life of Teresa Saporiti, the first Donna Anna. Teresa, an aspiring singer, was turned into a vampire by a Czech aristocrat. As bad as the need for blood are the memories of the victims, which remain with the taker. Teresa has learned to deal with them, but Mozart, whom the baroness bit at the same time, never did and died painfully because he could not bring himself to satisfy the unnatural thirst. In San Francisco in 1906, Teresa meets Ugo, a Silician werewolf with a very curious past of his own. They become partners, guarding each other’s backs. In twenty-first-century Milan, an egoistic baritone thinks he has figured out Teresa’s secret and abducts Ugo to obtain the blood that holds Mozart’s memories. The story covers four centuries, but the shifts between the past and the present are seamlessly handled, and the development of Teresa and Ugo over those centuries is impressive. An engrossing piece, from overture to final chord.”
From Darkscribe Magazine:
“Just when you think you’ve read everyone in horror who matters, along comes Louise Marley with her amazing and lyrical vampire tale, Mozart’s Blood. Gripping, artful, tellingly detailed, and impossible to put down, Mozart’s Blood is that rare kind of horror novel that works on more than one level. It’s visceral. It’s evocative. It’s scary. It envelops you in atmosphere and delivers on its promise to tell a compelling story.”
—Rick R. Reed
From indie bookseller Jeannie Mancini:
“This novel is no chic-lit paranormal romance. This is serious vampire literature and one of the best I’ve come across in years. Marley’s writing is outstanding and very polished. The story bursts with breathtaking passionate scenes of emotional torment, the operatic voices vibrate off the page, her characters are crafted with depth and humanity, and the plot is very inventive. This is a story with soul, one that is a cut above all the rest of the vampire fiction out there now that is being mass produced like paper dolls. Dripping with 18th century history, Mozart’s Blood is a sensational read not to be missed for any fans of vampire novels and I personally am hoping for a sequel. Bravo! I stand up and applaud!!!!”
From A.M. Dellamonica:
“To be an up and coming soprano with a contract to sing Donna Anna–in Milan, at La Scala, no less!–is already to be extraordinary. Octavia Voss is even more singular than that. Born in Italy centuries before the present day, she left home as a teen to pursue the dream of becoming a singer. Talent and determination get her into an opera company, but there she learns that her voice is perhaps less special than she imagined; her career prospects may be limited.
“Then a depraved-seeming Countess lures Octavia and the company’s composer into a tryst. After the encounter, Octavia has been utterly transformed. She craves blood, for one thing. For another, she, the Countess and the composer all share each others’ memories… a powerful thing, considering that the composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!
“A cold-blooded creature she may be, but Olivia is a fundamentally caring woman, and it is this quality of hers that gives the book its warmth: her affection for Ugo, her sexual interest in one of the other singers, and above all her passion for opera offset the cruel realities of her condition. Mozart’s Blood tells us her life’s story, and Ugo’s (which is every bit as intriguing) in flashback, and both histories are impeccably researched.
From Romantic Times, 4 stars:
Reviewed By: Joyce Morgan
From SF Signal:
Ms. Marley’s vampires are not the vicious monsters of the Nosferatu mythos. Nor are they saccharine, misunderstood sweeties of Twilight. They are-strange as it may sound in this context-ordinary people. They don’t sleep days. They don’t twinkle. They lead normal lives, at least, normal as it is construed in the world of opera. These people want things and, to get what they want, they do things, things that don’t always work out. Like humans they suffer the ravages of time and loss, albeit on a different scale than most of us.
First and foremost, our heroine wants to sing, needs to sing, with a need that overshadows her need for blood, and Ms. Marley deftly plays these competing drives against each other. Her picture of backstage life at a Don Giovanni production rings true. Her characters, be they prima donnas or supporting artists, offer a fascinating counterpoint between the singers and the roles they undertake. There are theatrical disasters, which seem trivial to outsiders, and raptures incomprehensible to the uninitiated. In short, Mozart’s Blood really is about opera. And yet, you don’t need to know a thing about opera to enjoy the book, because it’s all wrapped up in an exciting story.
Lastly, Mozart’s Blood is something I never expected to see: a fresh and unexpected take on vampires. Go read it!–Michaele Jordan
1. Ugo and Octavia have a deep bond that has lasted for more than a century. What do you think drew them together and has kept them close all those years? What is the greatest difference between them?
2. What is it about Teresa’s character that made her strong enough to withstand the demands of her nature after the bite of Zdenka Milosch? Why was Mozart not able to do the same?
3. Why did Teresa, in the end, decide not to share the tooth with Vincenzo dal Prato, the castrato who befriended her when she was a young girl in Milan?
4. The opera Don Giovanni, which is the framing device for the novel, is both drama and comedy, romance and tragedy. Do you find these elements in Ugo’s and Teresa’s stories? In Mozart’s?
5. Can the attraction between Massimo and Octavia survive what happened between them?
6. Massimo wants a great singing career just as much as Teresa did. Do you think he has the same strength?
7. Who do you think will take over the leadership of La Società after the Countess?
8. Ughetto was sensitive and affectionate as a young boy at the scuola. How is Ugo different now, and why did he change?
9. Vampire stories have been popular since Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, and they have experienced a resurgence in recent years. Do you think the appeal of vampires is about sex? Power? Long life? Or is it something indefinable?
10. The elders are so ancient that nothing gives them joy any more except music. What is the appeal of music that it can outlast every other pleasure?
Download Discussion Questions for Mozart’s Blood (RTF document)
Along with the list of ten suggested discussion questions, here are a few ideas for turning your discussion of Mozart’s Blood into a party:
If it’s appropriate, have an open bottle of Riesling in an ice bucket, in honor of Herr Mozart’s Viennese background. Teresa would love it if you offered a bottle of Italian red wine. Her favorite would be a Barolo, of course, but those can be expensive. A nice chianti is just fine, or a rich Brunello. For those who don’t drink wine, bottles of Pellegrino can be open and ready on the table.
For a lunch or dinner party, a good pasta dish simply made with fresh ingredients will be perfect. Use fresh diced tomatoes, a third of a cup of good green olive oil, lots of chopped basil, a cup of pine nuts and a half cup of shaved parmesan cheese. Boil a pound of pasta and toss with all the other ingredients. It should serve six to eight.
With it serve a salad such as Ugo might have recognized. Layer peeled and sectioned grapefruit with avocado slices onto salad plates, and drizzle with garlic-infused olive oil. The grapefruit sections that come in glass jars are fine, but drain them well. Garnish with even more fresh basil leaves (you can never have too much).
A loaf of fresh Italian bread served with olive oil for dipping rounds out your table!
Dessert is simplest of all. If your club doesn’t serve a full meal, this will energize them for the discussion! Arrange an assortment of dark chocolate truffles on an elegant plate, and serve with a good Viennese coffee. Side dishes can be nuts and cheese and olives. Shop for Mediterranean-themed cocktail napkins!
Most of the pictures you see here, such as this one of Teresa’s birthplace, are free for download from the internet. Download and print in a good size, and use them to decorate. You can paste them to cardboard or even put them in inexpensive picture frames.
And now the best part: the music! Begin with a good recording of Don Giovanni, preferably featuring Renee Fleming. Any of the symphonies would be lovely, particularly the familiar ones such as Symphony #40 in G minor, or the Symphony #25. The score for the movie Amadeus would be perfect, as it offers tidbits of all the familiar passages.
Halloween is the perfect time to read a book like Mozart’s Blood, and you could have your guests come in costume! It might be hard to achieve Octavia’s beautiful gown here, but you have so many periods to choose from—the 18th century, the late 19th century, the Roaring Twenties, even the clothes of World War II. Costumes are fun to research. Googling the period you want to use is easy.
If you do dress in period costumes, take good pictures! We would love to put them on the website. Salute! E buon gusto!
Download Book Club Party Guide (Word document)
The magnificent singing actress Renee Fleming provided a model and a list of repertoire for my character. Ms. Fleming, with whom I once had the great pleasure of working, is a magnificent Donna Anna. Take a few moments to listen and watch: \”Non mi dir\” from Don Giovanni, sung by Renee Fleming
This historical novel covers the musical periods of the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Classical, and the Romantic. The very early scenes take place in Rome, where a brand new art form called “musical drama” was just being introduced. For quick details on the birth of opera, visit John Howell’s very brief summary of opera history.
This is Mozart as Teresa Saporiti would have known him. The most passionate Mozart devotees still mourn his untimely death, and long to hear the music he would have written. The Requiem, which he was working on at the time of his passing, was completed by a student of his, Sussmeyer. The contrast between the music of Mozart and the music of Sussmeyer is a painful reminder of what the world lost when it lost Mozart. Listen to a bit of the sublime Requiem.
In addition to touring the Metropolitan Opera House and the historic La Scala Theater in Milan, the following resources were immensely valuable–and a whole lot of fun:
Mozart, a Biography, by Piero Melograni
Marrying Mozart, a delightful novel by Stephanie Cowell
The Inner Voice, by Renee Fleming
The Costume Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The listserve MozartForum and its helpful scholars
Disaster by the Bay, H. Paul Jeffers
The Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire, Helen Hillyer Brown
Great Singers on Great Singing, Jerome Hines
An unusual vintage video of San Francisco, 2006
Quel sangue . . . quella piaga . . .
The blood . . . that wound . . .
Donna Anna, Act One, Scene One, Don Giovanni
The old woman hummed to herself as she crumbled bits of black paste into a little clay pot and added wine and water. “Good Roman wine,” she said, as she stirred it with a wooden spoon. “And honey,” she added, smiling, showing blackened teeth. “To cover the taste.”
She had told Ughetto and the other boys to call her Nonna. But she was nothing like Ughetto’s nonna. Ughetto’s nonna was plump and easy, with soft arms and warm fingers. This crone, this vecchia, was scrawny and dry and twisted, like a dead olive tree.
Ughetto knew what the black paste was. He had seen it often in his mother’s tavern in Trapani. The sailors carried it in their pockets, wrapped in bits of Chinese silk or Indian cotton. Their eyes gleamed with anticipation as they unwrapped their little bundles, opening them carefully on the wooden tables. They shaved the paste into clay pipes with small, sharp knives, and when they smoked it, the tavern filled with the pungent scent of poppies.
Ughetto’s mother always drove him out then, him and all six of his sisters. She shooed them down to the beach to search for mussels, or over to the docks to drum up trade for the tavern. They went running down the twisting streets, laughing, shouting, a horde of ragged girls with Ughetto, the baby, the only boy, struggling to keep up.
He wished his real nonna were here now, or his mamma. He wished his sisters were here, or he with them, though they ordered him about like a small slave. Home had been noisy and warm. Home had felt safe, most of the time. He didn’t like being alone, didn’t like this place, this Nonna, or Luigi, her slack-lipped son.
They had taken him in Trapani. Mamma had sent him to the docks, telling him to wait beside the pile of empty crab pots for a woman with a package. This Nonna had appeared, with her big-shouldered, big-bellied son. Nonna asked Ughetto’s name, and when he gave it, Luigi picked him up and carried him onto a waiting boat.
Ughetto was the package, it turned out, and though he wailed for his sisters, there was no one to save him.
Now, in this fearsome little casetta, Ughetto wrapped his arms around himself and shivered with fear. Luigi had already carried two other boys, eyes glazed from the opium, legs flopping limply over his big arms, into the tiled room where the tub was, where the knives waited. Ughetto crouched in the atrium under Nonna’s watchful eye, listening to the whimpers and moans as the deed was done. Luigi brought the boys back, swaddled in bloody linen, and carried them through the atrium and on into the tiny house.
Ughetto tried to turn his head away when Nonna held the cup to his lips, but she seized his hair with her brown claw, and twisted his head to face her. “Cretino,” she hissed. “Don’t be an idiot. Drink, or you’ll be screaming.”
He cried, “No! Mamma, Mamma.” Hot baby tears burned his eyes.
Nonna showed her jumbled teeth. “No more mamma, little one. Musica.”
She pressed the cup against his mouth, forcing his lips open with its metal rim. The sweet strong wine flooded his tongue, and he had to swallow, or drown. He closed his eyes, and gulped pungent sweetness. The room began to dissolve around him. He spun, stomach and brain and feet all mixed up, like diving too deep from the rocks into the warm Mediterranean waters of Trapani and not knowing which way to swim to the surface.
Nonna tipped up the cup again, and he drank, drank until it was dry.
She spoke. Ughetto heard her voice, but her words made no sense. He tried to open his eyes, but the lids would not obey him.
Perhaps he would die. Boys did, hundreds of them. Everyone knew that. They died under the knife, or they died afterward, bleeding and swollen, burning with fever. Would his mamma know if he died? Would they tell her?
Would she care?
It was possible she would not. She had regarded him so strangely, ever since that night when the family–all six girls, Ughetto, his nonna, and Mamma–had gone down to the docks in the darkness to wait for the squid boats to come in. Far out on the water, the fisherman shone their torches over the water to entice the squid to the jigs. The lights danced on the waves, shifting as the water tossed the boats to and fro.
When the moon rose over the sea, Ughetto’s sisters exclaimed at its brilliance. They turned, all of them, and lifted their faces into its silver glow. It was full and round, and its crystalline light turned the low roofs and rough-cobbled streets of Trapani into a scene of magic, a fantasy village, its dirt and poverty transformed by the moon.
Ughetto was seven years old, already wriggling with energy and pleasure at the novelty of the night. When a strange sensation came over him, standing there in the moonlight, it seemed part of the strangeness. He felt as if he were becoming someone else, someone new and powerful instead of small and insignificant. His skin itched, and his jaw ached. When he began to scratch at himself, his mamma slapped at his hands. He tried to hold still, but he felt as if he were burning, as if he had rolled in too-hot sand. He scrubbed at his belly with both hands, grunting at the fierceness of the sensation.
It was his nonna who seized him up then, lifting him in her arms as if he were still a baby. She hissed something at his mamma, who drew a sharp, shocked breath. His nonna carried him away, up through the moonlit streets to the tavern, leaving his mamma and his sisters on the docks. He remembered kicking at her, whining, but she only held him tighter, and made no answer. She bundled him into the tavern, and into his bed, folding him into his blankets, ignoring his protests. She lit no candles, nor did she stoke up the fire, but held him there in the darkness. In time, the burning of his skin subsided. By the time his mamma and sisters came home with their buckets of squid, he felt himself again. But Mamma looked at him as if he were a stranger.
And now she was lost to him. It was Luigi’s strong arms beneath him, Luigi’s rough hand seizing his head as it lolled backward. There was movement, the air changing against his face as Luigi carried him. The smell of the bath filled his nostrils with the essence of vinegar. Water rose around his legs, warm as blood. His buttocks settled onto a wooden bench that was wet and hard and splintery. Hands took hold of his feet and pulled his legs apart.
Someone held his head, murmuring something, laughing.
Someone else wielded the knife.
There was pain, sharp and surprising, and he gasped, breathing water, choking. He struggled, and someone cursed. There was a splash, and more swearing, and then someone . . . Ughetto fought his eyelids, trying to see.
Someone was growling.
His eyelids lifted, and his mind cleared all at once, as if a fog had burned away under a quickly rising sun. He peered around him through slitted eyes.
Faces looked back at him, horrified faces. Nonna shrieked something, and an open-mouthed stranger, the surgeon, backed away, knife held out before him, dripping blood onto the tiled floor. Luigi gave a guttural cry and dropped Ughetto’s head into the water.
Ughetto blew water from his mouth as he grasped the edge of the tub with both hands. He pulled himself to his feet, dripping, hot, and angry.
There was blood on his thighs, warmer than the water. His head hummed with sounds and smells he had not noticed before, the wheeze of Nonna’s breath in her aging lungs, the fetid odor of Luigi’s sweat, the scent of blood on the surgeon’s knife, on his clothes, his hands. The surgeon whimpered, and backed away.
Ughetto splashed out of the tub. Nonna tried to seize him, and he struck at her with his nails, slicing her dark skin, drawing blood. She dropped him with a cry, and he whirled to slash at Luigi next. Luigi scrambled out of reach. The smell of his fear filled the room, and made Ughetto’s mouth fill with saliva. Ughetto rounded on the surgeon next, but he saw only his heels as the man fled the room.
Ughetto fell to all fours in a movement that felt perfectly natural. He spun in a circle, and saw that Luigi and Nonna dared not come close to him. His mouth opened, and his tongue lolled, saliva dripping as he galloped from the room. He slid on the wet tiles, finding his footing once he reached the dirt floor of the atrium. The sun warmed his back as he dashed away from the house. He ran swiftly, strongly, too fast for them to follow. They had no will to chase him, in any case. The pungence of their fear assured him of that.
He raced toward the orange grove, eager for the sanctuary of its drooping branches.