Synopses & Reviews
International Praise for Handel's Bestiary
A wonderful book. A compendium colorfully illustrated by Michael Sowa, to be enjoyed not only by musical connoisseurs.” Der Spiegel (Germany)
What Leon tells us is a real joy, and many of the details are unfamiliar. If as you read you listen to the music by Il Complesso Barocco that accompanies it, you are in for a sensual treat - and one which will also broaden your horizons.” Stern (Germany)
The book, wittily illustrated by Michael Sowa, is accompanied by a CD of arias recorded by Il Complesso Barocco. A real tour de force!” News (Austria)
As an expert on medieval bestiaries moral lessons and fables about animals - she cleverly describes how Handel portrays specific characteristics of these animals in his music. Naturally a CD with all twelve animal arias is included musical fun, with enchanting pictures by the German painter and illustrator Michael Sowa.” Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany)
A charming little compendium. As clever as it is entertaining. Leon doesnt turn to modern biologists to make the case for her menagerie. Rather she reminds us what Pliny and Herodotus knew about lions, that in the Middle Ages people thought bees were a small kind of bird, and describes - without being in the least patronizing - the bewilderment with which 18th century Europe saw its first elephant trunks.” Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany)
A great reading and listening pleasure.” Ruhr Nachrichten (Germany)
A total work of art with text, music, and beautiful illustrations by Michael Sowa
Donna Leon manages to combine three things in her book: 1. her profound knowledge of ancient nature writing (such as Pliny the Elder) and medieval bestiaries (e.g. Isidore of Seville), 2. Her passion for George Frideric Handel, and 3. her years of friendship with the conductor and Handel expert Alan Curtis.
Most whimsical and linguistically at the highest level. Rating: Great.” KulturRadio (Germany)
The lovely tones, amusingly entertaining words and impish drawings yield a wonderful mixture.” Sandameer (Austria)
Charming &hellip [Handels Bestiary] would make a thoughtful and unusual gift.” Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News
When acclaimed novelist Donna Leon is not conjuring up tales of crime and corruption in Venice, or reveling in delicious cuisine, she is listening to music. For Leon, patron of conductor Alan Curtis and his celebrated orchestra Il Complesso Barocco, that usually means the work of her favorite composer, George Frideric Handel.
Over the years, Leon has noticed that the great musician filled his operas with arias that make reference to animals; rich in symbolism, the perceived virtues and vices of the lion, bee, nightingale, snake, elephant, and tiger, among others, resonate in his works. In Handels Bestiary, Leon draws on her love of Handel and her expertise in medieval bestiariesillustrated collections of animal storiesto assemble a bestiary of her own. Twelve chapters trace twelve animals through history, mythology, and the arias. Each is joined by whimsical original illustrations by German painter Michael Sowa, and an accompanying CD includes each aria, expertly recorded by Il Complesso Barocco. A fascinating, utterly original book, Handels Bestiary springs to life with Leons knowledge, passion, and wit.