Lilla, Joey and Clara Pentangeli, their father Salvatore and their mercurial mother Seraphina live on Paradise Street behind a giant billboard, in a charmed world filled with operatic heroines. Seraphina idolizes Maria Callas. Between bouts of housework, she re-enacts Violetta’s death scene from La Traviata, dresses in a kimono like CioCioSan in Madama Butterfly, and concocts outrageous tales for her three enchanted children. She also reveals one or two secrets from her past. At last real-life tragedy overtakes the house on Paradise.
Michelle Alfano is a Toronto writer and a Co-Editor with the literary quarterly Descant. Her short story “Opera,” on which Made Up Of Arias is based, was a finalist for the Journey Prize. Her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in Canada and in the United States. She will be featured in a forthcoming documentary on the passengers, and the children of the passengers, of the Saturnia, an immigrant ship which transported thousands of Italian-born immigrants to Canada in the 1950s and 60s and which will be featured on OMNI-TV. She blogs at alitchick.blogspot.com
“Michelle Alfano’s [Made Up of Arias is a] colourful, beautiful and fascinating story of the Pentangeli family immigrating to Canada” —Stefania Bartucci, “Italian-Canadian author Michelle Alfano connects opera to immigration,” Tandem, February 13, 2011
“I laughed out loud and cried too as I read this wonderful novella…There is such joy in this family, and there is such sorrow too and Michelle Alfano evokes all of that with her stunning prose and her ability to make us see and grow to love this family, and just like in an opera, we also get to see ourselves.” —Rachel Guido deVries, forthcoming review, Voices in Italian Americana, Spring 2011
“Winner of the 2010 Bressani Award for Short Fiction”. This prize was established by the Italian Canadian Writers Conference. It is designed to honour and promote the literary work of Canadian writers of Italian origin or Italian descent. (Please check out Michelle’s blog for more information on this: alitchick.blogspot.com)
“Made Up of Arias is all the voices of childhood, all the stories that allow a child’s imagination to safely try on adult themes. Alfano is a keen observer, with an eye for detail and a gift for humour.” —Julie Booker, author Silver Hearts
“Michelle Alfano speaks in the beautifully compelling, yet remarkably guileless voice of her protagonist and narrator, Lilla Pentangeli…Michelle Alfano’s mastery of English and Italian, her knowledge of opera, and her ability to elevate the ordinary, are inspiring and transforming.” —Lina Medaglia, author The Demons of Aquilonia
“Michelle Alfano’s Made Up of Arias beautifully evokes an immigrant childhood lived against the backdrop of opera, which stands in for all that her characters have lost or will never attain even while it speaks to the most common and everyday of their tragedies and joys. Alfano writes with the humour and compassion of someone who not only understands her characters, but forgives them.” —Nino Ricci, author The Origin of Species and Lives of the Saints
“Made up of Arias is an important and welcome addition to the tradition of Italian-Canadian literary voices … an outstanding writer whose fiction carves a distinct place in Canada’s national narrative. Beautifully observed, richly comic, heartbreaking and compelling, Made up of Arias, deserves to be read by a broad audience as well as specialists. —Lilia Topouzova, screenwriter The Mosquito Problem
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Amber Albrecht.