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Painted Veil

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Castrati virtuoso Tito Amato believes himself to be the most popular opera performer in all of Venice's rich pantheon. However, his complacency is shattered with the visit of rival castrato, Florio Torani, who has come to Venice to take center stage in the opera's latest musical extravaganza set to be performed in honor of a royal wedding.

The flamboyant opera singers and those who create, direct, and work behind the scenes to make the productions successful are all thrown into chaos with the shocking murder of the opera's most talented scene painter, Luca Cavalieri. As Tito struggles to maintain his standing as the star of the operatic season, not only does his rivalry with Florio distract him from concentrating on sharpening his voice, but the tensions among the members of the opera company that arise as a result of Luca's murder prove an even greater threat to Tito's peace of mind.

In a community rife with anti-Semitism, the blame for Luca's death centers on the Jews living in Venice's walled ghetto. When a fire breaks out there, however, Tito and his wealthy English friend, Augustus Rumbolt, begin to suspect even darker powers are at work beyond the obvious ethnic hatred.

The pair's investigations take them into a dark world of a secret diabolical society led by the mysterious Dr. Palantinus. What Tito and Augustus discover shatters the thin facade of gentility that had for so long protected the men who preyed on the less fortunate citizens of Venice and spread ethnic hatred among the city's populace.

Not only is Beverle Graves Myers's The Painted Veil a well-crafted mystery, but it also provides a vivid picture of the world of the Venice opera in 1734.