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Listening to music and learning its background inevitably takes us into the history of its times and into literary works. Literary works have regularly inspired composers like Verdi and Strauss, but on the other hand, authors have used composers and musicians as subjects for their creations. In this series, we will look at these connections.

Rich Lauf is a long time member of the Mercantile Library who regularly leads our book discussions.  

Purchase series subscription on September 10 event.

September 10: The Librettist of Venice This biography by Rodney Bolt relates the story of Lorenzo Da Ponte. Da Ponte was a fascinating, very colorful character: rogue, scoundrel and the librettist for some of Mozart’s greatest operas.

September 24: Doktor FaustusIn this novel, the Nobel Prize winning author Thomas Mann reimagines the Faust legend, with Faust as a modern day composer. The downfall of Doktor Faustus into madness parallels the fall of Germany into the madness of Nazism.

October 9*: Bel Canto Based on a real life event, Bel Canto contrasts the timeless music and a talented opera diva with the here and now of revolutionaries and the captives they take in South America. Ann Patchett’s novel has itself been made into an opera, curated by Rene Fleming.

October 22: Orfeo — Written by Richard Powers, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction, Orfeo gives us a composer who combines musical patterns with a bacterial human pathogen. This gains him the attention of Homeland Security and he flees – now dubbed the “Bioterrorist Bach.” Along the way the novel considers the effects of some of the greatest music on its listeners.

*This discussion is on a Wednesday evening.


25 available
10.22.19 Common Threads Session - MEMBER$15.00
25 available
10.22.19 Common Threads Session - NONMEMBER$20.00