The Stars that Tremble: Special Features

The Stars that TrembleOpera plays a huge role in The Stars that Tremble—the title comes from a line in a Puccini opera—so I thought I’d provide a little background in the event you are not an opera fan.

You’d be forgiven. My mother, a classically trained singer, was constantly trying to get us kids to listen to opera when I was growing up. I resisted. It was foreign-sounding and boring, I thought. Then, when I was in high school, I went to a performance of Puccini’s Turandot and suddenly I got it. My mom joined an opera company at the same time, so I went to all of her shows and that was the gateway drug, I suppose.

So here, I’ll show you a few of the key arias from The Stars that Tremble. Maybe you’ll still hate opera, or maybe I’ll convert you.

Giovanni Boca was once a great opera singer. His best-known performance was as Calaf in Turandot. It’s kind of a weird opera; the plot is complicated and stops making sense if you think about it too long. But Puccini’s music is brilliant. The third act opens with “Nessun Dorma,” an aria sung by Calaf in which he basically declares victory because he is confident he will win the Rumplestiltskin-esque challenge he has issued her (and thus her heart—I told you it doesn’t make any sense). The first line (translated) is: “None shall sleep, not even you, O Princess, who sit in your cold bedroom watching the stars that tremble with love and hope.” It’s probably one of the best known opera arias, so maybe it’s an obvious choice, but it still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s just a beautiful piece of music.

Here’s Luciano Pavarotti performing it:

There’s a scene in the novel in which Gio teaches his class about coloratura opera. He plays “Der Holle Rache” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, also known as the Queen of the Night’s aria. This is the part Emma McPhee most wants to play. It’s an incredibly difficult piece to sing. My mom had a tape of Mozart opera highlights that she kept in her car when I was growing up, so this was a piece of music I heard all the time; we called it “the crazy aria” for a long time.

This is from a production of The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan opera:

Some of the other arias Emma sings over the course of the novel include:

“Si, mi chiamano Mimi” (“Yes, they call me Mimi”) from La Boheme (Puccini):

“Ah, Fors’é Lui” (“Ah, maybe it’s him”) from La Traviata (Verdi):

The Stars that Tremble is out September 30. See the trailer and read an excerpt.