List of fictional literature featuring opera

This is a list of literary fiction which feature opera in the plot. "Features" excludes fleeting mentions: for a literary work to be on this list opera must be a significant part of the plot, or, alternatively, provide significant context and backdrop.

Author Title Bibliographic information Remarks
Martha Albrand Final Encore New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978 ISBN 0312289413 Alternative title: Intermission
Kingsley Amis The Alteration London: Cape, 1976 ISBN 9780224013055 Inspired by Amis's hearing of the castrato Alessandro Moreschi; the lead character is a choir boy who undergoes castration
Oskar Paul Wilhelm Anwand Die Primadonna Friedrichs des Grossen Berlin: R. Bong, 1930 Fictionalized account of the love affair between Gertrud Elisabeth Mara and Frederick the Great
Honoré de Balzac Gambara New York: New York Review Books, 2001 ISBN 9780940322745 features an opera by its eponymous composer on the life of Mahomet, as well as a disquisition on Meyerbeer's opera Robert le diable
Eva Fanny Bernhardine Turk Baudissin, Grafin von Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient: der Schicksalsweg einer großen Künstlerin Berlin: Drei Masken Verlag, 1937
Malcolm Bradbury Rates of Exchange London: Secker & Warburg, 1983 ISBN 9780436065057 features the interminable Slakan national opera Vedontakal Vrop, by Z. Leblat
Malcolm Bradbury Why come to Slaka? London: Secker & Warburg, 1986 ISBN 9780436065064 again features the interminable Slakan national opera Vedontakal Vrop
Friedrich Bruckbräu [de] Mittheilungen aus den geheimen Memoiren einer deutschen Sängerin; later issued as Aus den Memoiren einer Sängerin
(Pauline: Memoirs of a Singer; or Promiscuous Pauline; or, The Memoirs of a German Opera Singer)
Stuttgart: Gebrüder Franckh, 1829 Purported to be the memoir of the opera singer Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient[1]
Willa Cather The Song of the Lark Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1915 Has been described as the first "bildungsroman" with a female protagonist. Thea grows up in a frontier town on the Colorado Plains, studies piano in Chicago, is discovered to have a magnificent voice, is seduced and betrayed, goes to Germany and becomes a great Wagnerian soprano. All the characters somehow reunite at her Met debut in Lohengrin.[2]
Alexander Chee The Queen of the Night Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 ISBN 9780618663026 A scrappy young girl escapes a traumatic childhood and reinvents herself as a diva soprano in Paris in the late 19th century. She eats dinner with the Verdis, flirts with a heldentenor and hides several secrets.
Francis Marion Crawford Soprano: a Portrait (U.K. title; published in the U.S. as Fair Margaret: a Portrait) New York, Macmillan, 1905
Francis Marion Crawford The Primadonna New York, Macmillan, 1907 "A sequel to Fair Margaret"
Francis Marion Crawford The Diva's Ruby New York, Macmillan, 1908 "A sequel to Primadonna and Fair Margaret"
Mary Daheim Bantam of the Opera New York: Avon Books, 1993 ISBN 9780380769346 When obnoxious opera star Mario Pacetti and his entourage come to stay at her Hillside Manor and Mario is killed by poison, bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle sets out to find the murderer and save her inn's reputation (publishers' summary)
Marcia Davenport Of Lena Geyer New York: Scribner, 1936 Lenzka Gyruzkova, a Czech immigrant to New York City, is protected and taught by an Italian vocal coach whom she had once met in Prague, goes back to Europe for lessons with Lilli Lehmann, and becomes a sensation in opera houses all over the world, singing Mozart and Verdi and Wagner—especially Wagner—with equal success. There are adventures off-stage, but she stays true to her singing.

From 1968 to 1977, model and actress Nell Theobald obsessively stalked soprano Birgit Nilsson around the world, fashioned after elements in this book.[3]

Michael Dibdin Cosi Fan Tutti London, Faber and Faber, 1997 ISBN 0571179207 Inspector Aurelio Zen uncovers a plot in Naples, where he is sidetracked by a woman who disapproves of her daughters' boyfriends and hopes to distract the boys with alternate girlfriends. The plot of Mozart's opera reworked.[2]
Klemens Diez Constanze – gewesene Witwe Mozart translated as: Constanze, formerly widow of Mozart: her unwritten memoir Wien: Österreichische Verlagsanstalt, A. Schroll, 1982 ISBN 9783852020792
Fortuné du Boisgobey Le crime de l'opera translated as: The Crime of the Opera House Paris, E. Plon et cie, 1880
George du Maurier Trilby Published serially in Harper's Monthly in 1894; published in book form in 1895
Diane Duane The Book of Night with Moon New York: Warner Books, 1997 ISBN 0446673021 One of the characters is Urruah, a dumpster-living, foodie tomcat with a yen for opera
Jane Duncan My friends from Cairnton New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964
Dorothy Dunnett ‘‘Dolly and the singing bird’‘[4][5] (originally published as ‘‘The photogenic soprano’‘ (1968),[6] later as ‘‘Rum Affair’‘ (1991)[7])
Erich Ebermayer Die goldene Stimme Hamburg: P. Zsolnay, 1958
Anne Edwards La Divina New York: W. Morrow and Co., 1994 ISBN 9780688088361 Athena Varos rose to become a great opera diva during the 1930s and 40s, while her private life came to resemble one of her operas"[2]
George Eliot Daniel Deronda New York: Oxford University Press, 1984 ISBN 9780198125570
Dominique Fernandez Porporino, ou, Les mystères de Naples translated as: Porporino, or The Secret of Naples New York: Morrow, 1976 ISBN 9780688030582
Kurt Arnold Findeisen [de] Flügel der Morgenröte Berlin: Verlag der Nation, 1956
Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary New York: Viking, 2010 ISBN 9780670022076 First published in 1856
E. M. Forster Where Angels Fear to Tread New York: Vintage Books, 1992 ISBN 9780679736349 First published in 1920
Jessie Fothergill The First Violin New York: H. Holt and Company, 1878
Arnaldo Fraccaroli [it] Bellini Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1942
Arnaldo Fraccaroli Donizetti Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1945
Don Freeman and Lydia Freeman Pet of the Met New York: Puffin Books, 1988 ISBN 9780140508925 First published in 1953; "A mouse who works as a page turner at the Metropolitan Opera House has only one enemy, a cat; but, during a performance of The Magic Flute, something magical happens to change their lives."[2]
Nancy Freedman Prima Donna New York: William Morrow, 1981 ISBN 9780688037307
Matthew Gallaway The Metropolis Case New York: Crown Publishers, 2010 ISBN 9780307463425 "From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart's yearning for connection. An unlikely quartet is bound together across centuries and continents by the strange and spectacular history of Richard Wagner's masterpiece opera Tristan and Isolde."[2]
John Gano Death at the Opera London: Macmillan, 1995 ISBN 9780333629628 "A tour of the stately homes of England by the Floria Tosca Grand Opera Company is rudely interrupted by several murders, including the death of one of its sponsors. In view of the amorous intrigues and professional backstabbing, police have a hard time figuring out what's what."[2]
Thomas Godfrey (ed) Murder at the Opera: a collection of eleven murder mysteries New York: Mysterious Press, 1989 ISBN 9780892963799 Includes: Addio, San Francisco by 'Albert Herring'; Swan song by Agatha Christie; A matter of mean elevation by O. Henry; Mom sings an aria by James Yaffe; The affair at the Semiramis Hotel by A.E.W. Mason; Death by enthusiasm by Hector Berlioz; The gun with wings by Rex Stout; Murder at the opera by Vincent Starrett; Melody in death by Baynard Kendrick; The Ptomaine canary by Helen Traubel; The spy who went to the opera by Edward D. Hoch
Elizabeth Caroline Grey The Young Prima Donna: a romance of the opera London: Bentley, 1840
Elizabeth Caroline Grey The Opera-Singers Wife London: Charles H. Clarke, 1855
Josef Haslinger Opernball Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1995; ISBN 9783596135912
William James Henderson The Soul of a Tenor: a Romance New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1912
Tom Holt Expecting Someone Taller New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987 ISBN 9780312014261 A meek young Englishman enters the world of Wagnerian myth when he inherits a helmet which allows him to understand the speech of birds and animals, and a ring which supplies him with endless amounts of gold and makes him the ruler of the world.[2]
Tom Holt Flying Dutch New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992 ISBN 9780312069759 The actual Flying Dutchman (from Wagner's opera) and his crew accidentally drank an alchemists' elixir. The reason they can only come ashore every seven years is their stench is too great for land people to endure. But they must be found because they bought life insurance back in 1596, and the whole world owes them money. IF they die. [2]
Ottokar Janetschek [de] Die Primadonna: ein Mozartroman Wien: Kremayr & Scheriau, 1956
Susan Kay Phantom New York: Delacorte Press, 1991 ISBN 9780385302968 A recreation of the life of the Phantom of the Opera unmasks the Paris Opera House inhabitant, telling how he was born disfigured and how he became a side-show freak, stonemason's apprentice, and eventually the masked man in search of love.[2]
Gustav Kobbé Signora, a child of the opera house New York: R.H. Russell, 1902
Zdenko von Kraft [de] Abend in Bayreuth Berlin: Hyperion-Verlag, 1943
Zdenko von Kraft Welt und Wahn, Barrikaden, Liebestod, Wahnfried: ein Richard-Wagner-Roman Heidelberg: Keysersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1954
Max Kronberg [de] Feuerzauber: ein Lebens-Roman Richard Wagners Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1932
Max Kronberg Konig und Kunstler: Roman Konig Ludwigs II. und Richard Wagner Leipzig: Otto Janke, 1937
Max Kronberg Der Sieg der Melodie: ein Puccini-Caruso-Roman Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1935
Joachim Kupsch [de] Ein Ende in Dresden: ein Richard-Wagner-Roman Berlin: Henschel, 1964
Lilian Lee (Pi-hua Li) Farewell To My Concubine (Pa-wang pieh Chi) New York: William Morrow, 1993 ISBN 9780688120207 Farewell to My Concubine is a story of jealousy and passion set against the exhilarating spectacle of the Peking opera. One of the most unusual epic romances of all time, the novel moves swiftly from the decadent glamour of 1930s China through the horrors of the Japanese occupation right up to Hong Kong in the 1980s. This riveting and sensual story could only have come from the pen of Lilian Lee, one of the Chinese reading world's most beloved and best-selling authors....[2]
Donna Leon Death at La Fenice New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992 ISBN 9780060168711
Gaston Leroux Le Fantôme de l'Opéra translated as The Phantom of the Opera Paris, P. Lafitte & cie, 1910
Charlotte MacLeod The Plain Old Man Garden City, N.Y.: Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, 1985 ISBN 9780385230032 When she gets involved in her Aunt Emma's production of "The Sorcerer" by Gilbert and Sullivan, Sarah Kelling Bittersohn doesn't expect it to lead to art theft and murder.[2]
Klaus Mann Vergittertes fenster: novelle um den tod des königs Ludwig II. von Bayern' Amsterdam: Querido verlag n.v., 1937
Thomas Mann Tristan
Thomas Mann Wälsungenblut (The Blood of the Wälsungs) München: Phantasus-Verlag, 1921
Queena Mario Murder in the Opera House New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1934
Ngaio Marsh Photo Finish Boston: Little, Brown, 1980 ISBN 9780316546805 Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, C.I.D., Scotland Yard, must identify "Strix" (a dangerous shutterbug) among the assemblage of luminaries gathered at the New Zealand hideaway of the opera star La Sommita's wealthy patron.[2]
James McCourt Mawrdew Czgowchwz New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975 ISBN 9780374204617 "Diva Mawrdew Czgowchwz bursts like the most brilliant of comets onto the international opera scene, only to confront the deadly malice and black magic of her rivals.[2]
Ethan Mordden The Venice Adriana New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998 ISBN 9780312182021 American Mark Trigger travels to 1960s Venice to write a biography of Adriana Grafanas, a famous opera singer, and is drawn into her world—a film director courts her for a movie, a princess tries to steal her man. In the process Trigger discovers his passion—for men.[2]
Hans Nowak and Georg Zivier [de] Verdi, oder Die Macht des Schicksals Berlin, Keil Verlag, 1938 Later issued as Die Macht des Schicksals, ein Verdi-Roman
Ann Patchett Bel Canto New York: Perennial, HarperCollins, 2001 ISBN 0060934417 Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of a visiting Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening, until the lights go out.

This book was adapted into an opera that had its premiere in Chicago in 2015.

Barbara Paul A Cadenza for Caruso New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984 ISBN 9780312113285 Murder stalks the Met. Puccini has been black-mailed and Toscanini is acting strangely. Can Enrico Caruso solve the mystery?[2]
Ellis Peters The House of Green Turf London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1969 ISBN 9780002313032 A famous singer wakes up in hospital after a car crash, haunted by the certainty that she has been responsible for a death at some time in the past. She hires a private investigator, who launches a hunt across Europe with the trail leading to Felse's wife, Bunty.[2]
Terry Pratchett Maskerade London: Victor Gollancz, 1995 ISBN 0575058080 There are strange goings-on at the Opera House in Ankh-Morpork, with murders you can hum, in this 18th Discworld novel.
Henry Handel Richardson The Young Cosima, a novel New York: W. W. Norton, 1939 Twelve years in the life of the daughter of Franz Liszt (Cosima Wagner).[2]
Hermann Richter Das wilde Herz: Lebensroman der Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1927
Blanche Roosevelt Stage-struck; or, She would be an opera-singer New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert; London, Sampson Low & Co., 1884
Kate Ross The Devil in Music New York: Viking, 1997 ISBN 9780670863594 The sleuthing 19th century English dandy, Julian Kestrel, is in Milan searching for the killer of a famous marquis. The marquis was a patron of the opera and the probe takes place against the background of goings-on at La Scala.[2]
Pitts Sanborn Prima Donna, a novel of the opera New York: Longmans, Green, 1929
Phillip Scott One Dead Diva Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 1995 ISBN 9781555837594 Marc, a 50-ish accident-prone opera queen, and Paul, a ditsy chorus boy addicted to dance parties, are an odd pairing as friends. As detectives they are even more unlikely. Still, they decide to investigate the mysterious death of Sydney's hottest new operatic talent, Jennifer Burke—a death the authorities have deemed a suicide. Hot on the trail of clues that lead to all the wrong answers, our energetically inefficient sleuths investigate a slew of highly suspicious characters—including a sharp-tongued music critic, a past-it prima donna, and a formidable drag artiste—before accidentally stumbling over the truth.[2]
Albéric Second Les petits mystères de l'Opera Paris: G. Kugelmann, 1844
Alphons Silbermann Das imaginäre Tagebuch des Herrn Jacques Offenbach Berlin: Bote & Bock, 1960
Susannah Stacey A Knife At The Opera New York: Summit Books, 1988 ISBN 9780671657802 Backstage at the Turnbridge Wells girls' school production of The Beggar's Opera, all was bedlam. Miss Claire Fairlie, the pretty English teacher, was found with a knife plunged into her back. Superintendent Robert Bone was in the audience, and as he dug deeper in the case, he discovered there was a lot more to Miss Fairlie than met the eye.[2]
Frank Thiess Caruso: Roman einer Stimme Hamburg: Krüger, 1946
Leo Tolstoy War and Peace New York: T.Y. Crowell & Co., 1889 First published in 1869
Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina New York: T.Y. Crowell & Co., 1886 First published in 1878. A performance of Lucia di Lammermoor is a pivotal event[8]
Helen Traubel The Metropolitan Opera Murders New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951
Roland Vernon The Maestro's Voice London: Black Swan, 2010 ISBN 0552775525 New York: Rocco Campobello, the great tenor–-one of the most revered entertainers in the world–-collapses on stage. He emerges from this brush with death a changed man: a fallen, but enlightened colossus.[2]
Franz Werfel Verdi. Roman der Oper [de] (Verdi: A Novel of the Opera Berlin: Paul Zsolnay, 1924 Verdi goes to Venice during Carnival of 1882/83, only to discover the city haunted by his great rival, Wagner. Will they confront one another? [2]


  1. ^ Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung [de] (1829) F. A. Brockhaus, pp. 1000, 1196 (announcement);
    Mittheilungen aus den geheimen Memoiren einer deutschen Sängerin, text at zeno.org;
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Publisher's summary
  3. ^ Ralph Blumenthal (May 21, 2006). "Soprano's Tale: Obsession, Love and Death. Offstage". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  4. ^ Dunnett, Dorothy (2012) [1968]. Rum Affair. House of Stratus. pp. Back cover. ISBN 0755119134. Retrieved 29 April 2014. This mystery is narrated by "The Bird": Tina Rossi, a famous coloratura soprano who arrives to sing at the Edinburgh Festival, only to find a murder victim in a cupboard ...
  5. ^ Worldcat record for ‘‘Dolly and the singing bird’‘
  6. ^ Worldcat record for ‘‘The photogenic soprano’‘
  7. ^ Worldcat record for ‘‘Rum Affair’‘
  8. ^ Polhemus, Robert M. (1990). Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austen to D. H. Lawrence. University of Chicago Press. p. 55. ISBN 0226673227.

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