Oline Cogdill

leondonna_bartoliMysteries and music often go together.

Think of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Peter Robinson’s Alan Banks listening to those wonderful jazz performers.

Or Mark Billingham’s British cop Tom Thorne who prefers country music. Ian Rankin’s Rebus loved rock.

Jeffery Deaver, who once opened for Bob Dylan, wrote the lyrics for a CD to go along with XO, his latest novel.

And one of my favorite short story collections is A Merry Band of Murderers in which each mystery writer contributed an original short story and an original song themed around the story.

leondonna_jewelsofparadiseDetectives and music just seems a natural fit. But the soundtrack of mysteries is fodder for another blog.

Today, let’s concentrate on opera.

Yes, opera.

Music you don’t often, if ever, attribute to mysteries.

Fittingly enough, this opera infusion comes from Donna Leon, author of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series set in Venice.

Leon’s first stand-alone novel, The Jewels of Paradise, is based on Baroque composer Agostino Steffani, who apparently was quite popular during his time but has been forgotten through the centuries.

Leon is teaming up with world-famous opera singer Cecilia Bartoli, whose new recording Mission features Steffani’s music. Both The Jewels of Paradise and Mission will be released in the U.S. on Oct. 2.

While Leon’s novels seem permanently fixed to the best-sellers lists, she also is passionate about opera.

Leon is heavily involved in the management of the Florence-based opera company Il Compresso Barocco, formed by another American expatriate, Alan Curtis.

Curtis conducts the award-winning orchestra, which Leon helps subsidize with sales from her writing life.

leondonna_missionLeon also helps to find and audition new singers and choose new projects for recording and performance, according to her publisher.

Through her involvement with the orchestra, Leon met Bartoli more than 20 years ago. They became “opera pals” after Leon interviewed Bartoli for a German newspaper a decade ago.

More recently, Bartoli was recording an album of Steffani’s music.

For inspiration, the opera singer began to research the life of the composer, who is credited with ushering in the Baroque era of opera. She thought his story would make a good novel, so Bartoli approached her old friend, Leon, with the story of Steffani.

In turn, Leon did what every writer does – she began her own research, and the result is The Jewels of Paradise, a contemporary mystery that links back to Steffani’s work.

Once again, Leon found a way to mix her passions of opera and mystery fiction.

Photo: Donna Leon, left, and Cecilia Bartoli. Photo courtesy Decca/Uli Weber