The Metropolis Case
Matthew Gallaway
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Buy *The Metropolis Case* by Matthew Gallaway online

The Metropolis Case
Matthew Gallaway
384 pages
December 2010
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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In his extraordinary debut, Gallaway immerses the reader in the esoteric world of Richard Wagner’s romantic opera Tristan and Isolde, framing it around the intemperate passions of four characters. From Belle Époque Paris to 1970s-era Pittsburgh to modern-day Manhattan, The Metropolis Case transcends time, the place between our desires and the possibility of achieving them inevitably bound by illusion.

Soprano Anna is about to make her Isolde debut at the Metropolitan Opera. At forty, Anna believes she has finally found her true calling in the Wagnerian repertory. But one wintry afternoon on the corner of Broadway, a chance meeting with a massive truck causes her to finally become possessed with Isolde. As her body turns into light, she realizes that she has inexplicably escaped death.

In New York City in 2001, music lawyer Martin lunches with his best friend, Jay. Considering himself a “daddy bear now safely into his forties,” Martin has recently become interested in opera. The music feeds his romantic aspirations even as his physical decline reflects his inability to form any lasting emotional connections. Existential malaise constant in his life, Martin’s vague and incessant dissatisfactions only hint at an existence that until now seems to have been a wash of distortion.

As Gallaway threads the past with the future, Anna hopes to love, her Isolde performances the first in a long line of life-altering dominoes that will topple around her. Later she meets Maria, a young music protégée from Pittsburgh. Only opera can fill Maria with such a voluptuous sense of fulfillment. Longing for release from the mundane burdens of her staid middle-class life, Maria - with Anna’s help - embarks on a vibrant journey. Maria's gift to the great opera houses of the world will ultimately reflect a twin landscape of resignation and inspiration.

Opera unites Anna, Martin, Maria and Lucien, a young musician from 1846 Paris who is given the present of a piano by his father. The instrument, which once belonged to a Romanian princess, jumpstarts the boy's own romantic discovery of opera. Exploring the many facets of religion, fantasy and immortality, Wagner’s doomed love affair acts as the framework for Lucien's trevails as Gallaway laces together intimate affairs and marriages with his characters' hopes, dreams and the disappointments that sometimes accompany global artistic success.

While the atrocities of September 11 frame much of Martin’s story, Anna's life is buoyed by her astonished procurement of the original old score of Tristan and Isolde, a manuscript written in cursive script, bound in faded orange velvet binding and tied together in blue silk ribbon, dated April 1860. Linking Anna to Maria’s world, the manuscript remains a steady force as the older grande dame, intrigued by Maria’s unique talent, decides to mold her operatic skills into something great and timeless.

The drumbeat of music resonates throughout. Surprisingly, it is Lucien, thrown by forces much larger than himself, who remains the most spiritually connected to Anna, Maria and Martin. The passage of time is potent in this story, the ghost of Richard Wagner - the messenger and the creator - ever-present, his timeless, sublime music an integral part of Gallaway's passionate, epic tale.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2010

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