A Nut at the Opera is a wonderful book about a fictitious world of tenors and sopranos. Although there’s not much of a storyline, there are wonderful pictures and bios of about 50 opera singers. The idea was hatched 20 years ago when Vellekoop would create hand drawn opera cards for his mentor, a professor and later long-time friend, Paul Barker, who introduced Vellekoop to the world of arias. Paying homage to the late Barker, Vellekoop’s writings about divas and baritones are an accessible path into this sophisticated world.
The characters, both dead and living, span from the hilarious to the absurd. Dame Formalda Hyde sits in a wheelchair to play the role as Countess in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Countertenor Philip Diller has an uncanny resemblance to the comedienne, Phyllis Diller. Even the character names on their own are priceless: Vatda Heck, Vassilena Toxikova, Olga Pickutruckskya as well as Anunciacion Concepcion Incarnacion Gonzago y Zuniga de Alburquerque.
Each portrait is unique. The illustration for Parisian, Hubertine Malagauche looks like a flyer for a freak show spectacle, while Helmgaard Strumfluch in the futuristic sci-fi play looks out-of-this-world in psychedelic pastels. The most memorable is late 18th century aristocrat, Faustina Morforni. The unbelievable bouffant on her head is a picturesque garden with a waterfall that cascades down the bodice of her dress all the way to the bottom of her petticoat. This is graphica worth revisiting again and again. (Andrea Nene)
by Maurice Vellekoop, $24.95, 96 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, PO BOX 48056, Montreal, QC, H2V 4S8, drawnandquarterly.com