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Song of the Dove
Teacher's Notes

This is a true story, as true as we know it to have been. I have turned it into historical fiction.

As a young music student, Bellini did teach Maddalena Fumaroli to sing. Her father forbade the wedding, and the couple vowed to be together - dead or alive - after he’d written his tenth opera. Before he died, Bellini is said to have seen a white dove on the score of his tenth opera. I simply wove the birds through the text, and in the end saw the book as a metaphor. Maddalena became the white dove.

In which era is the story set? And in which country? What helps you to decide?

Listen to the text read aloud before you look at the illustrations. How does illustrator Sonia Kretschmar add extra depth to the text? What do they tell you about the life and times?

One page illustrates the six operas Bellini composed in Milan. Can you tell what these operas are about? (List of operas on back page.)

What is the difference between a simile and a metaphor? Where are the similes in this book?

Why do you think Bellini failed to return to Naples? How do text and pictures show this? Did Bellini regret turning his back on Maddalena?

Does fiction help bring history to life? Can it be more powerful than a straight report?

Could you write a letter as Maddalena might have written to Bellini? And a letter from Bellini to Maddalena.

Why did Maddalena’s parents object to her relationship with Bellini? Now write a conversation between Maddalena’s parents as they decide to consent to the marriage. Remember this happened nearly 200 years ago.

Does it make a difference, knowing these were real people, and that Bellini is famous today?


Is the ending satisfying?

Click on Bellini's face to go back to the top.