At My Sweet Recall is an Intimate Compilation of the Letters of Lovers

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The setting is Paris, early in the summer of 1906. Edward Johnson, the young, fast-rising Canadian tenor who would one day become the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, has just met the woman who would become the love of his life. Beatriz d'Arneiro, a striking, aristocratic woman of Portuguese descent and herself a musician of some note, sees Johnson as a young man with a measure of charm and considerable potential. She sees and understands his ambitions, but wonders if he has the capacity and desire to work hard enough to fulfill his dreams. He calls her "Bebe" and finds himself fascinated by the challenge of loving a woman who challenges him with such apparent readiness and ease.

The setting is Paris, early in the summer of 1906. Edward Johnson, the young, fast-rising Canadian tenor who would one day become the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, has just met the woman who would become the love of his life. Beatriz d'Arneiro, a striking, aristocratic woman of Portuguese descent and herself a musician of some note, sees Johnson as a young man with a measure of charm and considerable potential. She sees and understands his ambitions, but wonders if he has the capacity and desire to work hard enough to fulfill his dreams. He calls her "Bebe" and finds himself fascinated by the challenge of loving a woman who challenges him with such apparent readiness and ease.

They spend the summer in each other's company, their feelings for each other strong and growing by the day. He seems willing to embrace the possibilities of where their love might lead them; she, by her very nature, is more hesitant, uncertain that true love and happiness are available to her.

With the arrival of autumn, they separate – he to follow his early concert and oratorio career in New York, she to remain in Paris, living as a young adult, with her own hopes and dreams, in surroundings that might charitably be described as adequate.

Over the course of the next two years, they would communicate by letter – about 300 of them, in total – hand-written in the style of the day, and shipped across the Atlantic via steamer. Eventually, they would marry, their desire for each other running passionate and deep, and finally culminating in the loving bonds of wedlock.

The early years of the Johnson-d'Arneiro relationship are captured in remarkable first-hand depth and detail in a just-released publication entitled At My Sweet Recall: The Letters of Edward Johnson and Beatriz d'Arneiro 1906-1908. The book itself is a striking labour of love by Gloria Dent, who first came across the letters within a collection of Johnson memorabilia at the University of Guelph some years ago. This 560-page compilation of the Johnson-d'Arneiro letters is a wonderfully intimate look at the young-adult lives of two lovers separated by an ocean, but drawn together by their dreams, their passions — and perhaps even their individual fears and uncertainties for what the future might bring.

At My Sweet Recall will hold a particular interest for Canadian readers, especially among those with an appreciation of Johnson's remarkable career. The public side of his life, the intricate detail of his work as one of the great operatic tenors of his time, is already a matter of public record. This compilation adds another compelling layer to that which is already known, giving readers a unique, intimate insight into the man himself.

The letters within At My Sweet Recall are from Johnson's own pen, honest, open and unfiltered. It is as though Johnson has permitted a light to be shone inside his own soul, offering readers, more than a century later, a unique insight into the heart of a man who lived – and loved – a rich, remarkable life.

At My Sweet Recall
The Letters of Edward Johnson and Beatriz d'Arneiro 1906-1908 Edited and compiled by Gloria Dent
ISBN: 9780986582103

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JENNIFER SALLANS
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