Extract from the review in the Sunday Times of Malta 7.11.2010 by Peter Serracino Inglott, former Rector of the University of Malta and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Another work ……. is the recently published play The Heiress of Baħrija by John Cilia La Corte.
The author was a close friend of Charles Camilleri, to whose memory this script is dedicated. It was originally intended as a libretto for which the composer had already been thinking out the music. It is written with a clearly implicit musical structure.
It combines an intriguing nugget of historical fact, an anecdote of the type that Giovanni Bonello has proved himself a master at re-animating for our attention, with psychological speculations by the author worthy of a detective story-writer.
The historical starting point concerns a lady who is an 18th century ancestress of the author himself. He discovered it in a manuscript by Ignazio Saverio Mifsud. The story told about her is that she was extremely gifted from every point of view, including “having some knowledge of philosophy”, but eloped with her Mathematics tutor who was a chaplain of the Order.
The author develops out of stray hints a subtle and complex psychological contexts to explain the happening, which he takes to have been otherwise much more extraordinary than it seems to me, perhaps because I do not have the impression that 18th century Malta was such a “straight-laced society” as he says it was.
The heroine Maria Teresa Muscat Falzon Navarra, second Countess of Baħrija, was told that her lover, Antonio, had been killed by the Ottomans. She had identified herself so much with him, that she wanted to do the things that he had planned to do – study Mathematics and travel. Her tutor offers to help her, but also to benefit himself in other ways by the side.
I leave of course the denouement to be discovered when you read the book, except to say that the descendants of Maria Teresa only sold their Palazzo in Mdina (Palazzo Falzon) to the Gollchers in the 20th Century and their property in Baħrija only in 1997.
…. it is to be hoped that one of Camilleri’s many pupils who have already distinguished themselves as original composers will be challenged enough to use the text as it was originally intended. It could also be used as the script for a film with a Maltese background and sea-battles between Muslim and Christian vessels. The late Baroque period is hardly less interesting from a cinematic point of view than the Great Siege which seems to be the only subject that occurs to the minds of re-enactors.