It's a full house at the 2,000-seat Badminton Theater in Athens. On stage is a musical about the singer Sofia Vembo, whose warm contralto voice comforted Greeks during World War II.
The song that is bringing the audience, mostly Greeks in their 60s and 70s, to tears and applause is called "Paida Tis Ellados, Paidia," or "Children of Greece." Vembo sang it to Greek soldiers as Italian and German forces invaded the country.
A hundred years ago, the Italian operatic composer Giacomo Puccini was having lunch in New York with Victor Herbert, the leading composer of operettas in this country. Then, the band in the restaurant began playing music from Herbert's current hit, Sweethearts. Puccini became outraged, according to songwriter Paul Williams, the current president of the performing-rights organization ASCAP.
The central drama in Susan Minot's fourth novel comes from a real-life episode in October 1996, when 139 girls at St. Mary's College in Aboke, Uganda, were abducted by guerillas from the militant Lord's Resistance Army. The school's Italian headmistress followed the rebels into the bush and retrieved all but 30 of the girls — hence the title.