Bel Canto
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3.93 / 5

"Bel Canto" Characters Analysis

By Ann Patchett

fiction | 336 pages | Published in 2020

Winner of The Women’s Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The poignant – and at times very funny – novel from the author of The Dutch House and Commonwealth.


Estimated read time: 7 min read

List of Characters:

Roxane CossOpera Diva
Gen WatanabeJapanese Businessman
Mr. HosokawaIndustrialist
CarmenOpera Singer
Ruben IglesiasTranslator/Interpreter
Victor FyodorovRussian Diplomat

Role Identification:

In the novel "Bel Canto," written by Ann Patchett, there are several significant characters that play unique roles within the story. The characters' roles include an opera diva, a Japanese businessman, an industrialist, an opera singer, a translator/interpreter, and a Russian diplomat. Each character has their own distinct traits, backgrounds, and development arcs that contribute to the overall narrative structure.

Character Descriptions:

  1. Roxane Coss: As the opera diva invited to perform at a private party in an unnamed South American country, Roxane Coss is the central character in "Bel Canto." She possesses remarkable talent, beauty, and charm, captivating all those around her with her voice. Roxane is depicted as a complex and enigmatic character, full of mystique and allure.
  2. Gen Watanabe: A Japanese businessman, Gen Watanabe is integral to the story as the representative of his company. He attends the party in the hopes of securing a business deal with the country's government. Gen is portrayed as a rational, disciplined, and reserved individual, driven by his work and obligations.
  3. Mr. Hosokawa: As a wealthy industrialist from Japan, Mr. Hosokawa is one of the prominent characters in the story. He is captivated by Roxane's singing and attends the party primarily to hear her perform. Mr. Hosokawa is depicted as a passionate and cultured man, deeply moved by beauty and art.
  4. Carmen: An opera singer who accompanies Roxane Coss to the party, Carmen is portrayed as an eccentric and vibrant character. She has a vibrant personality and adds a touch of liveliness to the otherwise tense atmosphere of the hostage situation.
  5. Ruben Iglesias: A translator and interpreter, Ruben Iglesias plays a crucial role in bridging the language barrier between the hostages and the hostage-takers. He is resourceful, reliable, and demonstrates unwavering loyalty throughout the events.
  6. Victor Fyodorov: As a Russian diplomat sent to facilitate negotiations, Victor Fyodorov enters the story later. He brings a sense of authority and control to the situation, attempting to find a peaceful resolution. Victor is portrayed as a seasoned negotiator, diplomatic, and focused on achieving his objectives.

Character Traits:

  1. Roxane Coss: Enigmatic, talented, beautiful, captivating, mysterious.
  2. Gen Watanabe: Rational, disciplined, reserved, ambitious, determined.
  3. Mr. Hosokawa: Passionate, cultured, sophisticated, intrigued by beauty.
  4. Carmen: Eccentric, vibrant, lively, extroverted, unique.
  5. Ruben Iglesias: Resourceful, reliable, loyal, multilingual, adaptable.
  6. Victor Fyodorov: Authoritative, diplomatic, focused, composed, experienced.

Character Background:

  1. Roxane Coss: Born into a musical family and recognized for her exceptional talent, Roxane Coss rose to become an acclaimed opera diva. She has performed on prestigious stages worldwide, earning fame and adoration for her mesmerizing voice.
  2. Gen Watanabe: Gen Watanabe hails from a middle-class background in Japan, where he built a successful career as a business executive. He is known for his ambition, determination, and meticulousness in his professional endeavors.
  3. Mr. Hosokawa: Mr. Hosokawa is a self-made industrialist who has amassed immense wealth and power through his business ventures. Despite his success, he has always had a deep appreciation for music and arts, which ultimately led him to be captivated by Roxane Coss's talent.
  4. Carmen: Carmen's background is less explored in the novel. She is presented as a free-spirited and passionate individual who lives her life fully and embraces her love for singing.
  5. Ruben Iglesias: Ruben Iglesias is an experienced translator and interpreter, well-versed in multiple languages. He has encountered diverse situations throughout his career, helping individuals communicate effectively in various settings.
  6. Victor Fyodorov: Victor Fyodorov has a background in diplomacy and negotiation, having worked in several high-stakes international situations. His experience makes him a suitable candidate to mediate the hostage crisis in "Bel Canto."

Character Arcs:

  1. Roxane Coss: Throughout the story, Roxane undergoes a transformation marked by her evolving relationship with Mr. Hosokawa. Initially distant, she gradually opens up to him and discovers a deep emotional connection. The experience of captivity and the power of music allow Roxane to rediscover her own vulnerability and humanity.
  2. Gen Watanabe: Gen experiences a significant personal and emotional journey during his time as a hostage. He develops a close bond with Roxane and learns to embrace the beauty and simplicity of life beyond his corporate ambitions.
  3. Mr. Hosokawa: Mr. Hosokawa's character arc revolves around his admiration for Roxane Coss and his willingness to take risks for love. He finds himself captivated by a world completely different from his usual routine, ultimately revealing his true desires and passions.
  4. Carmen: Carmen's character arc is less pronounced in the novel, serving mainly as a vibrant and entertaining presence throughout the hostage situation. Her interactions with the other characters provide moments of levity and contrast to the tense environment.
  5. Ruben Iglesias: Ruben's character arc revolves around his resourcefulness and adaptability. As the translator, he plays a pivotal role in bringing all the characters together, showcasing his problem-solving skills and level-headedness.
  6. Victor Fyodorov: Victor's character arc centers on his efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution and negotiate the release of the hostages. He exhibits calmness and professionalism, adapting his approach to the ever-changing dynamics of the situation.


  1. Roxane Coss and Mr. Hosokawa: The relationship between Roxane and Mr. Hosokawa evolves from initial intrigue to profound emotional connection. Their shared love for music and the vulnerability of their circumstances bring them closer, transcending societal differences.
  2. Roxane Coss and Gen Watanabe: Roxane's interactions with Gen Watanabe are marked by mutual admiration and a blossoming friendship. Gen is deeply moved by her talent, finding solace and inspiration in Roxane's presence.
  3. Mr. Hosokawa and Gen Watanabe: Mr. Hosokawa and Gen develop a strong bond throughout their shared captivity. Their friendship is built on mutual respect, understanding, and a shared desire for something more beyond their professional lives.
  4. Carmen and the other characters: Carmen's relationship with the other characters is characterized by her vivacity and colorful personality. She adds a spark to the otherwise tense environment, fostering moments of joy and levity amidst the hostage situation.
  5. Ruben Iglesias and the hostages: Ruben acts as a bridge between the captors and the hostages. His relationships with the other characters are based on trust, dependability, and his ability to interpret their desires and needs.
  6. Victor Fyodorov and the hostage-takers: Victor Fyodorov interacts primarily with the hostage-takers, employing his diplomatic skills to bring about a peaceful resolution. His relationship with them is tense and fraught with negotiations and strategic maneuvers.

In "Bel Canto," Ann Patchett expertly crafts a diverse cast of characters, each playing a vital role in the unfolding narrative. From the enigmatic Roxane Coss to the disciplined Gen Watanabe, the characters' traits, backgrounds, and interactions contribute to the rich tapestry of emotions and themes explored in the novel. The character arcs and relationships further deepen the story, highlighting the transformative power of connection, love, and the innate human desire for beauty and art.