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Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2002

    Acceptable for the ABSOLUTE beginner

    Plotkin is certainly a lover of opera, and he manages to convey this reletively well. The short history he gives in the first chapter is a fun read, though it covers only the most superficial details. He covers some important points about voice parts and important singers in the second chapter. The third chapter, 'Going to the Opera' is a waste of time for anyone who has ever stepped foot outside their own bedroom. I hate to say it, but he must believe his reader a true cultural imbecile if they don't know how to behave during a night on the town. I should admit, though, that I didn't read the whole chapter. So, there could have been some deep insights plaed right at the end of the chapter that I never got to (but I doubt it). His recommended recordings are certainly some of the best available for each respective opera, and his choice of operas to cover is right on for the beginner to the genre. Unfortunately, he gives little more information about the opera in his far too short analyses than one could learn from the libretti and essays that accompany any opera recording. The one good thing about these sections are the couple of sentences he puts in each giving a few musical moments to which the reader should attend. All-in-all, he tries way to hard to dumb opera down and promote a purely emotional listening experience, colored minimally by any intellectual understanding of the art form, its theory, its history, etc. There is some merit to this endeavor, as the term 'opera aesthete' has become synoymous with 'snooty and aloof cultural bigot.' Bringing the issues of opera back to the level of the movement of emotions in word and music is a noble pursuit, but Plotkin seems to equate this experience with being a 'newcomer to opera' and not as an attempt to remind us all of why we listen to opera in the first place. Again he assumes the least from his readers. The book is acceptable for someone who is not only a new-comer to opera, but a new-comer to classical music, theater, art, and culture in general. My recommendation: purchase the recordings he recommends and listen to them on your own.

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