A Passion for Opera: Learning to Love It: The Greatest Masters, Their Greatest Music

Overview

From the beginnings of opera in Italy over 400 years ago to the present day, the historical and artistic context of the most dramatic of all arts is elucidated in pleasurable, non-technical prose. Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini are featured, but not to the exclusion of a thorough consideration of French and Russian masterworks, as well as operetta, Richard Strauss, and a comprehensive introduction to modern operatic music. Stories of great singers, past and present, and the author’s friendly association with ...

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Overview

From the beginnings of opera in Italy over 400 years ago to the present day, the historical and artistic context of the most dramatic of all arts is elucidated in pleasurable, non-technical prose. Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini are featured, but not to the exclusion of a thorough consideration of French and Russian masterworks, as well as operetta, Richard Strauss, and a comprehensive introduction to modern operatic music. Stories of great singers, past and present, and the author’s friendly association with some of them, enrich this engaging personal account.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An invaluable presentation for both beginners desiring to learn about opera as well as opera lovers seeking more information and new insights.

Library Journal
Writing for the generalist, Vermont Public Radio host Smith offers a delightful look at opera that proceeds from Monteverdi to Britten, with synopses of many significant works and discussions of composers' development within a chronological framework. Smith discusses the main musical numbers (without the actual musical examples) and refers to recordings of some of the greatest singers of the 20th century (e.g., Enrico Caruso and Kirsten Flagstad) while bringing to light lesser-known talents like Tiana Lemnitz. Throughout, he introduces the rudiments of opera in clear language and provides translations for foreign titles or phrases. Smith has included some marginal operas (e.g., Puccini's La Rondine) and even anticipated some debate by including his own caveat about choosing Berlioz's Damnation of Faust over Les Troyens. Perhaps a bit long-winded and plagued by a few odd locutions, this book would have benefited from tighter editing but is on the whole successful, with the author's obvious love for his subject matter and endearing asides adding to the book's charm. Recommended for all libraries as a complement to Fred Plotkin's valuable Opera 101. Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570762802
  • Publisher: Trafalgar Square
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 2.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Fox Smith, raised in an operatic family, has brought his passion for opera into the lives of thousands through his music tours, college teaching, lectures here and abroad, and for twenty-seven years as the writer, producer, and voice of fifteen hundred "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" broadcasts for Vermont Public Radio.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Monteverdi to Mozart: The Beginnings of Opera 11
Chapter 2 Mozart: The Father of Modern Opera 35
Chapter 3 Bel Canto Operas: Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini 77
Chapter 4 Early 19th Century German Opera: Beethoven and Weber 121
Chapter 5 Wagner I: Three Early Masterpieces 145
Chapter 6 Verdi I: The First Masterworks 181
Chapter 7 Wagner II: The Big Music Dramas 223
Chapter 8 Verdi II: Aida, Otello, and Falstaff 327
Chapter 9 19th Century French Opera: Six Favorites 369
Chapter 10 19th Century Slavic Opera: Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky 429
Chapter 11 The Great Age of Operetta 463
Chapter 12 The Incomparable Puccini 495
Chapter 13 German Opera after Wagner: Richard Strauss 583
Chapter 14 Opera in the 20th Century: Six Major Dramas 615
Afterword 691
Getting Started with CDs 693
Bibliography 695
Index 699
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2008

    An opera guide for the heart and mind

    As a relatively new opera lover (opera has only really been in my heart for a couple of years), I felt that it was time to take my love to a new level and really get to know opera better. I've read several other books writen on the subject (so-called guides), and so far this is the one I will most be recommending to fellow enthousiasts. The first reason is that it is written by someone who genuinely loves opera, and you can feel him smiling as he writes. The composers, librettists, characters, and singers are all old friends that he can't wait to introduce you to. The second reason is that, despite the length of the book, it is delightfully readable. Smith acts as your tour guide through the world of opera, and along the way he invites you to explore the landscape with him in a tone that makes you feel like you are walking side by side. Along the way he takes many interesting detours which do nothing but enhance the trip. His prose is sometimes conversational, always intelligent and thoughtful. He never throws a bunch of jargon at you, nor does he try to show too much at once. Everything unfolds in a very natural progression. Finally, the last reason to make this your opera guide is its scope. Of course, for an author to cover everything in opera history would take many volumes, but Smith does a good job of giving adequate attention to the major players in his 700 page book. As Smith himself notes in the preface, it is a book that you can use as a resource to prepare yourself for going to see, say, 'Der Rosenkavalier'. But it's much more than just a resource book because it's one you'll enjoy reading cover to cover. I stated that this is an opera guide for the heart and mind, and I meant it. You'll build a pretty solid foundation of knowledge about the opera while simultaniously having the flames of your passion for it fanned. You'll find yourself running out to build your library of cds and libretti, and maybe even checking out the price of season tickets at your local opera house.

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