First Nights at the Opera

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Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, opera was the grandest entertainment in Western culture. In First Nights at the Opera, the renowned music scholar Thomas Kelly narrates the social history of European opera during its golden age by taking us behind the scenes at the premier performances of five extraordinary and influential operas: Handel's Giulio Cesare (London, 1724), Mozart's Don Giovanni (Prague, 1787), Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots (Paris, 1836), Wagner's Das Rheingold (Bayreuth, 1876), and ...
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Overview

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, opera was the grandest entertainment in Western culture. In First Nights at the Opera, the renowned music scholar Thomas Kelly narrates the social history of European opera during its golden age by taking us behind the scenes at the premier performances of five extraordinary and influential operas: Handel's Giulio Cesare (London, 1724), Mozart's Don Giovanni (Prague, 1787), Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots (Paris, 1836), Wagner's Das Rheingold (Bayreuth, 1876), and Verdi's Otello (Milan, 1887). What was it like to be there, to see and hear and perform these operas for the very first time? Kelly takes us behind the curtains to introduce us to the nervous composers, the anxious impresarios, and the performers who had never sung these words to an audience before. Members of the audience, eager with expectation, take to their seats and boxes: What will appear on stage? Will someone miss a line? Will it be a triumph or a humiliation for the composer? Richly illustrated and briskly narrated, this glittering introduction to the world of opera will delight aficionados and neophytes alike.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This remarkable detailed social history, written by a Harvard professor of music, is filled with the drama of opening nights, behind the scenes and in the audience, with sketches of the citys and the concert hall milieus, the impresarios, the composers and the conductors, and the singers charged with performing the music for the first time, followed by reports of the critical response, both popular and journalistic.”—Linda Rosenkrantz, San Diego Union-Tribune

“This thoroughly enjoyable and informative book will delight all opera lovers; highly recommended.”—Library Journal

Library Journal
Repeating the successful format of his earlier First Nights: Five Musical Premieres, music historian Kelly (Harvard Univ.) presents fascinating discussions of five opera premieres: Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Wagner's Das Rheingold, and Verdi's Otello. What these operas have in common is that they are monumental works that continue to be extremely popular. A gifted storyteller, Kelly reproduces much of the commotion, enthusiasm, and glamour of the opening performance; vividly re-creates the exciting moment when they were first viewed by the public; and provides glimpses of their social and historical settings along with information about everyone involved in the production, from composers to impresarios. Quotes from contemporary documents, reviews, letters, memoirs, and newspaper articles flesh out the story and add depth to the general scene. This thoroughly enjoyable and informative book will delight all opera lovers; highly recommended, especially where Kelly's first book did well.-Timothy J. McGee, Hastings, Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300100440
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2004
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 7.24 (w) x 10.32 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Forrest Kelly is Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 George Frideric Handel, Giulio Cesare in Egitto 1
Ch. 2 Wolfgang Amade Mozart, Il dissoluto punito, ossia Il Don Giovanni 63
Ch. 3 Giacomo Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots 133
Ch. 4 Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold 229
Ch. 5 Giuseppe Verdi, Otello 315
Recommended recordings 393
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