Pavarotti, the author asserts, is guilty of surrendering to (and even embodying) the evils of modern "mass entertainment," having long ago "given up any pretense of high quality" while in desperate pursuit of a mass audience. It's his personality, not the music, that is being marketed. But while an interesting argument about such matters might be made, it isn't offered here. Approximately a third of the text traces Pavarotti's career; another third offers Kesting's equally declamatory opinions of other tenors (from Nourrit and Duprez to Caruso and Björling). The remainder is an unsurprising review of Pavarotti's recordings. Who, finally, is this intended for? Music lovers who have collected Pavarotti's recordings over the years, as well as heard him in live performance, have read dozens of similar reviews in magazines and newspapers over the years, and Kesting's often snide opinions are neither fresh nor convincing. There is no shortage of biographical material on Pavarotti. The larger number of likely readers, who know Pavarotti from such events as the "Three Tenor" spectaculars, are fans and would be bored by the steady theoretical repetitiousness surrounding the nuggets of criticism.
The uncomfortable mix of classical music, money, and modern marketing techniques is a troubling issue. But Kesting doesn't so much anatomize it here as offer a series of assertions, insufficiently worked out, that sound both cranky and shallow.
- Northeastern University Press
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