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Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage

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Looking at operatic history from new and unexpected angles, this book examines the ways the operatic canon has been reshaped at key moments in the history of the form. Opera in History examines the achievements of composers such as Monteverdi, Handel, and Rossini, whose operas were long neglected because of changes in performance practices, audience tastes, and musical aesthetics. It also looks at such well-established works as Wagner's Ring and Verdi's Aida in unconventional ways. Thus, the Ring emerges as a ...
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Overview

Looking at operatic history from new and unexpected angles, this book examines the ways the operatic canon has been reshaped at key moments in the history of the form. Opera in History examines the achievements of composers such as Monteverdi, Handel, and Rossini, whose operas were long neglected because of changes in performance practices, audience tastes, and musical aesthetics. It also looks at such well-established works as Wagner's Ring and Verdi's Aida in unconventional ways. Thus, the Ring emerges as a product of nineteenth-century philology, Aida, as an embodiment of the new science of archaeology. At a time when opera's popularity is fast increasing, this book examines some crucial issues that run through its entire history: its uneasy statue as a form of high art and popular culture, the ways operas are embedded in history yet help give retrospective shape to that history, and the reinterpretation of the operatic past by composers and stage directors to legitimate the concerns of the present. The book's finale is a quietly hilarious chapter categorizing today's operagoers according to five types: the Avid, the Passive, the Conscientious, the Faultfinding, and the Uncompromised.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
There is an endless supply of books about opera, but a reader wishing a serious historical overview has had little from which to choose other than Donald Jay Grout's A Short History of Opera (Columbia Univ., 1988. 3d ed.). This book is not for the uninitiated. Lindenberger (humanities and comparative literature, Stanford) assumes that the reader is acquainted with the standard repertory and approaches the subject by discussing how operas fit into and reflect the intellectual, artistic, and aesthetic attitudes of their times. The field of reference is a broad one, including literature, philosophy, architecture, and painting: Monteverdi, for example, is discussed in conjunction with John Donne and Caravaggio, Wagner with Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sir Walter Scott, and Hegel. The end product is a wide-ranging, well-written, thoughtful, and enlightening cultural history from 1600 to the present, using opera as its central focus. Highly recommended.Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Linda Hutcheon
Utterly engaging in its contagious enthusiasm, its formidable learning, and its welcome accessibility, "Opera in History" bravely tackles the big issues about opera and its relation to the broader social world in which it is both created and enjoyed. -- Linda and Michael Hutcheon
Kirkus Reviews
There is no doubt that Lindenberger (Opera: The Extravagant Art, not reviewed) knows and loves opera. Stanford professor of Comparative Literature and English (and president of the Modern Language Association in 1997), Lindenberger also clearly knows literature, literary criticism, and social history. What he does not know, apparently, is how to write without academic jargon and stilted prose. Hence we get references to "originary moments" and "historicity," and meandering sentences that could use some direction. Still, there are some intriguing premises among the verbiage, such as Lindenberger's basic supposition that history is both represented in works of art and influences the creation of that art. Opera, with its unique melding of music, literature, and drama, is the perfect test case for the theory. Lindenberger's method of setting opera composers within the context of their times and illustrating their contacts with artists working in other genres, such as literature and painting, is stimulating, as is his discussion of changing interpretations of a given composerþs impact on a society. With chapters analyzing everything from the works of the contemporary composer Monteverdi to the paintings of Caravaggio and the poetry of John Donne, the book certainly canþt be faulted for its breadth. The final chapter, in which Lindenberger describes the five types of opera-goersþthe Avid, the Passive, the Conscientious, the Faultfinding (all music critics, it seems), and the Uncompromisedþis mildly amusing, although at times stereotypically unsettling, as in Lindenberger's comments about "gay Avids" and divas. There are some interesting insights here, for thosewilling and able to slog through the chaff. Not many other than scholars and the most serious opera enthusiasts, however, will likely be willing to do so.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804731058
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Table of Contents

A Note on Abbreviations and Translations
Prelude: Opera Books 1
1 Monteverdi, Caravaggio, Donne: Modernity and Early Baroque 11
2 Handel and the Poetics of Opera Seria 51
3 Rossini, Shelley, and Italy in 1819 81
4 Opera Among the Arts - Opera Among Institutions 107
5 Wagner's Ring as Nineteenth-Century Artifact 134
6 Opera / Orientalism / Otherness 160
7 Moses und Aron, Mahagonny, and Germany in 1930: Seventeen Entries 191
8 Regulated Anarchy: John Cage's Europeras 1 & 2 and the Aesthetics of Opera 240
Finale: Opera Audiences 265
Notes 285
Works Cited 327
Index 349
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