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Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage

Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage

by Herbert S. Lindenberger

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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.

Product Details

Stanford University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 9.03(h) x 0.78(d)

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