Opera: A History in Documents / Edition 1

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Overview

Richly textured, extravagantly colorful, and filled with larger-than-life characters, the history of opera is as mesmerizing and commanding as opera itself. And no art form benefits more from being seen from the inside out--through eye-witness accounts of singers, composers, librettists, critics, historians, patrons, satirists, impresarios, designers, performers, and others--than opera.

Now, in Opera: A History in Documents, Piero Weiss presents a sweeping, vivid, and carefully researched tour of operatic history. The chronologically organized primary sources include 115 passages--private letters, portions of libretti, literary criticism, satire, and poetry--from opera's late Renaissance infancy through modern times. This first-hand testimony allows readers to experience the history of opera as eyewitnesses, offering an immediacy and validity unmatched by standard histories. Opera lovers will be transported to a Medici wedding in sixteenth century Florence, to the Haymarket Theatre for a performance of Handel's Rinaldo, to Mozart at work on Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, and to Bertoldt Brecht's writing desk, among many other landmarks in opera's history. Weiss expertly guides readers, providing highly accessible introductions to each section that both contextualize the excerpts and position them within the broader historical narrative. In addition, Weiss offers original translations of more than half of the material in the book, many of them appearing in English for the first time. Stage settings, costumes, portraits, contemporary playbills, and other illustrations enliven the text and help to recreate the feel of the era under discussion.

Perfect for opera aficionados, Opera: A History in Documents offers a uniquely exciting entree into the origins and development of one of our most enduring art forms.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Beginning with the Intermedio, which was performed at a Medici wedding in 1589, and ending with John Adams's 1987 Nixon in China, this book provides a novel view of dozens of operas over the centuries. The author, a noted scholar and authority on the history of opera who chairs the musicology department at the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory, illuminates the history of opera through documents, each presented in historical context. His selection of documents includes letters, diary accounts, critical notices, playbills, and libretto excerpts that highlight fascinating aspects of the works and their performances, as well as the era in which they originated. We learn, for example, what Stendhal thought of Rossini's Barber of Seville, as well as Tchaikovsky's own thoughts on Eugene Onegin and Mozart's first ideas about his Marriage of Figaro. Opera lovers will be delighted at this new and excellent source of information and insight. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"The richness of this volume can in part be indicated by numbers alone. Fifty-two items are tallied on the contents page, and three 'interludes' enlarge the count...Discerning members of both groups should indeed be eager to put themselves in the hands of so expert and experienced a scholar, one whose work is at once stylish and thorough." --Christopher Hatch, Opera Quarterly

"Weiss's extraordinary selection of documents includes some wonderful illustrations in addition to substantial excerpts from letters, prefaces, pamphlets, and even librettos, many in first or new translations by Weiss himself....This volume is a priceless addition to the literature, and the pages of my copy are already dog-eared from constant use." --Helen M. Greenwald, Music and Letters

"Opera lovers will be delighted at this new and excellent source of information and insight.... Provides a novel view of dozens of operas over the centuries. The author, a noted scholar and authority on the history of opera illuminates the history of opera through documents."--Library Journal

"One of the many delights of this collection is its often less-than-canonic choice of extracts. Piero Weiss has, in short, provided us with an excellent and sometimes surprising collection of operatic documents, all sensitively introduced and expertly translated." --Roger Parker, Professor of Music, Cambridge University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195116380
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/21/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Piero Weiss is Chair of the Musicology Department at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. The Medici Wedding Festivities of 1589 (de' Rossi)
2. Pietro Bardi on the Birth of Opera
3. L'Euridice, the Second Opera (Buonarroti, Rinuccini, Peri, Caccini)
4. Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di anima, et di corpo (Guidotti, Cavalieri)
5. Monteverdi Criticizes a Libretto
6. Sant'Alessio at the Barberini Palace, Rome (Rospigliosi, Bouchard)
7. Opera Comes to Venice and Goes Public (Ivanovich)
8. Lully is Granted a Monopoly on Opera in French (Colbert, Lully)
9. The Grand Siècle Absorbs the Tragédie en musique (Perrault, La Fontaine, Boileau)
10. Saint-Évremond's Views on Opera
11. The First English Operas (Dryden)
12. Handel's Rinaldo at the Haymarket Theatre (Hill, G. Rossi, Addison, Steele)
13. Pier Jacopo Martello on Opera (1715)
14. The Président de Bosses in Italy (1739)
15. Metastasio on Setting Dramatic Recitative to Music
16. From Rousseau's Confessions
17. The War of the Buffoons (d'Holbach)
Interlude: A Traveling Company (G. Gozzi)
18. Operatic Reform in Vienna: Gluck and Calzabigi
19. Gluck in Paris (Meister)
20. Mozart at Work on Die Entführung aus dem Serail
21. Grétry's Richard Coeur-de-Lion (Meister, Grétry)
22. The Making of Le nozze di Figaro (L. and W.A. Mozart, Da Ponte)
23. Kierkegaard's Don Giovanni
24. Fidelio in 1806 (Röckel)
25. Berlioz's Estimate of Spontini
26. E. T. A. Hoffman on "Music Drama That Springs from the Heart"
27. The First Performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Righetti-Giorgi)
28. Der Freischütz: A German Triumph (M. M. von Weber)
29. Parisian Grand Opera: Auber's La Muette de Portici as Seen by Wagner
Interlude: Madame Pasta (Hunt)
30. Verdi's Own Story of How Nabucco Was Composed
31. Verdi's Operatic Style Analyzed by a Contemporary (Basevi)
32. Wagner on the Evolution of his Style
33. Wagner's Theory of Drama
34. Divergent Reactions to Boris Godunov (Laroche, Stasov)
35. Tchaikovsky on Eugene Onegin
36. Nietzsche vs. Wagner
37. Verdi's Otello (Boito, Verdi, Morelli)
Interlude: Verdi and Wagner in Vienna (J. Sulzer)
38. Verismo (Verga)
39. Four Men at Work on La bohème (Illica, Puccini, Ricordi, Giacosa)
40. Pelléas et Mélisande (Mauclair, journalist, Debussy)
41. Strauss and Hofmannsthal Work on Der Rosenkavalier
42. Duke Bluebeard's Castle (Ballász)
43. Busoni and the Reinstatement of Disbelief
44. In Defense of Kát'a Kabanová (Stuart)
45. Alban Berg on Wozzeck
46. Brecht on "Epic Opera"
47. Shostakovich and the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Debacle (Shostakovich, Pravda)
Interlude: An Italian Claque (Montale)
48. Peter Grimes in Postwar London (Edm. Wilson)
49. Stravinsky, Auden, and The Rake's Progress
50. A First Reaction to Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites (Mila)
51. Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass (Page)
52. John Adams on Nixon in China
Index

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