Sarah Caldwell: The First Woman of Opera
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Sarah Caldwell: The First Woman of Opera

by Daniel Kessler
     
 

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Sarah Caldwell: The First Woman of Opera is the first biography of this significant musician, conductor, and director and documents Ms. Caldwell's genius as an indomitable force for opera in America. Caldwell mounted many U.S. premieres and brought rare editions of standard works to her audiences. At the height of her career, she raised her baton over four of the top

Overview

Sarah Caldwell: The First Woman of Opera is the first biography of this significant musician, conductor, and director and documents Ms. Caldwell's genius as an indomitable force for opera in America. Caldwell mounted many U.S. premieres and brought rare editions of standard works to her audiences. At the height of her career, she raised her baton over four of the top five orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conducted orchestras in such cities as Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Antonio, Atlanta, Mexico City, and Puerto Rico. She conducted ensembles in Canada, Sweden, South Africa, and Russia; was a musical director for Wolf Trap; and was the first woman to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera. She founded the renowned Opera Company of Boston, as well as the outreach effort Opera New England and a nation-wide touring enterprise, the American National Opera Company. Caldwell's undeniable zeal was evident in whatever she undertook, and her accomplishments invite reflection, showing what an opera company could and should be in America. Daniel Kessler presents Ms. Caldwell's life in flashbacks and explores her 1978 landmark production of Gaetano Donizetti's Don Pasquale, which serves as a prime example of how she engaged with her creative Muse. He describes her personal and professional life, including her experience with the impresario Boris Goldovsky, her ability to create her own brand of 'stage wizardry,' and her moments of overreaching and hubris, such as her unorthodox fundraising methods and her experience with Imelda Marcos. Complete with several illustrations, a bibliography, an index, and the comprehensive annals of her three opera companies, Sarah Caldwell demonstrates what one person of genius, imagination, and passion can accomplish single-handedly.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Kessler, a contributor to Opera Quarterly and a lecturer on opera, provides an intriguing look at a recent larger-than-life persona, conductor/director/impresario Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006). One of the first women to head her own opera company and to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera, Caldwell garnered critical and public acclaim for her innovative productions. However, some viewed her as dictatorial and unwilling to delegate. She championed the careers of many American singers and tried to bring magic to the lyric theater while dealing with recalcitrant boards of trustees, intransigent government agencies, and hounding creditors. Kessler relies almost exclusively on secondary sources and supplies scant personal information (probably because of Caldwell's unwillingness to be interviewed). He concentrates on the years of her Opera Company of Boston, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, including side trips on national and regional tours and her superintending of a few opera recordings. Kessler repeats information and dwells a bit too much on Caldwell's hygiene and her mother's incontinence in her final years. Despite these minor defects, the book is enthralling and provides insights into a person about whom little is available; recommended for all collections.
—Barry Zaslow

Fanfare Magazine
There are many telling anecdotes in Kessler's fast-paced, honest, and very thorough chronicle of Sarah Caldwell's career. Sept/Oct 2009
Opera (British Magazine)
Kessler provides eyewitness testimony for each scene's mise-en-scene, backed up by production stills and the sole studio recording Caldwell made (for EMI). Kessler's dilligent research probably cannot be bettered. April 2009
Opera News
This new opus by Daniel Kessler, highlighting the ever-enigmatic Sarah Caldwell, starts off much more promising than Caldwell's self-penned memoirs....This book is more detailed, more deeply researched and promises to give a less subjective account of the elusive icon.
Chronicle of Higher Education
important and valuable historical survey.
Martin Bernheimer
Sarah Caldwell was a unique force in the world of opera — inspired, inspiring, bold, idealistic, unconventional and almost indomitable. Daniel Kessler's fascinating exploration of her life and work is sensitive, cool-headed, delicately balanced, elegantly written and splendidly researched.
(British Magazine) Opera
Kessler provides eyewitness testimony for each scene's mise-en-scene, backed up by production stills and the sole studio recording Caldwell made (for EMI). Kessler's dilligent research probably cannot be bettered. April 2009
March 2009 Opera News
This new opus by Daniel Kessler, highlighting the ever-enigmatic Sarah Caldwell, starts off much more promising than Caldwell's self-penned memoirs....This book is more detailed, more deeply researched and promises to give a less subjective account of the elusive icon.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
important and valuable historical survey.
From the Publisher
There are many telling anecdotes in Kessler's fast-paced, honest, and very thorough chronicle of Sarah Caldwell's career.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810863682
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
07/31/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
334
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Martin Bernheimer
Sarah Caldwell was a unique force in the world of opera — inspired, inspiring, bold, idealistic, unconventional and almost indomitable. Daniel Kessler's fascinating exploration of her life and work is sensitive, cool-headed, delicately balanced, elegantly written and splendidly researched.

Meet the Author

Daniel Kessler is a writer and lecturer on opera. He is a contributor to Opera Quarterly and has served as a lecturer for the San Francisco Opera.

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