A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne

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Father Owen Lee is internationally known for his intermission commentaries featured during the Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne gathers together for the first time Father Lee's best broadcast and cassette commentaries, public lectures, and articles on twenty-three works for the musical stage. The essays range from the pioneering Orpheus of Monteverdi to the forward-looking Ariadne of Richard Strauss.

Included are Father Lee's famous discussions of Mozart's Magic Flute and Beethoven's Fidelio, Verdi's La Traviata and Falstaff, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites. The concluding chapter, originally published as the lead article in The Opera Quarterly's special issue on the end of the twentieth century, is a thought-provoking forecast of opera's future. Recommendations for further reading, CD recordings, and videos are also included.

Opera Canada has applauded Father Lee's 'extraordinary ability to engage, challenge, and enlighten a vast and diverse audience' and called his learning-worn-lightly commentaries 'a unique mix of spiritual empathy, classical scholarship, and psychological insight.' Opera lovers, or anyone interested in psychology and mythology, humanities and comparative literature, or the art of the essay will welcome this book.

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Editorial Reviews

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A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne collects the best broadcast and cassette commentaries, public lectures, and articles of Father Owen Lee, internationally known for his intermission commentaries during the Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Recommendations for further reading, CD recordings, and videos are also included.
The Globe and Mail

'[Lee describes the music so vividly that you want to rush right over and hear it ... The best thing about this book is that it does what all good books about music should do - send the reader back to the music with fresh ears and an open mind.'

Opera Canada - Wayne Gooding

'The breadth and depth of [Lee's scholarship preclude [the chapters' being an easy or quick read. They are, however, uniformly entertaining and deeply rewarding.'

This erudite and engaging book about the first 400 years of opera should come with a warning: "May cost you time and money." Time -- to pause in your reading to play the music described -- and money if you can't whistle or don't have the music and find that you absolutely have to be able to hear the final passages of Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande....This survey has two unique characteristics. It is approached from the point of view of a deeply religious man and a classical scholar, who gives a perspective I have not encountered in any other book about opera. He has gained his expertise in opera through a lifelong love and study of it. His unique sensibility is most apparent in the depth of meaning he finds in so many of the operas, which have not often been analyzed in those terms....The best thing about this book is that it does what all good books about music should do -- send the reader back to the music with fresh ears and an open mind. -- Globe and Mail
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these eloquent essays, some written as commentaries for New York Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, Father Lee (First Intermissions) explores meaning in the words and music of 23 operatic masterpieces. He begins with Monteverdi's myth-based Orfeo and moves on to major works composed during the 400 years of opera's existence, concluding with Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, where he finds a message of renewal and rebirth for a world entering a new century. As a Catholic priest and a professor of classics, Lee is well versed in mythology, psychology, philosophy, history and literature. He combines spirituality, learning and a compassionate understanding of human nature to deepen our appreciation of, for example, the universal myths that underlie Mozart's The Magic Flute; the ideals of love and freedom at the heart of Beethoven's Fidelio; the archetypal symbols that permeate Verdi's Il Trovatore; the "exchanges of grace" that imbue the conversations of the nuns in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. The chapter on Tristan und Isolde, especially, is a tour de force--an elegant exploration of the levels of meaning through which Wagner expressed in music humankind's "yearning for the infinite." Lee believes that "[t]o anyone who loves opera, life isn't really thinkable without it." His passion for opera and his sensitivity to what the works say about the human spirit make his essays a great pleasure to read. Includes short annotated bibliography and a list, with commentary, of Lee's favorite recordings and videos of the operas. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802083876
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 254
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

M. Owen Lee, CSB, is a Catholic priest and Professor Emeritus of Classics at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. He is a commentator for the Texaco Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts and the author of a number of books on opera, including A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne (UTP 1998) and Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art (UTP 199).
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Table of Contents

1 The Birth of Opera from the Spirit of Orpheus 3
2 Du Musst dein Leben Andern: Orfeo ed Euridice 13
3 The Opera of All Operas: Don Giovanni 19
4 The Music of Intuitive Angels: The Magic Flute 27
5 Music to Set the Spirit Free: Fidelio 41
6 Show Business Sense: L'Elisir d'Amore 54
7 Oh, Sweet Music of Donizetti! Lucia di Lammermoor 60
8 Elemental, Furious, Wholly True: Il Trovatore 67
9 The Requisite Miracle: La Traviata 78
10 The Whole Checkered Play of Life: La Forza del Destino 84
11 Melt Egypt into Nile: Aida 90
12 A Figure as Old as Comedy: Falstaff 97
13 The Exasperated Eagle and the Stoic Saint: Les Troyens 101
14 The Sins of Wagner's Youth: Rienzi 111
15 Long Day's Journey into Night: Tristan und Isolde 118
16 The Making of a Musical Legend: Palestrina 139
17 The Moon Is Like the Moon: Salome 147
18 Genius and Morbidezza: Manon Lescaut 153
19 Mists, Sails, Sounds, and Impressions: Pelleas et Melisande 158
20 It Is Your Turn to Speak: Dialogues des Carmelites 170
21 An Opera Made of Songs: Porgy and Bess 182
22 The Music Wrote Itself: Oklahoma! 191
23 Hurry up Please its Time 197
Further Reading 217
Recordings and Videos 221
Index 231
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