Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries

Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries

by Peter Conrad
     
 

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An exploration of the lives and works of Verdi and Wagner as well as their respective legacies to the present day, written by a noted cultural critic.

This is the first book to compare these two composers and cultural heroes, both of whom were born in 1813 and achieved huge national and inter- national renown in their lifetimes. Yet not only did they never meet

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Overview

An exploration of the lives and works of Verdi and Wagner as well as their respective legacies to the present day, written by a noted cultural critic.

This is the first book to compare these two composers and cultural heroes, both of whom were born in 1813 and achieved huge national and inter- national renown in their lifetimes. Yet not only did they never meet, but the differences between them—in music, culture, environment, significance, and legacy—were profound.

Peter Conrad begins his tale in a public park in Venice, home to a pair of statues of the composers that are positioned so as to appear to shun each other. This provides a fitting starting point for his argument that they represent two opposite yet equally integral and compelling dimensions of European culture: north versus south, cerebral versus sensual, proud solitude versus human connection, epic mythmaking versus humane magnanimity.

The book is a richly argued tour de force that engages passionately and profoundly with music, biography, history, politics, philosophy, psychology, and culture in the broadest sense. As Conrad concludes, “At one time or another, if not simultaneously, we still need the two contradictory, complementary kinds of music that Verdi and Wagner left us.”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
04/15/2014
Scholar and critic Conrad (Christ Church, Oxford; A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera) here assays an ambitious comparison between Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) and Richard Wagner (1813–83), two musical titans of the 19th century—and the 20th, their presence sustained in myriad ways ranging from the Bayreuth Festival to Hollywood—who never met. The book is epic in scope, the titular conjunction indicative of its refusal to exclude one composer in favor of the other, even if Conrad's attention to his subjects does not seem precisely egalitarian: to Verdi he is sympathetic, with Wagner, he's fascinated. The organization is primarily thematic, secondarily chronological, which makes for some odd juxtapositions, as everything from the composers' grasping after national characters for their respectively disjointed countries to the emotional freight of their creative efforts to their family pets is considered. The result sometimes leaves the reader wondering whether advanced reading in history, cultural anthropology, and perhaps even economics is warranted. In the end, it's hard to know who is best served by this work, as in some ways the author seems to be writing for himself. VERDICT An intriguing, if frustrating, study in contrasts. For opera buffs, cultural critics, and fans.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma, WA
Cool Hunting

Well-researched, immensely absorbing...adds captivating context.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780500771440
Publisher:
Thames & Hudson
Publication date:
06/14/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
File size:
24 MB
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Meet the Author

Peter Conrad is the author of over twenty books, including Creation and Verdi and/or Wagner.

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