Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

by Fred Plotkin, Placido Domingo


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Opera is the fastest growing of all the performing arts, attracting audiences of all ages who are enthralled by the gorgeous music, vivid drama, and magnificent production values. If you've decided that the time has finally come to learn about opera and discover for yourself what it is about opera that sends your normally reserved friends into states of ecstatic abandon, this is the book for you.

Opera 101 is recognized as the standard text in English for anyone who wants to become an opera lover—a clear, friendly, and truly complete handbook to learning how to listen to opera, whether on the radio, on recordings, or live at the opera house. Fred Plotkin, an internationally respected writer and teacher about opera who for many years was performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera, introduces the reader (whatever his or her level of musical knowledge) to all the elements that make up opera, including:

  • A brief, entertaining history of opera;
  • An explanation of key operatic concepts, from vocal types to musical conventions;
  • Hints on the best way to approach the first opera you attend and how to best understand what is happening both offstage and on;
  • Lists of recommended books and recordings, and the most complete traveler's guide to opera houses around the world.
The major part of Opera 101 is devoted to an almost minute-by-minute analysis of eleven key operas, ranging from Verdi's thunderous masterpiece Rigoletto and Puccini's electrifying Tosca through works by Mozart, Donizetti, Rossini, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, to the psychological complexities of Richard Strauss's Elektra. Once you have completed Opera 101, you will be prepared to see and hear any opera you encounter, thanks to this book's unprecedentedly detailed and enjoyable method of revealing the riches of opera.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786880256
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 12/01/1994
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 214,744
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Fred Plotkin is the author of the bestselling and acclaimed Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, which is the standard text in North American for discovering the glories of opera. He writes for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Opera News, Das Opernglas, and Gourmet. He lectures on music for leading institutions, including Columbia University, the Juilliard School, and the Smithsonian. Plotkin is a popular guest on the intermission features of the Chevron Texaco-Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, and many shows on National Public Radio. An expert on Italy, he has written five definitive books on Italian food and wine.

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Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, Plotkin manages to explain basic opera to the neophyte as well add to the knowledge of the more experienced opera lover. I particularly liked the part of the book that examined many of the most-popular and most-performed operas. It gave me a deeper appreciation of what I see and hear onstage. I learned so much from this book and can't wait to read Plotkin's "Classical Music 101."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Plotkin is certainly a lover of opera, and he manages to convey this reletively well. The short history he gives in the first chapter is a fun read, though it covers only the most superficial details. He covers some important points about voice parts and important singers in the second chapter. The third chapter, 'Going to the Opera' is a waste of time for anyone who has ever stepped foot outside their own bedroom. I hate to say it, but he must believe his reader a true cultural imbecile if they don't know how to behave during a night on the town. I should admit, though, that I didn't read the whole chapter. So, there could have been some deep insights plaed right at the end of the chapter that I never got to (but I doubt it). His recommended recordings are certainly some of the best available for each respective opera, and his choice of operas to cover is right on for the beginner to the genre. Unfortunately, he gives little more information about the opera in his far too short analyses than one could learn from the libretti and essays that accompany any opera recording. The one good thing about these sections are the couple of sentences he puts in each giving a few musical moments to which the reader should attend. All-in-all, he tries way to hard to dumb opera down and promote a purely emotional listening experience, colored minimally by any intellectual understanding of the art form, its theory, its history, etc. There is some merit to this endeavor, as the term 'opera aesthete' has become synoymous with 'snooty and aloof cultural bigot.' Bringing the issues of opera back to the level of the movement of emotions in word and music is a noble pursuit, but Plotkin seems to equate this experience with being a 'newcomer to opera' and not as an attempt to remind us all of why we listen to opera in the first place. Again he assumes the least from his readers. The book is acceptable for someone who is not only a new-comer to opera, but a new-comer to classical music, theater, art, and culture in general. My recommendation: purchase the recordings he recommends and listen to them on your own.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted more than just a book about operas. I wanted the inside scoop about what was going on during the period the opera was created, what the composer was thinking, and how that composer was regarded by others. Opera 101 is that and much more. More importantly, Mr. Plotkin instructs how to appreciate these works of art on a musical and emtional level. Fred has a writing style that flows very well and is enjoyable to read. The idea of chosing specific recordings and walking the reader through them is brilliant, not to mention, very effective. While I'm still a opera novice (for the time being), I have no doubt I'm going to be enjoying the opera for a very long time - Opera 101 has me hooked!