Thomas Kelly's FIRST NIGHTS AT THE OPERA is bound to be loved by opera aficionados as well as people just beginning to be fascinated with a musical form that is both intricate and beautiful. Kelly selects five operas: Handel's Gulio Cesare, Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Mayerbeer's LES HUGUENOTS, Wagner's DAS RHEINGOLD, and Verdi's OTELLO, and brings the readers to their premieres. Kelly gives us information about each composer, the story of the works themselves, a history of how each work was composed and the difficulties surrounding each production, the effect that each work had on the musical world of its day and how the work is still relevant today. We also get a good deal of information of the performance itself, those who sang the principal roles, the conductors, impresarios, and anyone else involved in the production. Much of Kelly's information is not unique to his book, though his presentation is original and his inclusion of interesting graphics and a number of relevant historical documents regarding each work make this work an invaluable resource. His writing style makes the subject approachable, something not all authors who attempt to write about opera can claim.
As I read the book, I began to long for December and the beginning of live opera broadcasts from the stage of the Met. The in depth analysis of each work presented in a user friendly format made reminded me of the intermission features which are presented during the radio broadcasts from New York's Metropolitan Opera House. These broadcasts introduced me to the world of opera and Kelly's book reminds me why I love this form of music so much.
If you love opera, you owe it to yourself to add this book to your collection. If someone you love enjoys opera, this book will be the perfect gift that will be enjoyed for years to come.