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Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries [Hardcover]

Peter Conrad
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £24.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

17 Oct 2011
Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the two greatest operatic composers of their time, had everything and nothing in common. Their achievements were comparable, but their personalities, their approaches to music and drama, and their complex legacies made them incompatible. Verdi thought of art as a comfort to mankind; it pleased Wagner to believe that the nervous intensity of his operas might drive listeners mad. Is it impossible as Peter Conrad asks in this book, the first to investigate their affinities and explain their mutual mistrust to love them both? These equally matched Titans offer us a choice between two kinds of art, two ways of life, two opposed philosophies of existence. During their lifetimes Verdi and Wagner helped to define the identity of their emerging nations; their music still dramatizes the light and dark sides of every human beings character and consciousness.

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Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries + Richard Wagner: The Sorcerer of Bayreuth
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd (17 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 050051593X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500515938
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`Conrad is often able to deploy his literary skills to telling effect. There are many striking insights and turns of phrase'
--The Literary Review

`Erudite and witty...he's first-rate on the Bayreuth phenomenon.' --The Observer

`Has done more than any actual production I've seen to make me excited about opera ... Conrad has provided me with a means of accessing opera specifically, as well as a way of thinking about music in general'
--Prospect

`A scintillating and absorbing read...elegantly calculated, richly allusive prose.' --Opera magazine

'The ideas and erudition are undeniably brilliant and melodious'
--The Sunday Telegraph

`Many fascinating insights pepper the book ... no one has commented so fully on contemporary productions of the operas of both Verdi and Wagner as Conrad' --The Times Literary Supplement

`Immensely erudite and very funny in parts. A must for lovers or haters of either composer' --The Guardian

`A characteristic, often brilliant helter-skelter ride through the life, times and works of the composers, their women and their trails of posthumous influence ... fascinating enough to be scoured cover-to-cover with pencil in hand' --Gramophone

`Conrad's knowledge is encyclopaedic, his anecdotes delicious ... Every page is a cabinet of curiosities ... a work of passion ... a long and luxurious journey across 19th-century musical Europe' --Spectator

`Highly allusive, formidably knowledgeable'
--New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Reference Book 19 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover
Not sure if the glowing critic comments were by anyone who has actually read the whole book. If you merely read 4 or 5 pages you would get an excellent impression. Unfortunately, reading the whole book in one go is a dyspeptic experience.

On the plus side you will not find so many references and quotes on these two in any other book. A wonderful source of reference but reads like a dictionary!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Verdi and/or Wagner 2 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent dual biography, comparing and contrasting. It is by its very nature a long book and takes some time to digest, but it is well written and always holds one's interest.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Verdi and /or Wagner 12 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well researched comparison of two musical giants . You may not agree with all the authors views but his reasoning is clearly defined and elegantly presented . This is a must read for all opera lovers
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Amazon.com: 1.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This by a literature professor? 13 Oct 2012
By W. Gillham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Conrad's thesis is that Verdi was a more likable personality than Wagner; therefore his music is better. He too closely blends what M. Owen Lee distinguishes in his book WAGNER: THE TERRIBLE MAN AND HIS TRUTHFUL MUSIC. Conrad draws out endless spurious contrasts like a student trying to fill up so many pages for a paper, when he lacks sufficient solid substance. If this diffuse, overlong tome has a central thesis, it is that healthy-minded, loving, progressive humanitarian Verdi produces good music; whereas perverse, egotistical Wagner pathologically drags us back into a decadent past of irrelevant and poisonous myth and despair. A pedal point of Conrad's line is that religion in general, not just Wagner's bizarre myths of gods and redeemers, is all archaic nonsense. He cites with approval Feuerbach's assertion that "Hebrew egotism" enshrined in the Bible claims Creation was [literally??] an instantaneous moment when nothing became something. He bizarrely thinks the beautiful and moving Good Friday Spell in PARSIFAL, where Gurnemanz points out the polar connection of Kundry's tears [suffering, death] and the creative renewal of life in the landscape in Spring [resurrection] is incompatible with Christianity. {Ps. 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork."} Verdi, he says, wisely dispenses with all cosmic nonsense. Music is the new substitute for religion. Conrad is clueless concerning metaphysics and living religion, like a tone-deaf man dismissing music, or a blind man dismissing visual art. If we can't depend upon an Oxford literature professor understanding how myth, metaphor and analogy mean and work--where are we in our culture?

Conrad does not seem to be tongue-in-cheek when he worries that listening to Wagner may cause us to practice incest [Siegmind/Sieglinde] and self-immolation [Brunhilde]. Concentrating on--and taking literally--the wilder passages of Wagner [RING and TRISTAN], he continually praises Verdi and denigrates Wagner. His one-sided diatribe would have been harder to carry off if he had compared, e.g., the relevance and deep insight into human experience of their respective comedies: Wagner's MEISTERSINGER and Verdi's FALSTAFF. Or the religious, spiritual insights of Wagner's PARSIFAL and Verdi's AIDA!
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A shameful waste of scholarship 28 Dec 2011
By Stanley Hauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a complete train-wreck of a book. No one can doubt Conrad's love and appreciation of Verdi and Wagner, but he does those gifts little service here. The method is ostensibly thematic. But the result is a free-form association, a welter of loosely connected observations that amount to little at all. After a few chapters Conrad's whimsy becomes irritating. He is simply all over the place, unable to stick to a topic for more than a few sentences. I am amazed that so distinguished a publisher as Thames and Hudson would allow this dreadful book to appear under their imprint.

In sum, the great book on Verdi and Wagner remains to be written. Maybe Conrad will try again and do better next time.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Disappointing 14 May 2012
By Steve Louck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Conrad spews a jumble of facts and information in more or less chronological order on the cultures that gave birth to the composers and their impact on them, the tensions between them artistically and personally as well as their admirers and their detractors, in almost free association. One snippet of data or thought leads to another with no direction or coherence. At best it's a book to browse for curious bits of information. It's definitely not a cover to cover read without a high tolerance for migraines.
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