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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)I think this book is an informative and well presented introduction to Opera. It does not fall into the usual model of this kind of book by simply providing a short introduction followed by the synopsis of many different Operas. Rather it gives a much fuller account of Opera by introducing famous singers, opera houses, festivals and providing biographical details of major opera composers. It does a good job of painting a time line of the development of Opera and putting each of the works it discusses in its historical context. All this is done with lavish full colour illustrations and photographs and space is even found for asides and anecdotes about particular operas.
My two biggest criticisms of the book are, firstly that it does not make any recording recommendations for particular Operas which is a shame. Secondly that it presents a rather eccentric selection of Operas to discus in detail and there are some truly puzzling omissions. Rameau (who's Operas are rarely performed in full) is given extensive coverage while often performed and popular works such as Giordano's 'La Wally', Charpentier's 'Louise', Saint-Saens 'Samson and Delilah' and any reference at all to Spanish Opera is entirely missing. Again in the 20th century section not a single one of Menotti's Operas is covered, despite their popularity and historical significance (his 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' was the first Opera written for television in the US and is still frequently performed and recorded). Obviously, in a book of this size and scope it is impossible to give comprehensive coverage of all Operas. However, the choice of works covered would have benefited from more careful selection.
Despite these criticisms, this is still an excellent introduction to Opera.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable for lovers of Opera,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)Classical Music (Eyewitness Companions)For Classical Music Lovers who want to know more about operas than just listening to
the music and knowing the story. This book contains so much more - the composers, history etc, it is a mine of valuable information and a 'must have volume'.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for both beginners and enthusiasts of opera,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)This is one of many titles in the Eyewitness Companions series, and just like its close relation `Eyewitness Companion, Classical Music', is a thoroughly readable book presented in terms which can be easily understood by the opera novice, but with ample depth of content to appeal to the seasoned opera goer.
Described as hardcover means it's somewhere between paperback and hardback (likewise all in the Eyewitness series), and the front cover boasts the endorsement of `recommended by Classic FM'. The pages are extensively illustrated with photos of performers on stage, pictures and background information on each of the composers, and a description and synopsis of each opera.
The book succeeds in dispelling the mystique and elitism which often frustratingly and unnecessarily surrounds opera, and the subject is explained in a manner which is both interesting and informative. No better illustration of this down-to-earth approach is in the books first chapter which describes opera as a form of entertainment which is `accompanied by an orchestra, with scenery, costumes, and light adding drama, and singers telling a story'. This simplicity and directness continues throughout the book.
The subjects are:
INTODUCING OPERA (35 pages), including a description of opera, how it is staged, the history of opera houses, the great idols and stars.
MONTEVERDI TO MOZART 1600 - 1800 (73 pages), covering Monteverdi, Cavalli,Lully, Charpentier, Purcell,Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Rameau, Handel, Cesare, Gluck, and Mozart.
ITALIAN OPERA 1800 - 1925 (79 pages), including all the famous Italians, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Mascagni, Verdi, Puccini and more.
GERMANIC OPERA 1800 - 1950 (57 pages), the big names in this section are Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, Strauss (Johann jnr), Lehar, Strauss (Richard), and Humperdink (the original Engelbert, not his namesake `Please Release Me'!)
FRENCH OPERA 1990 - 1900 (45 pages), familier names such as Cherubini, Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Gounod, Offenbach, Bizet, Massenet, Charpentier and Debussy.
RUSSIAN OPERA 1830 - 1960 (33 pages), Glinka, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
CZECH OPERA 1860 - 1940 (19 pages) with names such as Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu
MODERN OPERA 1900 - to date (63 pages), the final section covers the 20th Century artists such as Gershwin, Schoenberg, Bartok, Orff, Poulenc, Britten and Adams.
I found this an extremely interesting and readable book, and a perfect partner to the `Classical Music' guide in the same series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Opera Overview,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)This is one of the recommended books for our opera appreciation group and fulfills this role admirably. It is very readable, covers a wide range of works and is ideal for getting an overview of specific operas before each class.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gift,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)Got it myself as a present and love it! I have so far bought 3 copies of the book to give as presents to opera buffs!
4.0 out of 5 stars Good place to start,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)Great general introduction book to opera for those starting to learn this genre. Can always trust Eyewitness to produce an accessable readable publication. Prehaps a bit heavy to carry to every show - but you can read up on the plot beforehand. The experienced opera goer will probably be looking for something more in depth, than this overview book.
5.0 out of 5 stars OPERA book is amazing.,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)This book is invaluable when you are going to watch an opera that you haven't been to before, as it has all the information you would need to understand and enjoy. I cannot praise it enough.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!,
This review is from: Eyewitness Companions: Opera (Paperback)Good coverage of the operas and with splendid pictures. It will make just the right present for Christmas for our opera lover friend!
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Eyewitness Companions: Opera by Leslie Dunton-Downer (Paperback - 28 Sep 2006)