19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
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.