The Opera Lover's Companion

by Charles Osborne
ISBN: 0300104405

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A Review of: The Opera LoverĘs Companion
by Olga Stein

The connection between opera and literature is made well apparent in this must-have book for music and opera lovers, as well any individual interested in mythology, the Bible, history and literature of antiquity and the middle-ages. Opera and literature draw inspiration from the same sources, and, importantly, although opera is theatre performed through song, it's always based on a story, with a traditional narrative structure and compelling characters, combined to concoct great drama. Invariably, at the story's core is undeniable passion and life-and-death struggle. (Roland Barthes would likely have argued that opera's narrative code is referential' or cultural by necessity-that aspects of the story must be instantly recognizeable, as in folktales, so that the audience can focus on the dramatic rather than narrative dimension of the play.)
The Opera Lover's Companion features 67 composers. Works by Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Straus predominate. Still, with descriptions of 175 of the most popular operas, which include career biographies of the composers, the historical context within which the operas were written, and information about the librettists, the music and the stagings of the operas, it's hard to imagine any other book on the subject more informative and helpful to the average enthusiast. If you've been curious about Beethoven's Fidelio, Bizet's Carmen, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Massenet's Don Quichotte, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Prokofiev's War and Peace, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, Rossini's William Tell, Camille Saint-Sans's Samson et Dalila, Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, Verdi's Aida, Otello, Don Carlos, and Falstaff, and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal-these to give you but a tiny taste of the range of composers and works discussed-then this book is one you'll cherish.

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