A History of Opera by Carolyn Abbate

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...they have stacked the deck so unfairly that after many entertaining and learned chapters, their polemic ends up as something you can safely ignore, less provocative than merely querulous.
-NY Times

Synopsis

A bold, engaging exploration of opera’s fundamental nature and enduring appeal, from the sixteenth century to the present.

A History of Opera, the first new, full-length, single-volume history of opera for more than a generation, provokes in-depth discussions of many works by the greatest opera composers, from Monteverdi, Handel, and Mozart to Verdi and Wagner, to Strauss, Puccini, Berg, and Britten. There are lively discussions of opera’s social, political, and literary backgrounds, its economic cicumstances, and the almost continual polemics that have accompanied its development through the centuries. Central to the book is an exploration of the tensions―between words and music, character and singer―that have always sustained and enlivened opera. In a polemical final chapter, Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker examine the problems that opera has faced in the last half century, when new works―once opera’s lifeblood―have shrunk to a tiny minority and have largely failed to find a permanent place in the repertoire.

Yet the book’s message is one of celebration. Even if the majority of opera’s most popular and enduring works were written in what is now a remote European past and in circumstances very different from our own, and even if the viability of contemporary opera is ever more in question, opera as an art form remains extraordinarily buoyant and challenging. It continues to transform people physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and to articulate human experience in ways no other art form can match.

24 pages of illustrations, including four-color
 

About Carolyn Abbate

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Carolyn Abbate, professor of music at Harvard University, is the author of Unsung Voices and In Search of Opera. She writes on film, philosophy, and opera and has also worked as a translator and dramaturge. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Roger Parker, professor of music at King’s College London, writes on opera and music in London. He is the author of Leonora’s Last Act and Remaking the Song and was a founding coeditor of the Cambridge Opera Journal. He lives in Hampshire.
 
Published November 26, 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company. 624 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A History of Opera
All: 2 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Zachary Woolfe on Dec 27 2012

...they have stacked the deck so unfairly that after many entertaining and learned chapters, their polemic ends up as something you can safely ignore, less provocative than merely querulous.

Read Full Review of A History of Opera | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Hensher on Dec 13 2012

Abbate and Parker have written an interesting and alert history of the art form, which follows the unusual path of paying little attention to the industry around it. There is little about the opera houses...and very little about individual singers.

Read Full Review of A History of Opera | See more reviews from Guardian

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