The Birth of an Opera by Michael Rose
Fifteen Masterpieces from Poppea to Wozzeck

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 1 Critic Review

"The Birth of an Opera" is an appealing invitation to lovers of opera to discover—or learn anew—how 15 imperishable works of genius came into being.
-WSJ online


The Birth of an Opera offers illuminating insight into how operas are written and the personalities, incidents, and musical circumstances that have shaped their composition.

Through a deft compilation of primary sources—letters, memoirs, and personal accounts from composers, librettists, and performers—Michael Rose re-creates for his readers the circumstances that gave rise to fifteen operatic milestones. From Monteverdi and Mozart to Puccini and Berg, each chapter focuses on a well-known opera and tells the story that lies behind its creation.

Rather than retreading familiar ground with pages of historical and musical analysis, Rose places each opera firmly in the context of the composer’s life and provides an engaging text in which the varied and colorful personalities involved are seen to discuss, comment, and contribute in one way or another to the progress of its composition. The reader will find Mozart with a new and flamboyant librettist tackling the risky enterprise of Le Nozze di Figaro; Wagner confessing his hidden love for the woman who inspires him as he creates the passionate drama of Tristan und Isolde; Verdi deep in Shakespearian discussion with Boito as they remodel the tragedy of Otello; and Debussy coming almost literally to blows with Maeterlinck over the soprano to take the leading role in Pelléas et Mélisande.

Throughout, Rose offers his readers the most direct possible link to events that have often become twisted or obscured by operatic myth, and in so doing he captures the bizarre interactions of chance, genius, practical necessity, and dogged determination that accompanied the making of some of opera’s most enduring masterpieces.


About Michael Rose

See more books from this Author
Michael Rose is a musician and writer living in London. He is the author of Berlioz Remembered and the coauthor of Words about Music with John Amis. He wrote the commentary for Erich Auerbach’s Images of Music, has been a contributor to numerous publications including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and was for sixteen years the joint author with the late Hanns Hammelmann of the BBC radio series The Birth of an Opera.
Published March 18, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 463 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Birth of an Opera
All: 1 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 0

WSJ online

Reviewed by John Check on Mar 29 2013

"The Birth of an Opera" is an appealing invitation to lovers of opera to discover—or learn anew—how 15 imperishable works of genius came into being.

Read Full Review of The Birth of an Opera: Fiftee... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Reader Rating for The Birth of an Opera

An aggregated and normalized score based on 6 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review