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Suggestions for Further Reading

All but two of the essays in this collection were originally written for a magazine for operagoers that almost never makes use of footnotes. While writing them, I did not always keep precise records of the sources of my quotations, and in a few cases I've been unable to trace them. The notes that follow are intended to indicate a small fraction of the works I consulted, and to offer ideas for further reading.

In recent years, several interesting books have appeared that treat of opera (as I have tried to do) in aesthetic, literary, social, economic, or (in the largest sense) cultural terms. In this, they differ from most earlier books about opera. The latter were made up, on the one hand, of a vast and popular library of plot outlines, biographies of singers and composers, potted "histories of opera," gossip and anecdotage, and self-celebrating company histories; and, on the other hand, of a small number of works of serious music history and analysis that concentrated on opera.

The seminal work of the new sort, with which every subsequent author on opera must somehow come to terms, is Joseph Kerman's Opera as Drama (New York, 1956; rev. Berkeley, 1988). Kerman demonstrated that it was possible to write about the phenomenon of opera in a serious, scrupulous, and critical fashion, while remaining accessible to a wide, nonscholarly audience of readers interested in the form.

The "next generation" of such works—books from which I have learned a good deal—includes Peter Kivy's Osmin's Rage: Philosophical Reflections on Opera, Drama, and Text (Princeton, 1988); Herbert Lindenberger, Opera: The Extravagant Art (Ithaca, N.Y., 1984); Paul Robinson, Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss (New York, 1985); Gary Schmidgall, Literature as Opera (New York, 1977), followed by his somewhat more rambling Shakespeare and Opera (New York, 1990); and (with limitations) Patrick J. Smith, The Tenth Muse: A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto


(New York, 1970). I found Peter Conrad's Romantic Opera and Literary Form (Berkeley, 1977), and his A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera (New York, 1987) to be overwrought and overwritten, a melting of hundreds of ideas about opera into a magma of private sensibility; but both books bear witness to the emotional intensity of at least certain operas and certain opera fans.

Two recent collections of essays, Reading Opera (edited by Arthur Groos and Roger Parker, Princeton, 1988) and Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (edited by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker, Berkeley, 1989), both of which grew out of Cornell University conferences—Cornell has become something of a center of "new opera studies"—exemplify some of these serious, broadly based new approaches to writing about opera. The former strikes me as slightly perverse in attending to opera librettos as autonomous works (though to a lesser degree than does Patrick Smith's study), and then subjecting them to the heavy artillery of New Critical theory; the latter—readable, for the most part, only by sophisticated musicologists—frequently demonstrates (once again) how little musical analysis can demonstrate. Philippe Berthier and Kurt Ringger, eds., Littérature et opéra (Grenoble, 1987), another "conference proceedings" collection of mixed value, helps to bring these two disciplines together. I admire Lorenzo Bianconi, ed., La drammaturgia musicale (Bologna, 1986) for the editor's own valuable introduction and detailed bibliography. Bianconi and several of his contributors adapt something of my own attitude toward successful opera as the result of a combination of music, libretto, and specific theatrical realization, and retain a full sense of its theatrical force and potential. The book takes its theme and definition from Carl Dahlhaus's essay, "Drammaturgia dell'opera italiana," in Bianconi and Pestelli, ed., Storia dell'opera italiana , vol. 2 (Turin, 1987).

Among many shorter books and essays, I was impressed by Guy Verriest, "Esthétique et défense de l'art lyrique," La Revue musicale (Paris, 1977). It is one of very few works I have read—Peter Kivy's is another; Lorenzo Bianconi's introduction to La drammaturgia musicale is a third—that tries to define an "aesthetics of opera," as I have also done. Another is Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Tétralogies: Wagner, Boulez, Chéreau (Paris, 1983). In this book, Nattiez uses the 1976 centennial Ring at Bayreuth to demonstrate some provocative and original ideas about the many possible relationships among the creative process, the text, and the aesthetic reception of an opera.

William L. Crosten, French Grand Opera: An Art and a Business (New York, 1948); Gloria Flaherty, Opera in the Development of German Critical Thought (Princeton, 1978); Philippe-Joseph Salazar, Idéologies de l'opéra (Paris, 1980); John Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge, 1984); and Jane Fulcher, The Nation's Image: French Grand Opera as Politics and Politicized Art (Cambridge, 1987) are specialized studies that attempt to position the phenomenon of opera within nonmusical cultural contexts. Theodor


Adorno, so wise in other domains, is disappointingly superficial on "the sociology of opera" ("Opera," in The Sociology of Music [New York, 1976;]; originally Einleitunq in die Muziksoziologie [Frankfurt, 1962]; also "Bürgerliche Oper," in Klang-figuren [Frankfurt, 1962]). This strikes me as little more than an illogical and ill-informed "bash-the-bourgeois" tract. To Adorno, the very survival of opera is proof that Western culture is sick. Unfortunately, Rosanne Martorella, Sociology of Opera (New York, 1982), does not begin to do justice to this tantalizing subject either.

An edited transcript of a conference on the future of opera held at Venice in 1985 was published in Daedalus (Fall 1986). The distinguished participants rehashed all the usual laments about art versus box office, out-of-touch composers, ill-trained singers and audiences, inadequate subsidies, superstar egos, the impact of television, and the like. Although ultimate questions were quietly raised—is opera heading for extinction? are the grand old houses dying?—most of the conferenciers were professionally committed to the status quo, which may have disabled them from looking into the future with any special clairvoyance.

Most of my facts and figures regarding opera productions, companies, houses, and the like are derived from a few periodicals that try to "cover" the global international scene. Opera magazine, published in London since 1950, remains the most thorough and dependable of these, and I recommend it to any serious fan or student of opera. Some of its reviews and essays are superficial and ill-written, which may be inevitable given its remarkable breadth of coverage. But its monthly world surveys and season calendars are as valuable as its annual indexes. Opera News (New York, since 1939), Opéra International (Paris, since 1966), and Opernwelt (Zurich, since 1960)—all of which I find more provincial or nationalistic than the London-based magazine—I tend to consult as supplements to Opera. Opera does tend to give special prominence to what is happening in Britain. But the other three are even more interested in their own language or country of publication than they are in the opera world in general. Opera News , published by the Metropolitan Opera Association, serves in part to publicize Metropolitan Opera productions. Even so, its current editor, Patrick J. Smith, maintains a laudable independence.

L'Avant-Scène Opéra (Paris) is a richly illustrated bimonthly publication, each number of which is devoted to a single opera. Each forms a small monograph, including a full libretto in French and (for non-French operas) the original language; an accompanying scene-by-scene musical commentary; a series of essays on the opera (its composer and composition, sources, cultural context, important productions and interpreters, etc.); and—a feature I have found especially valuable—a record of important productions throughout the world since the opera's première, listing conductors, producers, and casts, as well as a critical "discography" and a bibliography of earlier publications about the composer and opera. Photographs from past productions are liberally reproduced. Between 1975 and


1991, 125 operas were treated in separate issues. Along with a complete set of back issues of Opera magazine, a complete set of L'Avant-Scène Opéra seems to me a good start for a working library on opera in our time.

Near-equivalents to L'Avant-Scène Opéra in English are the opera guidebooks published under the aegis of the English National Opera/Royal Opera (ed. Nicholas John) by John Calder in London and Riverrun Press in New York (forty-one had appeared as of 1991), and the Cambridge University Press opera handbooks. of which there are now about twenty-five. The slender ENO/Royal Opera grades typically include one or two complete librettos (in English and the original language), about thirty production photographs, and three or four short accompanying essays per opera. Each volume in the more substantial Cambridge series is edited by all expert on the composer its question, and offers several original critical essays (on sources, genesis and composition, stage and critical history, musical structure and analysis, and related issues), some of considerable importance.

Other periodicals dealing with opera (Opera Journal, The Opera Quarterly , and Cambridge Opera Quarterly ) fall more into the typical scholarly/background essay pattern of academically subsidized journals, although they frequently publish more popular articles dealing with artists and issues of current concern. At the opposite end of the scale is the erratically published Opera Fanatic , a one-man show by Stefan Zucker in New York, which has to be seen to be believed.

Any book on the opera world today, including this one, runs the risk of becoming outdated by tomorrow. One possible exception—a book that deals intelligently, if lightly, with almost every aspect of the creation and production of big-time opera (primarily by means of interviews with many of those actively revolved, especially in Britain), and may serve as a valuable basic resource for several years—is Meirion and Susie Harries, Opera Today (London, 1986), well-illustrated with photographs by Zoë Dominic and Catherine Ashmore. I have also found useful information in the background or interpretive essays published in individual opera company programs or members' magazines. Covent Garden's About the House , a member's magazine, frequently includes articles of substance. Like most critics, I inevitably learn useful things from the reviews of my colleagues. I try to read on at least an occasional basis the opera reviews published in several newspapers and magazines from the United States and Europe. I wish that a few other music critics (such as Martin Bernheimer of the Los Angeles Times ) could be persuaded to follow Andrew Porter's lead, and collect their reviews in book form. Musical America 's annual International Directory of the Performing Arts , which serves primarily as a clearinghouse for classical music performers and those who represent or engage them, offers compendious and generally accurate listings of seasons, house statistics, and the like for opera companies and festivals in the United States and abroad.

An indispensable bibliographic source—in fact, the first place I tend to look when researching almost anything musical—is the New Grove Dictionary of Music


and Musicians (London, 1980). Musicologists and music critics inevitably take issue with certain judgments and emphases of the New Grove , which was written by all international team of experts under the general editorship of Stanley Sadie. But there is still nothing even remotely like it in print in any language. Opera fans may wish to consult or buy, ill place of the full $2000, twenty-volume set, individual volumes in the inexpensive series of New Grove paperbacks, which are composed of the frequently long and generally well-written articles originally included in the New Grove on such topics as Wagner, Mozart, or "Masters of Italian Opera" (a single volume containing the entries on Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, and Puccini), "Modern Masters," the Second Vienna School, etc. Each of these essays, in the New Grove and in the paperback series, is followed by a complete catalogue of compositions and a detailed bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Other basic reference tools I make use of include Alfred Loewenberg, Annals of Opera 1597–1940 (Cambridge, 1943; 3rd ed., revised by Howard Rosenthal, London, 1982, with supplement for 1940–1980); and Riccardo Mezzanotte, ed., The Simon and Schuster Book of the Opera (New York, 1979; originally published in Milan as Opera: Repertorio della lirica dal 1597 , 1978). There exist also a number of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks of opera, which I've never had occasion to use. Of the many one-volume histories of opera, the most comprehensive and useful in English seems to be Donald Jay Grout, A Short History of Opera (New York, 1947; 3rd ed., 1988). Ulrich Weisstein, ed., The Essence of Opera (New York, 1964), is a collection of more than fifty short statements about opera, from the Florentine camerata to W. H. Auden.

Of the critics of opera I discuss at some length in the Introduction, one can read further in Benedetto Marcello's parody, "Il teatro alla modo" (Venice, 1735), published in a lively English translation by Reinhard G. Pauly in The Musical Quarterly (July 1948 and January 1949). For further reading of Shaw, see George Bernard Shaw, Shaw's Music , ed. Dan Laurence (3 vols., London, 1981). Although the 2,500-plus pages of this collection include much that is magnificent—anyone who loves good music and good writing (and especially good writing about music) ought to read Shaw—many of the reviews are devoted to Shaw's unhappy encounters with second-rate British and French composers of the late nineteenth century, or represent one of the greatest cranks of all time at his crankiest. Good one-volume paperback "samplers" of Shaw's music criticism have been edited by Eric Bentley (Shaw on Music [Garden City, N.Y., 1955]) and by Louis Crompton (Bernard Shaw: The Great Composers: Reviews and Bombardments [Berkeley, 1978]).

Eric Bentley's critique of the 1962 Metropolitan Opera season can be found in What Is Theatre? Incorporating "The Dramatic Event" and Other Reviews, 1944–1967 (New York, 1968). His defense of melodrama is included in The Life of the Drama (New York, 1964).

Andrew Porter has collected his reviews in A Musical Season [covering 1972–1973] (New York, 1974); Music of Three Seasons, 1974–1977 (New York, 1978);


Music of Three More Seasons, 1977–1980 (New York, 1981); Musical Events: A Chronicle, 1980–1983 (New York, 1987); and Musical Events: A Chronicle, 1983–1986 (New York, 1989). Mr. Porter's reviews of operas published after 1986 can be found in The New Yorker .

In addition to Opera as Drama , the writings on opera by Joseph Kerman—in particular, his reviews of opera seasons in San Francisco and New York—are listed (along with his other writing on music up to the time) in a special issue of 19th-Century Music dedicated to Kerman (Spring 1984). The specific reviews I cite were published in Opera News, Hudson Review , and the San Francisco Chronicle . Since this bibliography appeared, Kerman has written important essays in Critical Inquiry ("How We Got into Analysis, and How to Get Out" [Fall 1980,], and "A Few Canonic Variations" [September 1983]), and in The New York Review of Books . His comments on the discomfort of musical analysts in dealing with opera comes from his review of Andrew Porter's essay on Verdi in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians in 19th-Century Music (1982).

Although I have found no adequate book on the subject of opera production, which has become so important in recent years, readers interested in this subject may wish to consult—in addition to the polemics by A. M. Nagler, Henry Pleasants, and Guy Verriest cited in the text—Oswald Georg Bauer, Richard Wagner, The Stage Designs and Productions from the Premières to the Present (New York, 1983); Rudolf Hartmann, Richard Strauss: The Staging of His Operas and Ballets (New York, 1981), and Opera (New York, 1977)—all originally published in German. Readers can also consult monographs on, memoirs by, or interviews with individual producers of note from the last fifty years, most of them published only in the producer's original language: Joachim Herz, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Gunther Rennert, Walter Felsenstein, Wieland Wagner, Götz Friedrich, Joseph Svoboda, Herbert von Karajan et al. A few surveys have been published in France and Germany (e.g., Kurt Honolka, Die Oper ist tot, Die Oper lebt: Kritische Bilanz des deutschen Musiktheaters [Stuttgart, 1986]) on postwar opera productions in those countries, in particular those at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival.

One can learn a great deal about public reaction to innovative opera production by reading the letters to the editor in Opera magazine and the Musical Times (both published in London) since about 1970, and in the German periodical press generally. The 1989 Bayreuth Festival souvenir book bravely included a rich sampling of international press responses, both hostile and favorable, to the new Kupfer/Schavernoch Ring production, which had opened the year before.

Although I have sonic doubt as to the usefulness of esoteric musical analysis (which is infrequently applied to opera scores, in any case), attentive and scrupulous musicologists can still suggest new and important meanings in operas to the musically literate reader and can call attention to new dimensions of creative ingenuity. Julian Budden, The Operas of Verdi (3 vols., New York, 1973/1978–


1981), and George Perle, The Operas of Alban Berg (2 vols., Berkeley, 1980–1985), are good examples of this kind of analysis, as are a few of the contributions to Groos and Parker's Analyzing Opera . The same is true of the essays that Anthony Newcomb has written on Wagner, which I presume will one day become a book: one of these can be found in the Groos and Parker collection; others are "The Birth of Music Out of the Spirit of Drama: An Essay in Wagnerian Formal Analysis," 19th-Century Music (1981); and "Those Images That Yet Fresh Images Beget," The Journal of Musicology (1983). The estimable and well-edited quarterly 19th-Century Music (Berkeley, 1977+) offered in its earlier years a number of astute analyses (and other scholarly commentary) on opera scores and texts.

For reasons of space and economy, detailed and critical bibliographic notes on the individual essays in this collection have had to be omitted. Readers interested in consulting these notes are welcome to write to the author for information.


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