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The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera Hardcover – Nov 1 1994


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First Sentence
FEW genres in the history of music have their origins fixed with such apparent precision as opera: we know when and where the first through-composed music-dramas appeared on the stage-in Florence in the mid-1590s-and the precise political, social, and cultural contexts that gave them birth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A good general history of opera Sept. 29 2005
By Lisa Stidham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This paperback edition of the Oxford Illustrated History of Opera is the same as the hardback edition. It's a very good general history of opera with great pictures. The authors are all experts on the eras they cover. I'm using it for my opera history class, adding readings from other sources that discuss the music in more detail because this one has no musical examples. My only complaint is that it took forever to get!
21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
A nicely illustrated doorstop July 15 2005
By L. E. Cantrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The perpetrators of this volume make no bones about their belief that the most important word in its title is "illustrated".

I fully acknowledge that some of the illustrations are of considerable interest. There is, for example, a triple portrait of the librettist Metastasio, some doubtless once-famous soprano and the fabulous castrato, Farrinelli, that encapsulates an operatic age in a single image. (I was astonished to find that Farrinelli looked like a perfectly ordinary Joe who might be found lounging in the background of any of a hundred 18th Century paintings.) On the whole, however, I can't overcome the impression that the illustrations are more often picturesque than informative.

As something of a fan of opera, I actually sat down and read the text--not something often done, I imagine, nor a thing that I recommend to anyone who has claim to having a life. What a load of bumf--as we say here in the Frozen North. What a trove of uninteresting data on deservedly forgotten operas and theatrical practices. What dreary prose--a relentlessly bland and colorless splooge of critspeak.

There is distinctly an academic air to this book, whatever the actual professions of its assemblers may be, as amply demonstrated in its determination to expound on the painfully, deservedly, bleeding obscure while all but ignoring operas which actually get performed before paying audiences.

This is the sort of book that should be consulted in a public library, if for no other reason than its bulk and inconvenient heft demand that it be read on a library table. I can't imagine why anyone not in the throes of bibliomania would actually want to own such a book.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Way over-priced & over ornamented Oct. 7 2008
By Priscilla Stilwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ever get the idea that an author is so enthralled with their own vast knowledge, that they have the uncontrollable urge to share it with everyone, wether it's wanted or not? Unfortunately, this is just such a book. It's designed to give a good, thorough survey of opera history. However, I have several problems with it:

1. The author uses such flowery language that between being nauseated by it, I'm just plain distracted. It's like reading the King James' version of the Bible if you're not used to it. The prose is so sweet that you get caught up in the verbiage, and are unable to gain any useful knowledge from it.

2. The organization of the text is appalling. There's very little rhyme or reason, other than a rough chronological order. Huge pockets of information are either completely skipped, or given such pathetic review, that much information is missed.

There are so many other books out there that will teach better and in an easier way. For professors considering a text for an Opera Lit/History class, please do yourself and your class a favor and pass this one over!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Oxford Opera Text Sept. 30 2008
By David C. Mattera - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A very good overview of the development of opera from the beginning with the first opera, Euridice, in around 1600 to near present. I bought it for a class on Italian opera and it has been very informative.
A general overview of the genre Jan. 25 2014
By J. R. Spencer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I recently received a copy of this for my birthday. As an opera coach, author and musicologist I'm always looking through texts for interesting tidbits.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera is a good overview of the genre, but does not give a detailed account. I believe it is accessible though. This would be a good start for a junior high or high school music student who has to write an essay on opera. For the serious singers, musicologists and opera lovers, I would pass on this one.

The book has a feeling of rushing you through the history. I personally still prefer the old standby.. Milton Cross's Companion.

J. R. is the author of: An Historical Study of Kurt Weill's Der Silbersee: Ein Wintermarchen


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