9781574670653 / 1574670654

The Operagoer's Guide: One Hundred Stories and Commentaries (Amadeus)


Publisher:Amadeus Press



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About the book:

To opera fans familiar with Fr. M. Owen Lee's voice through the weekly broadcasts from New York's Metropolitan Opera, it will come as no surprise that this is a delightful book whose only flaw is its brevity. A hundred operas are a mere drop in the ocean of the repertoire, so the inclusions naturally reflect Lee's own preferences (he is a staunch champion of Wagner), and readers will inevitably miss some of their special favorites. Also, despite Lee's mastery of the encapsulated synopsis, some may be too sketchy for those not already familiar with the opera. His commentaries are gems: knowledgeable, scholarly, analytical without pedantry, humorous without cynicism, but here, too, more space would have been helpful. For example, though he mentions the different versions of several Verdi operas, he ignores the two early versions of Fidelio and the second version of Idomeneo that Mozart made for the Vienna Opera. Some of his musical judgments are not only personal but somewhat high-handed, as are his choices of specific recordings for each opera. For example, though he was rightly overwhelmed by Jon Vickers's interpretation of Peter Grimes, he admits that Britten, who wrote the part for Peter Pears, "regretted" it. Nevertheless, it is Vickers's recording he recommends. Lee finds unexpected depths and subtleties in many librettos, but sometimes seems to misunderstand them: in Lohengrin, Elsa's brother Gottfried would have been restored by the Grail even if she had not questioned and lost her husband, and surely Lulu shoots Dr. Schön deliberately. Perhaps the most endearing element of the book is Lee's passionate love of opera as a fusion of two great art forms and an unparalleled emotional experience. --Edith Eisler

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