A Short History of Opera, Fourth Edition

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When first published in 1947, A Short History of Opera immediately achieved international status as a classic in the field. Now, more than five decades later, this thoroughly revised and expanded fourth edition informs and entertains opera lovers just as its predecessors have.

The fourth edition incorporates new scholarship that traces the most important developments in the evolution of musical drama. After surveying anticipations of the operatic form in the lyric theater of the Greeks, medieval dramatic music, and other forerunners, the book reveals the genre's beginnings in the seventeenth century and follows its progress to the present day.
A Short History of Opera examines not only the standard performance repertoire, but also works considered important for the genre's development. Its expanded scope investigates opera from Eastern European countries and Finland. The section on twentieth-century opera has been reorganized around national operatic traditions including a chapter devoted solely to opera in the United States, which incorporates material on the American musical and ties between classical opera and popular musical theater. A separate section on Chinese opera is also included.

With an extensive multilanguage bibliography, more than one hundred musical examples, and stage illustrations, this authoritative one-volume survey will be invaluable to students and serious opera buffs. New fans will also find it highly accessible and informative. Extremely thorough in its coverage, A Short History of Opera is now more than ever the book to turn to for anyone who wants to know about the history of this art form.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1042 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 4th edition (August 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231119585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231119580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds

Customer Reviews

Comprehensive history

6 people found this helpful.
 on March 16, 2013
By Lou Darras
I have been waiting for this book all my life. Donald J. Grout, the cornerstone of music education with his History of Western Music has come to me again via A Short History of Opera. I especially loved the citations and have been able to find many of the articles and books on which to build my education on opera. This book makes Oxford History of Opera look terribly bad by comparison. Everything is explained very clearly and when not, citation provided. The progression and development of opera as an art form evolved in its own time and this book clearly elucidates it’s milestones, highlighting the important players including noblemen, librettists and composers. Not to mention that it is easy and interesting to read.

New life for an old standard reference text

2 people found this helpful.
 on June 9, 2015
By Dr. John W. Rippon
This is an extraordinary volume expanding and updating what was the solid rock of reference for the story of the art form we label as “opera”. My first encounter with Grout’s “History of Opera” was when I enrolled in Philip Gossett ‘s course “History of Opera” at the University of Chicago in the 1960s. The book was concise to the point that every word was important to weigh and consider – no flowery, meandering verbiage as some other texts are wont to do. So crammed with information that I have kept that original Grout text as a reference all the years since. (Yes, I’ve written four texts myself – on a different subject). This new “Short History” is even more lucid. and the text to keep. Ms. Williams extends and amplifies the information and writes in a comprehensible manner. I read anew and reread sections that were very tersely put by Grout but expanded and illuminated by Williams and I find my understanding is now on more solid ground. I’ sure Prof. Grout would be highly pleased and approve of what Ms Williams has done. The new “Short History” has an enhanced and revitalized history now to add years more to it’s long life. Highly recommended!

Five Stars

 on December 23, 2014
By Alberto
An excellent book, a classic in its genre.

Five Stars

 on July 15, 2014
By D. Salemmo
Gave asa a gift.

History of Opera in GREAT shape and shipped in a timely way

One person found this helpful.
 on February 13, 2012
By Flibberty
Excellent review of the history of opera delivered to me in great shape and in good timing. Though this is a very large book, one gets a pretty thorough study of the subject.

Opera …

One person found this helpful.
 on October 2, 2011
By Reyes M. Berrios
The book A Short History of Opera is an excellent source for those who might be interested in learning about the beginnings and evolution of this music genre.

Improved edition.

60 people found this helpful.
 on January 24, 2000
By timothy fink
It seems that this was the standard textbook for most university opera history courses at one time (at least it was when I took the course in the early 80’s). However, it seems to have fallen out of favor because those of us who read the earlier editions and are now teaching opera history courses recall the writing to be confusing, if not outright dull. In my opinion this lastest edition, written with Hermione Weigel Williams, is an improvement, and I think the book deserves a second reading. After teaching our opera history course using another text, I returned to this one because I feel it provides a better narrative: there seems to be more of an effort to relate the various movements in opera to one another. This cause and effect relationship is helpful to the student in their attempt to retain the information, and as well as understand the significance of each operatic movement. Give it another chance!

Opera History 101

2 people found this helpful.
 on June 16, 2009
By Catherine K. Brown
Whether it’s pop, folk, rock, or opera, I like to know where the style of music I’m hearing or performing comes from, what influenced the composer, and how audiences would have perceived it. This book is a classic on the development of opera.

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