From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging

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Without scenery, costumes, and stage action, an opera would be little more than a concert. But in the audience, we know little (and think less) about the enormous efforts of those involved in bringing an opera to life—by the stagehands who shift scenery, the scenic artists who create beautiful backdrops, the electricians who focus the spotlights, and the stage manager who calls them and the singers to their places during the performance. The first comprehensive history of the behind-the-scenes world of opera production and staging, From the Score to the Stage follows the evolution of visual style and set design in continental Europe from its birth in the seventeenth century up to today.

In clear, witty prose, Evan Baker covers all the major players and pieces involved in getting an opera onto the stage, from the stage director who creates the artistic concept for the production and guides the singers’ interpretation of their roles to the blocking of singers and placement of scenery. He concentrates on the people—composers, librettists, designers, and technicians—as well as the theaters and events that generated developments in opera production. Additional topics include the many difficulties in performing an opera, the functions of impresarios, and the business of music publishing. Delving into the absorbing and often neglected history of stage directing, theater architecture and technology, and scenic and lighting design, Baker nimbly links these technical aspects of opera to actual performances and performers, and the social context in which they appeared. Out of these details arise illuminating discussions of individual productions that cast new light on the operas of Wagner, Verdi, and others.

Packed with nearly two hundred color illustrations, From the Score to the Stage is a revealing, always entertaining look at what happens before the curtain goes up on opening night at the opera house.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226035085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226035086
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 1.5 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 pounds

Customer Reviews

Wonderful, readable book

5 people found this helpful.
 on December 12, 2014
By T. Benedict
Serious scholarship in a readable format – quite entertaining. Numerous illustrations, high-quality printing. Shows how productions went together, schematics of 18th and19th c mechanical contraptions, men underneath pulling set pieces to create waves, how flats were arranged to create the illusion of depth, who did what and how they did it, etc. Did you know that to make it look like Lohengrin had arrived from a long distance, they created a miniature Swan Boat piloted by a child in a Lohengrin costume? It traveled across the back of the stage, disappear into the wings, and then reappeared downstage as the full sized boat and tenor!

Something for every buff

 on July 21, 2017
By LauriDG
This is one of the most groundbreaking works for the opera world in some time. Baker has created a hefty but surprisingly readable volume that is a must for anyone genuinely interested in opera and how it’s made. It includes loads of illustrations, including a lot that have never been available before, except to scholarly insiders (and truthfully, to only a handful of them). It’s published like a coffee table book, but it’s so much better. It should live on the shelf of everyone in opera.

Fabulous Book

2 people found this helpful.
 on December 24, 2014
By Britt Le Bonzo
This book is truly outstanding. It’s a gorgeous, expensively bound book printed on acid free paper. It’s loaded with photo’s and tells the history, from the earliest years to the present, of how opera is staged. Some of the scenery (Callas, La Scala “Traviata”) is spectacular and reading this book will give you all the information you will ever need on how operas are produced. This book is excellent for both scholars and intellectually curious opera lovers. The book is a bargain at Amazon’s price and worth every cent. This is one of the best opera books I’ve bought in years.

Opera backstage history comes alive.

 on June 3, 2016
An amazing wealth of operatic history, information and illustrations. A first class book.

Beautiful book

One person found this helpful.
 on March 5, 2014
By Dr New York
I gave this book as a gift last month and the opera lover to whom I gave it was very pleased.


9 people found this helpful.
 on April 15, 2014
By Dr. Wilson Triviño
From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging by Evan Baker is one of the fascinating books I have ever read on the subject of Opera. It is not your typical summation and history of performances but goes deeper into the evolution of set design, changes in technology, and the environmental world forces changes on the stage.

Interesting and Very Attractive Book

7 people found this helpful.
 on March 22, 2014
By R. Albin
This interesting book is a beautifully produced overview of changes in opera production-performance since the inception of the genre. This is not the usual history of opera focusing on composers. Baker is interested in how opera was presented and how this evolved over the past 4 centuries. With a few notable exceptions, the notable figures described are architects, stage designers, artists, directors, impressarios, and even publishers. The book is arranged chronologically. The most interesting parts are the chapters dealing with the last 17th century through the early 20th century. For earlier decades, there are clearly significant limitations in the available evidence. For much of the 20th century, a good deal of what Baker describes is probably going to be known to opera fans.

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