Opera Anecdotes (Oxford Paperbacks)

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From backstage squabbles and box-office chicanery to the gallantry and glory of creation, this book unveils a delightful panorama of opera lore, alternately hilarious, poignant, and wise. Ethan Mordden has mined the literature for "the best stories" and retells them in the fresh and witty style that prompted Publishers Weekly to hail him as "one of the most entertaining and provocative writers around."
Mordden has selected a vast collection of classic, arcane and unusual anecdotes, including Giuseppe Verdi's advice on how to run an opera house and how to write an aria, Enrico Caruso's adventures in the San Francisco earthquake, Arturo Toscanini's reunion dinner with his former lover Geraldine Farrar, and Beverly Sills' ad libbing from the Met balcony during a Lily Pons Lakmé. The volume contains sad stories, too, as when Hans von Bülow confronts his wife Cosima after she has left him for Wagner; and silly stories, as when Colonel Henry Mapleson attempts to put on Il Trovatore while missing one of the four principals, Azucena. We see history being made when Gluck's "psychological" orchestration so startles the Paris Opéra orchestra that the players trail off in astonishment; and we see history nearly unmade when Luciano Pavarotti's plane crashes en route to Milan.
"There is history here," Mordden notes, "for if many of the tales are silly, many others are telling. They bring us close to a moment in which art is invented, revised, elaborated. The characters of opera's adventures are so vital and stimulating that almost anything they do enlightens us."

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 8, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195056612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195056617
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Customer Reviews

More Than Just a Joke Book

14 people found this helpful.
 on September 1, 2007
By Bucherwurm
There are several books of opera anecdotes in print, but I am particularly partial to this one. There seems to be a basic repertoire of stories that make the rounds. Pompous composers and even more pompous singers fill the history books with their adventures and faux pas.

light, easy reading

12 people found this helpful.
 on March 31, 2004
By Goggle-Eyed Slewfoot
Don’t pick up this book at bedtime if you have to get up early next morning. You might not be able to put it down until you finish it.

Love the gossip

 on January 22, 2016
By jeansattic
Not a book to read at one sitting, because it’s too full of unrelated anecdotes. That said, it’s a delightful book to read, a bit at a time. It’s opera gossip central.

What time does the next swan leave?

 on June 25, 2015
By Kelly Martino
So well organized That made it even more fun to read. Folks if you love opera you will love this peek back stage!

An interesting easy read.

 on January 6, 2014
By Bernard Zimmerman
Although the book is old, it is quite an interesting look at the forgotten opera stars of old, especially dame Nellie melba. What a Bitch!

Five Stars

 on January 12, 2015
By Robert E. Holladay

Just me…..

One person found this helpful.
 on October 22, 2010
By Therese M. Bednarowski
I absolutely enjoyed this book. Very informative. It arrived in excellent condition which was indicated prior to purchase.. Will read it again I am sure.

�What time�s the next swan?�

11 people found this helpful.
 on July 29, 2001
By ealovitt
This book consists of operatic biographies-by-anecdote. If anyone remotely connected to opera in the past three hundred years said or did anything clever, then he or she is lovingly quoted in “Opera Anecdotes.”

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