Opera (Rough Guides)

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This guide to opera spans nearly four centuries, from Monteverdi to the avant-garde. The chapters are chronologically ordered, giving an overview of the period and introducing the main figures. It follows with accounts of the key composers and their operas, discussing the social and musical context in which they worked. The book includes reviews of the best CDs, a who's who of the best singers on record, and biographies. It also contains a directory of opera houses throughout the world, with full booking details and tips on what they do best.

Product Details

  • Series: Rough Guides
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Rough Guides; 1 ed edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1858281385
  • ISBN-13: 978-1858281384
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.2 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Customer Reviews

Excellent resource.

4 people found this helpful.
 on August 13, 2006
By A. Schockett
Enjoy the chronology that puts the operas into perspective. Of course, I feel the print is a bit small so I would have enjoyed it in two volumes with larger type. Otherwise, I highly recommend it!!!

condition was better than stated!

 on October 6, 2013
By Rhonda Price
My book came quickly and I really appreciate the honesty of your description. I like the fact that you acknowledged every bend or scuff, even if it was minute. Thank you for your honesty and integrity. I would definitely do business with you again!

birth of opera

 on October 6, 2010
By naijaprincess
I had to get this book for my music class, and the book came extremely quickly, and was in EXCELLENT condition, and super cheap! Book was retailing for about 50.00$. Thanks much!

Quirky and fun

14 people found this helpful.
 on June 7, 2000
By John Cragg
This is a very useful guide, improved in the second edition over the first. It gives informed and opinionated summaries of the history of opera and its major composers and works. It also has a useful glossary of terms, and potted summaries of major 20th century singers and conductors. Not complete, of course, (eg. Frederica von Stade mysteriously is not included among the singers, though her contributions to varioius recordings are always lauded.) It contains a remarkably extensive survey of 2oth century opera (one is up to the Russian late 19th c. composers by the mid point of the book). The groupings are sometimes strange — bel canto is tacked onto romantic operas –but it gives one of the best short critical and informed discussions of how opera has evolved with which I am familiar. The evaluations both of composers and of the selected operas are necessarily short, but still informative though I am not sure that the plot summaries really add very much. These bits are a great deal better than the typical discussion one finds in the booklets accompanying recordings or the contents of the program notes of most live performances. The recording reviews do give an indication of why the author made the first picks he did and some indication of what other recordings are available. On individual recordings, about as informative as (say) the Penguin guide. There is a strong liking for old recordings and the singers one suspects of Boyden’s youth, and of recent operas. Overall, it is a great deal of fun. One doesn’t have to agree with it to learn from it and enjoy it.

A handy little guide

2 people found this helpful.
 on July 8, 2007
By Gregory E. Foster
I shall review this 3rd edition, but as I write this, the 4th edition is getting ready for release in a week or so. Just be aware of that, and you might want to go for that revised edition.

Caffeinated opera primer!

 on July 23, 2012
By snowcrocus
I am something between an opera novice and an opera fan. Just for some context, I’ve seen five or six opera performances, own about twenty five opera recordings, and have half a dozen libretti and opera reference books. As a “deep learner,” I’m attracted to the more encyclopedic opera books, with their pleasing heft and tasteful cover design, not to mention exhaustive content (Viking/Penguin/Gramophone, you know the big players). With these super-references, I determine to read the entire plot synopsis of Rinaldo AND every one of the umpteen recording reviews, but somehow I find myself watching 30 Rock’s Leap Year episode again, Rinaldo abandoned on the ottoman.

A Great One Volume Guide To Opera

3 people found this helpful.
 on August 20, 2006
By Timothy Kearney
Put a group of opera lovers together in the same room, and if they survive, and the key word is “if,” you’ll have quite a group. You’ll find some who believe that opera is superior to all other art forms and since they love opera, they’re superior too. You’ll have your Wagnerians and you may not trust them–fearing they’ll begin quoting Nietzsche and hoping the conversation doesn’t turn to politics. Then there are those who champion one singer and have unhealthy fixations about the performer. Usually Maria Callas fans fall in this category. There will be those who see opera as a religion and the minimalists who believe sets and stars take away from the beauty and purity of the music. As you’re in the midst of these eccentrics, you’re glad to find the only sane person in the crowd–the one who listens to the Met broadcasts on Saturday afternoons during the winter and the ball game on the afternoons the Met is on hiatus. Chances are this person is a Verdian. Giuseppe Verdi is the unifying composer and his fans are unifiers. Like Wagner, Verdi had genius but never lost the common touch. He could be as theatrical as Puccini who came a bit later, and when he wanted he could create a spectacle like the Russian epics or a pop like tune in the style of Gounod. Now as diverse as this crowd can be, there’s one thing each has in common. Each loves opera but also knows why. They know all the composers, plots, ideal casts, and just about anything else you’d need to know.

Opera Not Quite for Dummies…Good Guide Covers the Bases

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 10, 2005
By Ed Uyeshima
There is no way one can satisfy the whole of opera aficionados with a single volume, but as a primer, Matthew Boyden has done a solid job of compiling the most critical information about the history of opera. I have been familiar with the Rough Guide series for years as I have purchased their country guides but never tried any of their music guides. What I discovered is the same easy-to-read layout and slick, often informative writing as their travel series. Chronologically ordered, the hefty but digestible volume book is divided into eight chapters covering 132 composers, a few quite obscure at least to me. Each chapter introduces a musical style, and each composer has been slotted into his artistic and historical milieu. Each composer’s major works are described in sometimes painstaking detail, including dates of composition and premiere, the name of the librettist and a plot synopsis. The inevitable drawback is that some important works have been omitted rather arbitrarily, a fact that comes to light in the sections on Handel and Vivaldi. At the same time, the section on operas since WWII is surprisingly robust and quite informed.

Far from "Rough"

One person found this helpful.
 on May 2, 2007
By V. N. Dvornychenko
Influenced by the self-deprecating style now in vogue (“The Idiot’s Book of …”), this book carries the title “The Rough Guide to Opera.” It is neither “rough” nor for “idiots.” Actually, this is one of the finer books on opera I have encountered.

A Perfect Guidebook

4 people found this helpful.
 on March 7, 2005
By R. H. Troubridge
Matthew Boyden has done a wonderful job of providing reliable reviews of hundreds of recordings. I have not found one review that seems unreasonable. He is irreverent while conveying his appreciation, as in his reviews of Corelli’s performances. The operas he selects include all the standards, and he is heavy on 20th century opera (that is, post Puccini, Strauss and Lehar, which I personally avoid but am glad to learn about).

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