The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (Oxford Illustrated Histories)

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In its lavish amalgam of theatrical and musical resources, its flamboyant charm, its extravagant appeal to the heart and the mind, and its seemingly inexhaustible power to move and astonish us, opera is clearly the most spectacular of all the arts. Now, in this beautifully illustrated, oversized volume–boasting over 250 pictures, 30 in full color–eleven leading authorities chronicle the full sweep of this stunning musical genre, ranging from the earliest known works to such recent experimental efforts as Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach.
The contributors–including such noted opera critics as William Ashbrook, Paul Griffiths, and Barry Millington–provide superb coverage of all the major periods. We read of the remarkable success of opera in republican Venice, where by 1650 some fifty operas had been performed, including masterworks by Monteverdi, the giant of the era. We learn of opera seria–which within the world of eighteenth-century Italian opera was the summit of prestige–and opera buffa, most noted today for three major works by Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutti. We explore the peak of opera's popularity in nineteenth-century France, Italy, and Germany, with astute commentary on such major composers as Berlioz, Bizet, Rossini, Donizetti, and especially Wagner and Verdi. And we examine the remarkably diverse works of our own century, from Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and Alban Berg's Wozzeck to Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice and John Adams's Nixon in China. Throughout, the contributors illuminate how opera often reflects the cultural concerns of the age, how it is part of the social fabric, and in three fascinating sections on staging, singers, and the social climate, they give us a look behind the scenes as well as a feel for what opera was like in the past. We discover, for instance, that before the late nineteenth century, patrons were not expected to arrive on time, sit still, keep quiet, concentrate on the stage action, or stay to the end (Wagner put an end to this practice by darkening the theatre). Not least important are the numerous illustrations in the book, which highlight the richly visual nature of opera, the manner in which it communicates so vividly through staging and costume. Exhaustively researched and informatively captioned, these striking pictures offer an immediacy with the past that both enriches and complements the narrative.
Nowhere does the rich panoply of opera history unfold more grandly than in this volume. Authoritative, vividly written, and exquisitely designed, it will be treasured by everyone who loves opera.

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Illustrated History
  • Paperback: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854452
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds

Customer Reviews

For serious opera lovers only

 on November 22, 2013
By Beverley R. Enright
Its full of information that interested me, but not an often used resource for learning about operas. It is for serious opera lovers only.

Oxford has done an excellent service for people who enjoy the wonderful world of opera!O

One person found this helpful.
 on April 9, 2015
By C. M Mills
The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera is well worth the money. The book belongs on your shelf of works dealing with grand opera. The text is well written covering all the major works in the standard opera repertory from bel canto masterpieces to works being written today., An essential reference work. Well recommended!

Sketchy in places, but this is the standard history of opera

2 people found this helpful.
 on January 14, 2009
By Michael A. Duvernois
The paperback is reasonably priced, and includes all of the material of the often-specified-for-classwork hardcover text.

A good general history of opera

14 people found this helpful.
 on September 29, 2005
By Lisa S.
This paperback edition of the Oxford Illustrated History of Opera is the same as the hardback edition. It’s a very good general history of opera with great pictures. The authors are all experts on the eras they cover. I’m using it for my opera history class, adding readings from other sources that discuss the music in more detail because this one has no musical examples. My only complaint is that it took forever to get!

Oxford Opera Text

3 people found this helpful.
 on September 30, 2008
By David C. Mattera
A very good overview of the development of opera from the beginning with the first opera, Euridice, in around 1600 to near present. I bought it for a class on Italian opera and it has been very informative.

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