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Subject: Re: favorite opera books
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 9 Feb 2018 12:15:26 -0600
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I know this may sound a little nuts, but I remember as a kid that my grandfather had a very old edition of The Victrola Book of Opera.   I'd guess that it was a collaboration between the Met and The Victrola Company in the 1920s and early 1930s.  The pictures were interesting.  All had photos of the leading singers of the day, who today are remembered only by people like us.  Caruso, Farrer, Bori, Ruffo, Galli-Curjci, Homer, Alda, Gigli, Ponselle,etc.  

     Then in the mid 1940s/very early 1950s they revised and updated the book to The Victor Book of Opera, which added the Gilbert & Sullivan Operettas, as well as some others that today have bit the dust.  I particularly enjoy seeing the photos of Bjoerling, Milanov, Albanese, Merrill, Peerce, Flagstad, Traubel, Scotti, Melton, Melchior, etc.  All of these artists recorded for RCA Victor.  It was this book that I was really able to read well enough to get interested in opera. My dad bought it for me for my eighth birthday and I still have it.

    They did one more revision in 1968, which reflected the new age of bel canto, and had photos of Callas, Sutherland, Gedda, Tebaldi, Nilsson, Price, and still some pictures of Caruso, Flagstad, and others from the past.  I bought the book, noted the elimination of the G & S operettas, as well as additions of operas like Medea, Semiramide, and others.

For nostalgia reasons, I've still got all three books, but I find the first two more interesting because they show opera as it was before my time.  

     I agree with Mr. Youngman on Rasponi's The Last Prima Donnas (though I think that some of these older ladies were in a semi-state of dementia at the time of their interviews).  There is much to learn about in this book and I consider it a keeper.

     I also consider Edwin McArthur's book on KIrsten Flagstad to be close to ideal.  He deals with her not only as the sublime singer that she was, but also as a human being.

     I also like some of the Callas Coffee Table books.  Gorgeous pictures, some very glamorous with some very top A listed people (Gregory Peck, Liz Taylor, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Branco, etc.  She obviously knew these celebrities well because these celebs are featured in several different photos from different times).

    There are others, of course, but I find those I noted something very special.

> On February 9, 2018 at 11:27 AM k youngmann wrote:
> 
> 
>     Has this ever been discussed? I’m thinking about my favorite books about opera.
> 
>     At the top of my list is Peter Conrad’s “A Song of Love and Death.” It’s been years since I read it so now might be a good time to dust it off again. From the Amazon page: “A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera
>     Graywolf's updated edition of this classic book on opera includes a new afterword by author Peter Conrad.
> 
>     Arguing that opera's deepest roots lie in our most fundamental human rituals, Peter Conrad shows us the faces of the gods that still hover over the pageant--gods of music, abandon, evil, love. then, with the dizzying skill of a practiced literary and cultural critic, the author takes us on a ride through the repertoire of operas past and present. Finally, he brings us to the climactic moment of the form: the performance. We meet the great personalities—from Puccini to Bernstein to Domingo—in their element, and see anew how their celebrity and their artistry affect us all." There’s a lot more to read about it so here’s the link:
> 
>     Also up near the top of my list is Lanfranco Rasponi’s “The Last Prima Donnas.”
> 
>     William Weaver’s “The Puccini Companion” ranks high as does Julian Budden’s monumental 3-volume “The Operas of Verdi.”
> 
>     These are the ones that pop into my mind right away.
> 
>     I’d like to hear what books other Opera L folk recommend so I can see if I’m missing anything.
> 
>     Kurt Youngmann
> 
>     "Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known." - Michel de Montaigne
> 
> 
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