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Subject: Re: favorite opera books
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 9 Feb 2018 17:18:56 -0800
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I want to say I like books that seem to reflect real honesty on the part of the subject, but then, how do we know?

Of two that really seem honest, there’s “The Flagstad Manuscript” and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf reminiscences, “Les Autres Soirs.” Both are “as told to”: in the case of the Flagstad the actual author is Louis Biancolli and in the case of the Schwarzkopf it’s André Tubeuf. I found that both can stir significant emotion in reading, particularly the Flagstad. Both also give some real insight into the art of the singer and even their way of approaching the voice and technique - something that is rarer in singer biographies than you would think.

I’ve been warned by people who knew him that John Culshaw would always put a good story above particularly strict adherence to the truth, but I think his “Ring Resounding” and “Putting the Record Straight” are marvelously entertaining books. Same with the collection of Walter Legge’s notes and correspondence put together by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, “On and Off the Record.”

Galine Vishnevskaya's autobiography is vey dramatic.

Of the great Wagner ladies post Flagstad, I think the Varnay biography is a wonderful read, as is “la Nilsson” and the collection of interviews that make up Martha Mödl’s “So war mein Weg.” The interesting thing about these books is the differing perspective on the same era and performances centering on the 1950s and Bayreuth. Have to say, Mödl comes across as quite a sweet person. Anja Silja’s bio is yet a differing perspective, of course leaning more into the 1960s.

Max Paley
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