20 May 2005

TRIBO: Annals 1847-1897 del Gran Teatre del Liceu

The importance of the Teatre del Liceu, can not be overstated. The house ranks with all the leading theatres of the world, being right up there with Paris, London, New York, Vienna, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Turin, Naples, Buenos Aires, and other cities of comparable importance. During its long history (158 years at the time of writing) it featured many of the great singers. These include Caruso, Battistini, Tamagno, Ruffo, Caballe, Tebaldi, Mario, Pavarotti, Vignas, Lazaro, O'Sullivan, Stracciari, Pagliughi, Gayarre, Masini, Stagno, Lauri-Volpi, Bellincioni, and countless others. Quite a few of these who sang there before 1897 are represented on the accompanying disc.

With the sesquicentenary of the theatre in 1997, a project was initiated to publish annals for the first 150 years, 50 years per volume. The first, which appeared in 1997 covered the years from 1947 to 1997. This is the second, and covers the first 50 years (1847 to 1897). The remaining 50 years (1897 to 1947) are still "in progress", and will, hopefully, see the light of day within a few years. In the last few decades, model chronologies of opera houses have become the norm, with many of these eclipsing previous volumes on the theatres being documented. This is easily the case with Tribo's book. It more or less follows the style initiated with Pau Nadal's volume covering the years from 1947 to 1997, but improves on it in many ways.

However, it should be noted that, especially during the early years, the theatre was also used for plays, ballets, and non-operatic musical performances. These are included, with operas being highlighted by having the titles written in bold-face. Plays are indicated by the letter (t), ballets by (b), zarzuelas by (s), oratorios by (pc) and operettas by (op).

While the book does contain a brief introduction, the great bulk comprises the chronology (with the indexes 327 of 357 pages). Thus, this is quite comprehensive, listing all the operas performed, chronologically by season, with full casts and all the dates that the piece was given. When there are cast changes, the dates (months, if appropriate) that the changes took place are also indicated, as is the language used for French and German works (almost invariably given in Italian during these 50 years). World premieres are indicated by (eA), Barcelona premieres by (eB) and Liceu premieres by (eL). In those cases (especially benefit performances) where selections from other works are included, these are also given.

This is a model book, which can be recommended in the strongest terms.

Tom Kaufman

[Editor's Note: This book may be purchased through ópera Actual.]