Recently in Books


A musical challenge to our view of the past

Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart

In Musical Exoticism (Cambridge 2011) Ralph P. Locke undertook an extensive appraisal of the portrayal of the ‘Other’ in works dating from 1700 to the present day, an enquiry that embraced a wide range of genres from Baroque opera to Algerian rap, and which was at once musical, cultural, historical, political and ethical.

Coughing and Clapping: Investigating Audience Experience

Is it okay to tweet during a concert, if it allows those who couldn’t attend to engage with the performance and the music? Or is it really just distracting, on top of all the coughing?

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Book Review: Opera in the British Isles, 1875 – 1918

Opera in the British Isles might seem a rather sparse subject in the period 1875 to 1918. Notoriously described as the land without music, even the revival of the native tradition of composers did not include a strong vein of opera.

Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger

Heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris tells us about the lean times when the phone did not ring, as well as those thrilling moments when companies entrusted him with the most important roles in opera.

Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

Commonly viewed as a ‘second-rate’ composer — a European radical persecuted by the Nazis whose trans-Atlantic emigration represented a sell-out to an inferior American popular culture —

Opera from Cambridge University Press

Although part of a series entitled Cambridge Introductions to Music, Robert Cannon’s wide-ranging, imaginative and thought-provoking survey of opera is certainly not a ‘beginners’ guide’.

James Melton: The Tenor of His Times

Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of James Melton, who entertained our parents starting in the 1930s and the rest of us in the 1940s and beyond on recordings, the radio, and films.

Essays on Italo Montemezzi - D'Annunzio: Nave

An important new book on Italo Montemezzi sheds light on his opera Nave. The author/editor is David Chandler whose books on Alfredo Catalani have done so much to restore interest in the genre.

Alfredo Catalani — A new perspective on later Italian opera

Assumptions about later Italian opera are dominated by Puccini, but Alfredo Catalani, born in the same town and almost at the same time, was highly regarded by their contemporaries. Two new books on Catalani could change our perceptions.

The Sopranos — Dissecting opera’s fervent fans

I was feeling cowed by Herr Engels. The four of us had retired from the Stravinsky performance to a Billy Wilder-themed bar in Berlin, the least horrible late-night option in the high end mediocrity of Potsdamer Platz.

Opera Remade, 1700-1750

This substantial book is one of the latest in the Ashgate series of collected essays in opera studies and draws together articles from a disparate group of scholarly journals and collected volumes, some recent, some now difficult to locate.

Operatic Advice and Counsel…A Welcome New Reference Book

Vincent Giroud’s valuable new French Opera, a Short History, is in hand and very welcome it is.

Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey

The noted operatic impresario and stage director, Lotfi Mansouri, with the professional help of writer Donald Arthur, has issued his memoirs under the title Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey.

Cosima Wagner — The Lady of Bayreuth

Originally published in German as Herrin des Hügels, das Leben der Cosima Wagner (Siedler, 2007), this new book by Oliver Hilmes is an engaging portrait of one of the most important women in music during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Operatic Italian

Robert Stuart Thomson’s Italian language learning text, Operatic Italian, promises to become an invaluable textbook for aspiring operatic singers, voice teachers, coaches and conductors.

Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections

Ralph Locke’s recent book on Musical Exoticism is both an historical survey of aspects of the exotic in Western musical culture and a discussion of paradigms of the exotic and their relevance for musicological understanding.

Magic Flutes & Enchanted Forests: The Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Musical Theater

Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Opera from the Greek

Perhaps it will be enough to tell you that I wasn’t halfway through this book before I searched the web for a copy of Professor Ewans’s study of Wagner and Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and ordered it forthwith: It has to be good.



24 Jan 2005

LOEWENBERG: Annals of Opera, 1597-1940

This volume has long been regarded as the definitive work on the subject, and has been quoted in countless later works whenever a reference was required to the performance histories of individual operas. Taken as a whole, especially when one considers the state of library science when the book was first written, it is a magnificent piece of work, and belongs on the bookshelf of every researcher in the operatic field.

Alfred Loewenberg: Annals of Opera, 1597-1940, 3rd Edition

Totowa N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield; London: John Calder, 1978. First published 1943; revised 1955.


It will also provide countless hours of browsing pleasure to people who are interested in a given opera and want to learn a little more about its performance history. Unfortunately, these comments do not necessarily apply to nineteenth century Italian opera in general and to the bel canto period in particular.

The basic premise of this book is to give the absolute and country premieres of the 4000 or so operas that the author thought important enough to include. This is followed by "full" performance histories of 17th and 18th century works, and first performances by country (or, rather, "cultural unit") of most nineteenth and twentieth century operas. The book was written at a time when the esteem for nineteenth century Italian opera was at its nadir, and, as a result, many significant Donizetti, Pacini and Mercadante works were omitted. These include Maria Stuarda, Pia de'Tolomei, Il Reggente, Le Due Illustre Rivali, and Caterina Cornaro. All but the last had significantly more impressive performance records in the nineteenth century than many of the German works included. Loewenberg himself admits in his preface that a more complete listing of the operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi would have been tiresome and uninstructive. He cannot be blamed for his preference for classical and German opera, but the result is a seriously unbalanced book.

However, the biggest problem with Loewenberg is the very large incidence of errors, both of omission and of commission. This point may best be illustrated by examining in depth the listings of a typical opera. In line with the decision made to use the treatment given Dom Sebastien as one of the key parameters in judging the volumes listed in this bibliography, this work was selected. Loewenberg himself devotes half a column to Dom Sebastien, and divides his entries into five groups:

Performances in French Two (2) Cities
German Nine (9) Cities
Italian Eight (8)Cities
Czech Prague
20th Century revivals Three (3) Cities

Performances in French: Both entries are in Belgian cities. The French version is also known to have been given in a number of French provincial cities. The listing of these would have been optional according to Loewenberg's modus operandi, but desirable in order to get an accurate picture of the dissemination of the opera. A more significant omission is New Orleans (the U. S. premiere of the original French version), which obviously should have been included.

Performances in German: As can be expected, this is where Loewenberg is most accurate. His entries are all correct, and while there are no entries for Breslau and Munich, these are covered by the etc., and he already lists two cities in Germany. The one missing entry in German that I would have expected him to include is Ljubljana.

Performances in Italian: This is where Loewenberg is weakest, and is also most typical of what can be expected from his listings for other Italian operas of the period. He gives eight entries for the Italian version: Lisbon, Milan, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Malta, New York City and Mexico. He omits at least eight country premieres. I am listing these by city: Havana, Alexandria, Corfu, Bucharest, St. Petersburg, Montevideo, Caracas, and Constantinople, the Madrid premiere, which should have been included since he lists two cities each for Belgium, Germany and Austria, and three entries in bi-cultural towns, which according to his preface, merited special attention. These are Nice, Trieste, and Rijeka (Fiume). Of the eight entries that he does give, three are wrong: Buenos Aires, Malta, and Rio de Janeiro. Thus, of the 20 entries that one would have expected (16 country premieres, one major country capital, and three bi-cultural cities) five are correct, three are in error, and twelve are omitted. Thus, there is an incidence of error for the Italian version of 75% and for the opera as a whole of close to 40%. While such a high incidence of error undoubtedly does not apply to all, or even many of the Italian operas included, even half that figure would be totally unacceptable. A cursory examination of other listings indicates that the actual figure for the ottocento is probably much closer to 15-25% errors of omission and commission. This is still enough to seriously diminish the value of this volume to musicologists interested in the period.

A second volume, which was originally intended to update the listings to 1980, has been promised for years. It is not known whether it will ever materialize, but that seems highly unlikely at this point.

Tom Kaufman

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):