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Oper als Geschäft

This book is in German, which may make it of limited interest to people who are not sufficiently familiar with the language.

La Nilsson: My Life in Opera

Birgit Nilsson probably never heard of “the Protestant work ethic,” but she didn’t need to know it.

HAYNES: The End of Early Music — A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century

Once upon a time, there was something known as early music. This was not so much a repertoire, a musico-historical epoch, as an attitude, a counter-cultural group.

Madame Butterfly: The Search Continues

Over the past decade, there have been a plethora of works trying to identify the historical models for characters in Puccini’s famous opera Madama Butterfly.

Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music

The interpretive reception of medieval music begins, as John Haines lays forth in the present investigation, already during the latter period of the Middle Ages.

Gustav Mahler. Letters to His Wife

True to the title of this collection, the present volume of correspondence edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange and Günther Weiss — here translated, revised , and supplemented by Antony Beaumont — offers, to date, the most complete body of letters of Gustav Mahler to his wife Alma.

The Grove Book of Operas (2nd ed.)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (the “New Grove”) stands as the definitive encyclopedia on music in the English language.1

Settling the Score — An Interview with Philip Gossett

Introduction: Philip Gossett is one of those rarities in academia: a scholar of the first order and a consummate teacher.

150 Years of Opera in Chicago

This is a very attractive book, which, in addition to the expected text, has many striking photos, a list of the operas performed in Chicago, indicating all the seasons in which each work was given, and a season by season chronology, limited to professional companies.

PHILLIPS-MATZ: Washington National Opera 1956-2006

This is a highly impressive coffee-table table book, loaded with stunning photographs of productions, singers, composers, and even our nation’s glorious capital.

HURWITZ: Exploring Haydn—A Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator

The world of J.S. Haydn is one gravely underappreciated and undervalued. He never earned the right to a 1980’s bio pic like Mozart or was appreciated and saluted in pop culture through early rock n’ roll like Beethoven.

KINDERMAN & SYER: A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal

Some twenty years ago, a leading German musicologist remarked that the music of Parsifal


It must not have been an easy life, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Perhaps even more so after the fact when scholars began to do their research and “wanna bes” began their intimations and psychoanalyzing. In the more seventy-five years of Mozart scholarship and its coming of age, one must ask: How much more is there to learn, to research?

GASPAROV: Five Operas and a Symphony

This new volume from Yale University Press is one of those rare and treasured phenomena in Russian music scholarship that illuminate their subject from a new angle — that of cultural history. Indeed, Boris Gasparov's expressed goal in Five Operas and a Symphony is nothing less than turning the table on poetry, philosophy, and literary criticism that have for so long ruled the field of Slavic research, and elucidating them from a musical point of view.

SPITZER & ZASLAW: The Birth of the Orchestra — History of an Institution, 1650-1815

At a time when the press has made the public aware of the difficult circumstances that exist for the symphony orchestra in the United States, it is refreshing to find a book that demonstrates unequivocally the nature of that institution and, as a consequence, its power in culture.

Verdi's Macbeth — The Critical Edition

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a weighty play, and Verdi’s Macbeth seems to be a weighty opera: the three volumes of this edition (two of the full score, plus a smaller Critical Commentary containing the critical notes and a description of the sources) weigh 16.6 pounds. It is remarkable to think that this is the first full score of either the 1847 original or the 1865 revised Macbeth ever published.

Méthodes & Traités, series II: France 1800-1860 (Les grandes méthodes romantiques de chant), Vol. IV

As far back as the Middle Ages, students (often only identified as Anonymous) have recorded the methods of performance imparted by their masters. In later centuries, such illustrious teachers wrote and published their own methods.

ALBRIGHT: Berlioz's Semi-Operas

This book examines two of the more interesting musical pieces of the Romantic movement: Romeo et Juliette (1839) and La damnation de Faust (1846). Both were composed by Hector Berlioz (1803-69), and were very much constructed in a Gesamtkunstwerk mode where literature, music, and the other arts are fused together in a hybrid style that defies genre and categorization.

PUCCINI: Tutti Libretti d'Opera

This is a collection of the original libretti to Puccini's Le Villi, Edgar, Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, La Rondine, Il Trittico (Gianni Schicchi, Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica), and Turandot in nine booklets within a cardboard slipcase.

THOMAS: Polish Music since Szymanowski

Throughout the history of Poland, music has been an enduring force in its culture, and Polish composers were at the forefront of a number of developments in the twentieth century.



Emblems of Eloquence
15 Jul 2005

HELLER: Emblems of Eloquence — Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice

In her awesome Emblems of Eloquence, Wendy Heller tirelessly investigates treatises, myths, libretti and letters to illuminate the natures of “real” and “imagined” women who reigned over seventeenth-century opera as subjects of musical portraiture. From Dido to Semiramide, Poppea to Calisto, Heller argues that women and women’s issues dominated the Venetian stage. Librettists struggled with issues of women’s sexuality, dominance, suppression of desire, overt desire, covert desire, homoeroticism and misogyny. And all at the time when, “Venice’s absolute exclusion of women in public life was written into the organization of the Republic.” This apparent contradiction is at the heart of her eminently readable text that displays Heller as a musicological Simon Schama.

Emblems of Eloquence — Opera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice

Wendy Heller. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2003. xix, 386.

ISBN 0-520-20933-8


The book is divided into seven chapters. The first two explore seventeenth-century treatises written about women by male misogynists and uppity female contrarians. Although these treatises, such as Venetian nun Arcangela Tarabotti's Tirannia paterna, ostensibly say little about women and music, they do give us a clear picture of misogyny practiced eloquently by members of the Accademia degli Incogniti, a center of erudition, who found women to be the cause of evil in the world. Heller provides excellent translations and each painful prejudice is clearly rendered. We read for instance from Francesco Loredano, the Incogniti founder, "Woman, most virtuous gentlemen, is an imperfect animal, an error of nature, and a monster of our species." At least, Loredano includes women in the same species as men; Aristotle argued otherwise.

In this incandescent debate, we find opera flourishing. Heller in the next chapters of her book examines archetypical female opera roles, warriors, courtesans, and lovers. All are essentially victims of their own desires, even if most of the operas end in the lieto fine. Women in Heller's book are a complicated collection of dualities, and we have subheadings such as, "Semiramide and Musical Transvestism" and "Didone and Female Eloquence."

Heller's micro-level descriptions of the music by Monteverdi (L'incoronazione di Poppea), Cavalli (La Didone, La Calisto), Ziani (La Semiramide), and Pallavicino (La Messalina) that accompany these women are also a pleasure to read. For instance, Heller paints the cross-dressing Semiramide: "The light syncopated character and clipped phrases as well as the key of G major are associated with the militaristic Semiramide, contrasting with the metrically regular cadences and E minor with which she expresses her amorous urges." Heller's prose is silky and thoughtful as she weaves a tableau of women's foibles.

Interestingly, while women dominated libretti, it seems that there were few well-known female performers during this time. Anna Rienzi, the first discussed, was a Roman singer for whom a collection of poems and prose was written lauding her. Furthermore, there is little evidence about the way audiences received these female protagonists. In fact, we have to go Padua, Venice's lowly sister, to find the name of the first woman to attend university, one Elena Piscopia (1646-1684), who played the keyboard and was the confidant of an organist and orphaned Venetian Maddalena Cappelli for most of her adult life. While Padua did not have a burgeoning opera, it did have women writers and artists in the early Baroque period. We need to wait for Verdi for women to be given great music and virtue. Perhaps this is one of Heller's important contributions to the history of ideas: more opera libretti and theoretical treatises about women flourish in ages when women are treated particularly poorly. What does that say of our time?

Eleonora Beck
Lewis & Clark College

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