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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.



Brigid Brophy: Mozart the Dramatist
02 May 2006

BROPHY: Mozart the dramatist

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) was a noted novelist and critic who was passionately interested in opera, and especially Mozart and his operas.

Brigid Brophy: Mozart the Dramatist

(London: Libris, 2006)

ISBN: 1 870352 90 4

£ 16.95  Click to buy

At a time when amateur evaluation of composers and their music was giving way to scholarly, musicological examination, Brophy published this volume in 1964 as both a passion and a love. She did a revised edition of the book in 1988, of which this is a 2006 reprint.

The 1988 preface indicates a number of expansions and amendations from the 1964 edition. Obviously, the references section was revised and updated. Brophy goes into an extended diatribe in her preface about musicological performances of Mozart operas, which hide the drama and feeling of opera seria just because the plot is based on Greek mythology or history. She then goes into some of the historical background of the composition of the operas Idomeneo, La clemenza di Tito, and Die Zauberflöte.

The chapter titles throughout the book hint to the reader of a previous music writing style that was then moving towards extinction. Chapters like Singing and Theology, Compulsive Seduction, The Quest for Pleasure, and Society’s Guilt are geared more towards the music-listening and music-loving public, rather than a small group of scholarly colleagues or a profession. Here, the purpose of the book is to explore one person’s love and passion for a composer and his works vividly, and to share that listening and historical experience with others who share the same feelings. As Brophy goes through each of Mozart’s operas, providing both historical background as well as biographical information, she also links the musical experience of listening to these operas as a valued and important component of understanding and enlightenment. Neither musicologist nor musician, Brophy’s writing nevertheless is detailed and poignant, more like hyperextended program notes instead of a dry, sterile accounting of tonal modalities or rigorous musicological research.

I remember finding and reading books like this as a young adult, looking for others whose fascination and love of music was the focus of the writing. One cannot find these types of writing today, as it has been subsumed in the larger sphere of “music appreciation,” which oftentimes is as sterile and unfeeling as scholarly works on the subject. I found Brophy’s book nicely written and wonderfully personal, something that was written as a personal passion rather than as a scholarly requirement. In this sense, anyone who loves Mozart and his operas will find this book to be a real treat, a sharing of interest and feeling from one Mozart lover to another.

Dr. Brad Eden
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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