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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.



Mary Jane Phillips-Matz: Washington National Opera 1956-2006
24 Jul 2006

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.

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz: Washington National Opera 1956-2006

Washington National Opera, Washington D.C., 2006, 219 pages.

$25.00 (softcover)  Click to buy

Mrs. Phillips-Matz is one of America’s most talented writers on opera, who has already authored first class titles on Giuseppe Verdi, great singers such as Rosa Ponselle and Leonard Warren, and has now added a book on one of our premier opera companies to her list of accomplishments.

She starts out with a brief, but fascinating chapter on opera in Washington between 1800 and 1956. She discusses the theaters, singers and operas given. Some of the singers include the great tenor Mario, his common-law wife, Giulia Grisi, Francesco Tamagno, Enrico Caruso and many others such as Marietta Alboni, Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti, Luisa Tetrazzini, and Giovanni Zenatello. This is a subject that I, among others, would certainly want to know more about. Perhaps there is more, since the name of Charles Jahant keeps cropping up in statements such as “According to Charles Jahant” or “As Charles Jahant reported”. But I was unable to find a footnote, a reference, or even a bibliography to get the precise source of these references to Mr. Jahant’s work.

This history of opera in Washington is followed by a series of chapters on the current opera company, beginning with its founding by Day Thorpe, and a triumphant first night on January 31, 1957 with Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. Such important world premieres as Ginastera’s Bomarzo and Beatrix Cenci were to come later. Other directors followed, including Martin Feinstein, who headed the company for a total of 16 seasons from 1979 to 1995. Finally, in Chapter III, we get to the great day, Domingo’s official inauguration as Artistic Director on Nov. 9, 1996 with Gomes’ opera Il Guarany, a work probably never before given in that city, although it had been given in both New York City and San Francisco in 1884. Phillips-Matz covers this major event in her usual fine style, providing both a brief history of the work, and key comments from reviews of the performance from several major newspapers. Later in the same chapter (III-Artistic Visionaries and Leadership) she mentions other highlights of Domingo’s tenure including Massenet’s vivid and dramatic Le Cid with Domingo singing the title role.

The next chapter (IV) appropriately entitled “Gracing the Stage”, talks about the leading ladies who had graced the WNO’s stage—the likes of Regina Resnik, Frederica von Stade, Catherine Malfitano, Veronica Villaroel, Mirella Freni, and many others. Male leads, villains and fathers are discussed in a chapter entitled “Heroes and Villains” and include a long list comprising, in addition to Domingo, Carlo Bergonzi, José Carreras, Marcello Giordani, Alan Held, Leo Nucci, Paul Plishka, and Justino Diaz among a panoply of stars. Other chapters include conductors, stage directors, set and costume designers, as well as the company’s homes in Washington. Finally, such other matters as fund raising, the company’s volunteer corps, their outreach program to the young, their young artists program, and their trips abroad are not ignored.

The mention of Carreras brings to mind that he was invited by Domingo to sing the title role of the American premiere of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s superb opera Sly, a work that Domingo later sang at the Metropolitan in New York. Since Domingo followed Sly with another long neglected late verismo opera in New York, Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac, it is to be hoped that he will bring it to Washington as well. The tenor is to be complimented in the strongest terms for his repertoire choices, and I must admit to having been sorely disappointed that he was not named to a comparable position at the Metropolitan Opera. His artistic leadership is something that any major city can be as proud of as they are of his vast repertory and artistry as a singer and as a musician.

Perhaps, the most important section of all is the superb chronology in the appendix. Each production is listed together with all the dates, full cast, and an indication of whether it was a world premiere, an American premiere, or a new production.

This is truly a book that can be highly recommended.

Tom Kaufman

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