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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.

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.

The Cambridge Companion to Stravinsky

The Cambridge Companion to Stravinsky joins more than a dozen similar volumes published by the Cambridge University Press over the years and devoted to the life and works of a single composer. Each one traditionally is a collection of essays by leading scholars in the field, organized into three main sections — biography; works (mostly by genre); reception and posthumous legacy.



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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