Recently in Books
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.
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.
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 —
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vincent Giroud’s valuable new French Opera, a Short History, is in hand and very welcome it is.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.
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.
Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian was 30, when he enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Denver 1983.
Two excellent books on opera have come to hand, providing many hours of entertaining reading. I combine notice of them with a few thoughts about composer Paul Moravec’s CDs, and his forthcoming opera premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2009.
Claudio Monteverdi. Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Edited by Rinaldo Alessandrini. Urtext. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007. BA 8791. A vocal score is available as 8791a.
Published in 2007, Riccardo primo, Re d’Inghilterra (HWV 23) and Tolomeo, Re d’Egitto (HWV 25) mark two of the latest installments of vocal-score editions of Handel’s operas based upon Bärenreiter’s Urtext editions.
02 Mar 2008
Miles Davis, Miles Smiles and the Invention of Post-Bop
It is a measure of the classic status that the music of Miles Davis has acquired in American culture that a single LP produced for Columbia in the 1960s (Miles Smiles) is the focus of a short monograph from Indiana University Press.
The fact that the author of the monograph, Jeremy Yudkin,
is a musicologist whose previous publications have been exclusively in the
area of medieval music and the Western classical tradition [the exception
being a 2006 monograph on the Lenox School of Jazz] speaks to the immense
changes in musicology over the last thirty years. When this music was made,
and for a considerable time thereafter, it was entirely unwelcome in the
Yudkin’s brief book (123 pages of text) is divided between 70 pages of
prologue, and 50 pages of close analysis of the six compositions included on
Miles Smiles, the second release by the classic quintet including Wayne
Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. The book can’t quite
seem to find a consistent tone, nor decide who its reader should be. The
material in the prologue is too thin and commonplace for the reader who is
already familiar with Davis and his work, and in contrast the close reading
of Miles Smiles may be difficult to digest, even for those who know the album
well. I am not convinced that the analysis adds new levels of understanding
for the committed listener. Yudkin provides extensive transcription of the
solos, and does provide some discussion of how this music differs from the
other post-bop of the sixties, but even more discussion of the musical and
especially the social context of this music would not have been amiss. For
example, much is made of the originality of Tony Williams’ contributions at
the drums, but it would be enlightening to know how much he owed to his study
with master teacher Alan Dawson and the musical scene in Boston.
All in all, this project was worthy, but the execution seems to indicate
that a few more years of gestation might not have been amiss.