A History of Opera
A bold, engaging exploration of opera’s fundamental nature and enduring appeal, from the sixteenth century to the present.
A History of Opera, the first new, full-length, single-volume history of opera for more than a generation, provokes in-depth discussions of many works by the greatest opera composers, from Monteverdi, Handel, and Mozart to Verdi and Wagner, to Strauss, Puccini, Berg, and Britten. There are lively discussions of opera’s social, political, and literary backgrounds, its economic cicumstances, and the almost continual polemics that have accompanied its development through the centuries. Central to the book is an exploration of the tensions—between words and music, character and singer—that have always sustained and enlivened opera. In a polemical final chapter, Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker examine the problems that opera has faced in the last half century, when new works—once opera’s lifeblood—have shrunk to a tiny minority and have largely failed to find a permanent place in the repertoire.
Yet the book’s message is one of celebration. Even if the majority of opera’s most popular and enduring works were written in what is now a remote European past and in circumstances very different from our own, and even if the viability of contemporary opera is ever more in question, opera as an art form remains extraordinarily buoyant and challenging. It continues to transform people physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and to articulate human experience in ways no other art form can match.
- November 2012
- 6.6 × 9.6 in
/ 624 pages
- Territory Rights: USA and Dependencies and the Philippines.
Endorsements & Reviews
“Essential reading for all who love this most ambitious of art forms.” — Daniel Snowman, author of The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera
“This book is not only a total delight to read, but its insights are so varied, its arguments so wonderfully precise and unpredictable, its prose so generous and engaging, that it is an utter delight to re-read.” — David J. Levin, executive editor, Opera Quarterly
“An extended duet of intertwined voices, this inspiring book is at once a history of opera and a poetic meditation on the genre itself, its complexity, depth, and allure.” — Ellen Rosand, George A. Saden Professor of Music, Yale University
“A revealing genealogy of a living tradition that will speak vividly to those who continue to fall for opera’s mad charms, and entice those who might be about to.” — Christopher Morris, author of Reading Opera Between the Lines
“Experts and beginners alike will enjoy what is sure to become a classic work.” — Andrew Moravcsik, director, European Union Program, Princeton University
“There’s reason to applaud a new volume like…A History of Opera, in which vast scholarly authority is put to the service of a narrative both lucid and sweeping.” — Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe
“Unfailingly intelligent …their coverage of every period in opera’s history is scrupulous and provocative.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[A History of Opera] will surely become essential reading for anyone seeking an engaging and highly informed chronicle of the great composers and their works.” — Daniel Snowman, Opera
“Parker and Abbate have written … a highly idiosyncratic and personal history of opera. [It] has a brio, insouciance, and even irreverence that are very much their own.” — G.W. Bowersock, The New Republic