A History of Opera

Carolyn Abbate (Author), Roger Parker (Author)


“The best single volume ever written on the subject, such is its range, authority, and readability.”—Times Literary Supplement

Why has opera transfixed and fascinated audiences for centuries? Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker answer this question in their “effervescent, witty” (Die Welt, Germany) retelling of the history of opera, examining its development, the musical and dramatic means by which it communicates, and its role in society. Now with an expanded examination of opera as an institution in the twenty-first century, this “lucid and sweeping” (Boston Globe) narrative explores the tensions that have sustained opera over four hundred years: between words and music, character and singer, inattention and absorption. Abbate and Parker argue that, though the genre’s most popular and enduring works were almost all written in a distant European past, opera continues to change the viewer— physically, emotionally, intellectually—with its enduring power.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • September 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34895-8
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 656 pages
  • Sales Territory: USA and Dependencies and the Philippines.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Fantastically clear-sighted and down-to-earth . . . focuses on what opera is and was rather than what it should be or would like to have been. . . . Their virtuosic spring-clean of opera’s past reveals an art form quite different to the one that we come across today.” — The Telegraph (UK)

“Reason to applaud . . . 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

“Will surely become essential reading for anyone seeking an engaging and highly informed chronicle of the great composers and their works.” — Daniel Snowman, Opera

“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

“Fresh . . . brave, challenging and, above all, useful.” — Literary Review

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