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87 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An opera lover's bible
I bought this book a number of years ago and it has made attendance at both the Metropolitan Opera and NYC Opera that much more rewarding. I have read the few page outlines of each of the operas before attending and thus, at the performance, I follow the highlights of the given opera well. I remember when I once attended "Die Walkure," I spent plenty of time...
Published on December 13, 2000 by David E. Levine

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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good reference in most cases...
I have used this book for many years as a quick reference for studying operas that are new to me, and for that purpose, the book is excellent. Even though the book is limited to 100 entries, I usually find the opera I want to study. My main complaint about this book is the amount of "editorializing" offered by Mr. Simon. He is certainly an expert in opera, but he makes...
Published on December 11, 2006 by Patrick Maschka


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87 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An opera lover's bible, December 13, 2000
By 
David E. Levine (Peekskill , NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
I bought this book a number of years ago and it has made attendance at both the Metropolitan Opera and NYC Opera that much more rewarding. I have read the few page outlines of each of the operas before attending and thus, at the performance, I follow the highlights of the given opera well. I remember when I once attended "Die Walkure," I spent plenty of time preparing (this was back before they projected the libretto while the opera takes place) and this book's coverage of the Ring cycle in general, and this opera, in particular, was a great starting point for me. I was well prepared to fully appreciate the performance. Even operas I have seen over and over merit a review before attending a performance and this book gives a great review. In addition to a good synopsis of the plot, the book gives interesting facts and histories of the operas covered. This book has been in print for a long time. There is a reason for this .. because it is truly a well written, valuable reference. Purcahsing this book is money well spent.
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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, but limited, May 1, 2000
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
I owned this book last year when I started to get into opera. I like this book because the background material is interesting, the synopsis of each opera is covered in enough depth to understand what the opera is essentially about, and each synopsis is clear. (Unfortunately, Opera synopsi tend to be confusing and dry in most books.)
However this book only covers 100 operas (as it states in the title.) So, if you are mostly interested in the "Warhorses" such as La Traviata, Turandot, Boris Gudonov, et. al. then this is the book for you. However, don't be surprised if an opera that sounds intriguing that your local opera house is playing or you see at a music store is not represented.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful, very helpful, and well written, March 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
A great collection of the 100 most beloved operas. Very helpful for any aspiring opera singer, such as myself, to dig up interesting information about the background of the opera, the plot, where and when the arias take place, and many interesting factoids about the origin of the librettos and the circumstances under which the composer chose to write the opera. An absolute must-have for an opera lover!!!
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opera. Plain, Simple and Easy to Understand, November 26, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
100 Great Operas and Their Stories greatest virtue is the number of things it doesn't contain. Among the missing: a list of great preformances, a list of opera singer who have performed the rolls, the usually rating system, and of course the almost obligatory rating/list of available CDs. It contains exactly what its title says -- the stories of the great operas. A list of the cast, a very short background history and the story of the opera act by act. The experienced opera goers can refresh themselves in a few minutes. The novice can find out what its all about in the same time. Also, you can slip the book into your pocket and take it along to the opera for a quick revue before the overture begins.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good reference in most cases..., December 11, 2006
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
I have used this book for many years as a quick reference for studying operas that are new to me, and for that purpose, the book is excellent. Even though the book is limited to 100 entries, I usually find the opera I want to study. My main complaint about this book is the amount of "editorializing" offered by Mr. Simon. He is certainly an expert in opera, but he makes his personal likes and dislikes clear (perhaps the reason why some obscure operas are included...?). He offended me when he described Puccini's masterpiece, La Fanciulla del West, as a "tired" and "second-rate" Italian opera. Many times he crosses the line from well-educated informant to opinionated critic. That said, his writing is very readable and even humorous at times. I simply advise readers to be aware that this book is not entirely a reporting of facts.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and USEFUL guide, July 26, 2004
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
I took an intrest in Opera and wanted to discover more about it. To my dismay, when I read reviews in the papers, I found nearlly nothing of value because they never did the simple job of brifely explaining what the story was actual about. That's why this book is great; it gives a brief summary of what the Opera is about act by act. Thus, this guide is a great tool to find a story that you like; however, one should still look into a local review of an Opera to see how the singers perform and the rendition is done; this book gives reviews in the general.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only buy one book on opera..., March 24, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
This is a great book for the opera novice or seasoned opera affectionado. Going to an upcoming opera? Reading the synopsis will refresh one's memory or help the novice to better understand what is going on by acts. This is a well written book and a true bargain for the extensive information provided. I have purchased one for myself and another for a friend. A great gift book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This 1989 edition is an ABRIDGED version of the original 1957 edition!, April 24, 2012
By 
Henry Thoreau (Olathe, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
The title page of this edition includes the following words: "A new revised and abridged edition of Festival of Opera."

I sort of wish I'd been aware of that fact BEFORE ordering my copy of this 554-page, 1989 paperback. I've subsequently ordered (a used copy of) the original, 704-page, 1957 hardback edition. Not only does Festival of Opera cover 129 (instead of just 100) operas, but also it includes intermittent illustrations (black-and-white line drawings by Fritz Kredel). NO illustrations remain in this 1989 abridgement.

The deletion of such "adequate" (far from stunning) pictures doesn't greatly perturb me (though I do prefer having `em to not having `em). But the excision of such operas as Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur," Monteverdi's "Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" and Berlioz' "The Damnation of Faust" does somewhat perturb me (even though the 29 deleted works are the relatively less popular ones). [Note: On the "plus" side(?), Britten's "Peter Grimes" is included in this 1989 edition (it wasn't included in the 1957 edition).]

Also, the final, 32-page "index" of the 1957 hardcover edition has been totally deleted from this 1989 paperback edition. That's a fairly significant omission, insofar as you can no longer look up (for example) a composer's surname alphabetically to find the page numbers pertaining to his opera(s).

The only other noteworthy difference between this 1989 paperback and its 1957 antecedent involves the editions' respective (different) prefaces. This paperback includes only a (nearly two-page) preface by the author; by contrast, the 1957 hardback includes only a (nearly three-page) preface by Dario Soria. [That said, neither preface is significant enough to constitute a major selling point for either edition.]

Due to sheer age, the pages' paper in this 1989 paperback edition has somewhat tanned (especially at the pages' outer edges); in this regard it's virtually on a par with the still older (albeit more UNIFORMLY tanned) paper of the 1957 hardcover edition. [If you absolutely demand pristinely "bright-and-new-looking" pages, neither this 1989 nor the 1957 edition is likely to thrill you.]

Incidentally (in case you didn't happen to know), Henry W. Simon's (the author's) life spanned the years 1901-70.

P.S.: Alternatively/additionally, you should consider the following three single-volume titles:

Ticket to the Opera: Discovering and Exploring 100 Famous Works, History, Lore, and Singers, with Recommended Recordings

The New Grove Book of Operas (Covers over 250 operas.)

The Viking Opera Guide (Covering over 1,500 operas and an unspecified but large number of composers, this classy 1994 hardcover is surely "the ultimate SINGLE-VOLUME REFERENCE on opera" [and is altogether superior to, and more satisfying than, its 2002, revised incarnation, "The New Penguin Opera Guide"].)

Then again (if you can spare the requisite money and shelf space), there's "the ultimate reference on opera":

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera: 4 volumes (Covers over 1,800 operas and over 2,900 composers.)

Finally (if you're strong enough to wield its immense bulk), consider "the ultimate single-volume book on opera":

OPERA: Composers. Works. Performers. (Ullmann) (Covers approximately 350 operas, and includes countless breathtaking, color illustrations.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you watch opera, this book is an essential!, January 9, 2010
By 
This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
I am new to opera but have fallen hard for it! I watched my first opera only 4 months ago at the Met Opera's live transmission in a movie theater. Since then I have watched over 20 operas online and this book has been an essential part of my understanding. My copy already has a bunch of sticky notes and comments written in it.

What to expect from this book:
-Character names (helps you keep everybody straight in those operas with big casts)
-General background information (setting time and place, first performance date, who wrote the music and libretto, and the literature it is based when applicable)
-Some background information about the opera, its creation, its composer and/or librettist(s)
-Act-by-act synopses that help you follow or prepare for the plot
-Brief historical notes when applicable
-Some very light criticism of the score or libretto (I found this insightful and overall agreed with his comments

What NOT to expect from this book:
-Biographies of composers or librettists
-In depth analysis of theme, political or historical context
-Advice about which operas are worth your time and which to skip
-Reviews of peformances or singers
-Reviews of recordings

So basically, this is a good bare-bones book that will get you the information you need to understand the plots. Whether you just always wondered what Aida was about or you are preparing to see a production in person or on video, this guide will be a good addition to your experience. It seems like with 100 operas, you'd find every one you'd want to see and that is overall true but there have been one or two that I was interested in but were not included, including newer operas (no problem - use the web). The writing has not aged AT ALL surprisingly enough. I completely recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packs a punch and gives you the information you need to the point; Get this book and enjoy your operas., May 9, 2012
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This review is from: 100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses (Paperback)
This is a neat book for newcomers and seasoned listeners alike. If you need a light paperback to take with you while you are travelling or use it as a reference material at home before or after viewing an opera on DVD/Blue ray, this is it.

This is not your gigantic coffee table book of operas, chock a block with picture etc.; it is a modest paperback with no photos. The author writes with a wry humour and provides 100 operas with a synopsis of the work, how the work came to be composed, and the circumstances etc. - followed by an act by act explanation. Each opera is a chapter and is explained in about 4 to 5 pages. I found the author's writing style engaging, injecting humor on several occasions. The author also writes in a casual and easy to read style. No pedantic paragraphs or complex musical terminology is used to show off the author's authority.

I am a big opera enthusiast who just started out some months ago. The greatest way for me to get know the repertoire is to buy DVD and blue rays (if I relied on going strictly to opera performances in my city -not having the advantage of being in New York - aka MET, I 'd probably only get to know 3 operas a year and I have 100's to get to know). So I watch operas in the comfort of my home, getting acquainted with the stories, the singing and the music. What I noticed consistently is that the DVDs/Blue rays I order come with a very small booklet which at times have very little write up in terms of synopsis. So I started relying On Wikipedia for the story and details of the act till I checked out this book on Amazon. Since I like to see the first viewing of an opera without knowing anything about it so that I have no plot spoilers, I do not look up the plot in this book if it is the first time I am seeing that opera. After seeing it once on DVD/Blue-ray, I refer to this book and read the story and it makes a lot more sense to me. I found myself re-reading certain opera chapter on any given day with no apparent reason, but to browse through and read something. Each reading gets me more interested in the opera. Some opera chapters require reading and re-reading (esp. if you start seeing 3 operas a week, you can get your stories and characters mixed up). Some operas like Berlioz's Les Troyens have a long story arc and it helps to refresh your memory quickly by reading that chapter if you have 10 minutes to kill. You can have the book by your side while watching the Blue-ray or even take it to opera performance as it is not too heavy.

Just don't expect each chapter to be an exhaustive essay on the opera because the author has to cover 100 operas in over 500 pages. Some operas take more pages case in point, Wagner's ring cycle due to the amount of material to cover. For subjects like the ring, you are better off buying separate books which analyses all of Wagner's 4 operas, since there is so much to read up on. I think this is a great book, although it may seem modest and unglamorous; but Henry W Simon's writing is great. In other words, no pomp and splendor type coffee table book with glossy photographs etc., but packs a punch and gives you the information you need to the point. Get this book and enjoy your operas.
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100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses
100 Great Operas And Their Stories: Act-By-Act Synopses by Henry W. Simon (Paperback - May 1, 1989)
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