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Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera Paperback – May 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (May 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226304876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226304878
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Philip Gossett is a superb scholar, but he is also a true man of the theater." - G. W. Bowersock, New Republic "This enthralling and important book offers vital reading for anyone with a serious interest in opera.... Written with unfailing clarity and waspish wit, it charts the musical problems, both theoretical and practical, presented by the autograph manuscripts, printed scores, and performances of this great corpus." - Rupert Christiansen, Spectator "The depth and scope of Gossett's book... makes it one that will be of immense value to anyone approaching the subject of opera in the so-called age of belcanto." - Patrick O'Connor, Literary Review "To my knowledge, there is no other book like it. No one else has treated an important genre of half a century in its social and political setting, its stylistic development, together with a detailed history of its dissemination and performance over a century and a half.... All of this is accomplished by a prose style sensible, often original, provocative, learned, technical but lucid, and always entertaining.... Philip Gossett shows a tolerance and a largeness of spirit rare in those scholars who have so much passion." - Charles Rosen, New York Review of Books"

About the Author

Philip Gossett is the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the general editor of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi, published by the University of Chicago Press and Casa Ricordi, and the Works of Gioachino Rossini. In 2004 he received one of four lifetime achievement awards given by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and in 1998 he received the Cavaliere di Gran Croce, the highest civilian award given by the Italian government.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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No review can express just how much valuable information there is in this book.
Stanley Hauer
Gossett is justifiably known as the most eminent 19th-century Italian opera scholar in the country.
Anthony Warner
It is fascinating and made me feel like a musical sloth in my own perfomance habits.
Angus W. Grant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Ginsberg on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Divas & Scholars" is a masterpiece from every possible perspective, and I am astonished that there are only 4 customer reviews ahead of mine. It is written in the liveliest, most personal style. Every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence is filled with fascinating information and insights. (The only book on music that I have ever read that is its equal is Charles Rosen's universally acclaimed "Classical Style," which was published 35 years ago. Rosen himself gave "Divas & Scholars" a rave review in the New York Review of Books (10/05/06).) No one before Gossett has ever explained so clearly the conditions under which masterpieces by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi were not merely created but nearly tossed off, in almost the manner one associates with live television in the 50's. No one else has ever explained so clearly what a first performance looked like and sounded like, the lighting, the gestures, the sound in a particular theater or particular instruments, and the particular text and ornamentation that a singer chose. No one else has ever shown in such specific detail how performance traditions (and music) were transmitted and how they changed over time and place. "Divas & Scholars" can be read by everyone--the opera lover, the record listener, the stage designer, professional opera singers, orchestra musicians and conductors, and directors. It could be read by everyone who has ever loved Norma, Lucia, and all the other great figures of bel canto opera. It could be read by anyone with an interest in the social history of Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century. A summary of the delights of this book would be as long as the book itself. Five stars are not enough. It will be a resource and a pleasure forever.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Hauer VINE VOICE on July 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I found this book a true revelation. No review can express just how much valuable information there is in this book. Certainly the earlier reviewer is correct that this is one of the most important books ever written on early nineteenth-century Italian opera. The focus is on Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and early Verdi.

Some chapters can be rough going, with a good bit of technical detail. But even the amateur can find much to learn here.

If you're an informed opera-nut, don't miss this one.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marcos C. L. Virmond on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Probably, this is one of the most important books ever published on the Italian melodrama of the 19th century and its relations to compositional process, composers, editors, conductors, singers and producers. As usual, the approach by Prof. Gossett is comprenhsive, elegant and acurate. For those involved in research on Italian Opera it is a must! The negative point, if relevant, is the prolixity of the text in some sections what, to some extend, is usual in the area of musicological research. Musicologists have some difficulty to go directely to the point,and Gossett is a great musciologist.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Angus W. Grant on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This beautifully presented tome is fascinating. There may only a few die hard, full time dismissers of Italian Opera left, but they will find it harder to be so snooty after reading any of the chapters. It is all about context. Gosset provides you with detailed examples of the conditions under which the works were composed and performed and the pressures facing all involved. It is fascinating and made me feel like a musical sloth in my own perfomance habits.

There are very elegantly printed musical examples as well as the odd juicy snide comment about singers whose attitude to performing these works is less than thorough. Sometimes the detail is daunting and perhaps a little dry but you could pick and choose your chapters if this is worrying you.

How reassuring that books like this are still being written when the Music section of Borders is filled with biographies of such musical heavyweights as Sting and Bono.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Paulin on October 2, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We adore this book! Mr. Gossett, a professor in our home town of Chicago, is brilliant. The scholarship is first rate, the writing is user-friendly without talking down to you. The subject is incredibly well covered - it's interesting, enlightening, fascinating and really worth it! Highly recommended!

Paul Vermel and Carolyn Paulin (musicians both)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alexis Kneeland on February 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed Philip Gossett's lectures for many years at the U of C Humanities Open Houses. This book is a wonderful compilation of his work. I truly enjoyed every chapter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Howard M. Bushnell on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Who would have believed that such a scholarly book could be so interesting, so readable, so enjoyable? Who would have thought that a truly erudite scholar could have so much personality? This marvelous tome is not only a torrent of fascinating information, it is a real page ripper. GET IT!!
Howard Bushnell, author of Maria Malibran, A biography of the Singer.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This title of this book tells the reader exactly what to expect. It is part musicological discussion—opera research, scholarship, and performing editions—and part current backstage…well, I won’t say gossip, but…backstage insider information.

One thing I take away from this book is a better understanding of why it’s so difficult to establish definitive, “authentic” versions of 19th century Italian opera (and others). Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi revised their operas pretty much every time they were associated with a performance. Music was adapted to the language and tastes of the audience (all of them did French and Italian operas), including the types of spectacle the audience expected (ballet in France) and the current trend in vocal ornamentation. Sometimes music was rewritten to accommodate a diva or divo. Sometimes, especially in Rossini, entire arias, choruses, or duets were given a new text, and subsequently, new orchestrations to reflect that text. All of these variants render the expression, “what the composer intended” moot at best. At the very least, the lesson learned here is that a lot more qualification may be needed before the “composers intent” can be stated with authority (if at all).

I was fascinated by Mr. Gossett's discussion of period versus modern instruments. When I think of period instruments, I think 18th century and earlier. But developments and advances in instrument building have always been going on, and the tone and capabilities, particularly of brass and winds, have changed considerably since the 19th century.

Mr. Gossett also addresses the issues of transposition, and how transposing one aria up or down to meet the needs/limitations of a particular singer can affect the surrounding music.
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