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Eyewitness Companions: Opera (EYEWITNESS COMPANION GUIDES) Flexibound – October 30, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: EYEWITNESS COMPANION GUIDES
  • Flexibound: 432 pages
  • Publisher: DK ADULT (October 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756622042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756622046
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 4.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...perfect for those curious about the art form." -- Time Out Chicago

"Every page is a visual feast, including the cover photo of glamour puss diva Renée Fleming." -- Seattle Times

About the Author

Alan Riding is an opera devotee who, as European Arts Correspondent for The New York Times, has attended scores of operas internationally and is well known to many key players in today's world of opera.

Leslie Dunton-Downer has written librettos for operas produced in Aspen, New York, Spoleto, and Moscow.

Alan Riding and Leslie Dunton-Downer are also coauthors of DK's Essential Shakespeare Handbook.


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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
The great composers and librettists.
Todd Carlsen
I also discovered some mistakes, don't they have proof readers anymore?
HANS HORTIG
Its very consise a good reference book for opera enthiusiasts.
adele borg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2008
Format: Flexibound Verified Purchase
It appears that I have become addicted to two book series--"The American Presidents" and "Eyewitness Companions." This work, "Opera," by Alan Ridings and Leslie Dunton-Downer, provides a solid introduction to the world of opera.

This volume begins by asking what an opera actually is. Simply put (Page 15): "Accompanied by an orchestra, with scenery, costumes, and light adding drama, singers tell a story." Not a bad definition! Further (Page 15), ". . .opera's special appeal lies in the voice, arguably the most affecting of all instruments."

The book progresses as follows: librettos and librettists, staging, opera houses and festivals. The great opera houses include La Scala in Italy, the Paris Opera in France [at Palais Garnier], Staatsoper Wien in Austria, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and so on. Then follows a discussion of the sometimes larger than life singers themselves. Here, one can always wonder why some singers were singled out for mention and others not, but that is something that comes with the territory of such books.

Then, perhaps the heart of the book. A brief discussion of well known operas organized both geographically and by time period (a bit awkward)takes up the largest amount of space in this book. Italian opera? "Il Trovatore," one of Verdi's best works, is summarized on pages 172 and 173. German opera? Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" is highlighted on pages 230 and 231. Not much detail nor much evaluation of the operas described, but there is a brief summary of many operas. This is, I think, an advantage to those who are on a learning curve with opera. Contemporary opera? John Adams' "Nixon in China" on pages 418 and 419.

So, there are some questions one can raise about the book (see above). Nonetheless, for those who want to begin learning more about opera, this is one solid starting point.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Elsa Dorfman on November 1, 2006
Format: Flexibound
Their guide to Shakespeare is amazing and so is their book on opera. I can hold my own in any conversation, as long as I have forty minutes advance warning so I can turn to the relevant chapter. It is all there. The explanations are clear and the insights original. The illustrations make it all make sense----even to the noviates like myself. The layout seems familiar.....but what is it like, besides the teams Shakespeare book. It doesnt intimidate. It is easy to plunge in. The perfect book for the expert and the name dropper or the person who wants to be prepared for every allusion. A great great gift. elsa dorfman
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Lamensdorf on May 31, 2008
Format: Flexibound Verified Purchase
A Well written book. It had more prose about opera history and theory (well written) than I expected and shorter synopses (almost too brief) than I had hoped,
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Byrd on May 12, 2007
Format: Flexibound
Excellent overview for new comers to opera or as a resource for those who have seen many operas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diva on June 10, 2007
Format: Flexibound
A great find!! The book is full of information and has great pictures. I truly love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Todd Carlsen on March 29, 2012
Format: Flexibound Verified Purchase
This book is the best introduction to opera and a great basic reference book for newcomers. The illustrations are terrific. The writing is thoughtful and "gets it right" on balance for an introduction to opera.

If you are purchasing a book on opera for the first time, make it this one. You will enjoy looking through it and referencing it again and again. The illustrations are phenomenal. I own several books on opera and classical music, and I have read several more from the library, and I believe this book is the best introduction to opera and opera reference guide at a general level.

After this book, you can read other opera books with more detailed analysis or specialized objectives, such as detailed librettos, but this book is the one to start with. It is far better than most other opera guides I have read. The extra cost is definitely worth it.

As mentioned, the illustrations are phenomenal. Here are some topics covered:
--What opera is and the history of opera.
--How opera is staged.
--The legendary performers.
--The great opera houses and festivals.
--The great composers and librettists.
--An extensive detailing of many operas, including story summaries, an overview of the singing parts, and act by act summaries. The greatest operas receive two pages of coverage (and maybe more pages of pictures), while the others receive one page, so that tips off to you what are the good ones and what are the great ones.

The downfall is that the book does not go into detailed stories or analysis. That is not the objective. This book is a starter book and a terrific reference book at a moderate level.

Want to know what are the best operas? Check this book. If an opera is not listed, it probably does not make the cut.
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