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Grove Book of Operas Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

The cover blurb calls The New Grove Book of Operas, "The world's definitive single volume of opera reference," and for once the hype is right on the money. The plot synopses are well done, with musical notes and historic background, some nice illustrations, and three very useful appendices: a fine and complete glossary; an index of role names; and an "Index of Incipits," or first lines, for hundreds of arias, choruses, and ensembles. This may well be the best English-language opera reference available. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—This definitive update of Sadie's The New Grove Book of Operas (Oxford Univ., 2003; o.p.) includes, as did the earlier edition, full-plot synopses, cast lists from premiere performances, and biographical data on composers, all alphabetically arranged by opera. Seven minor operas have been cut from this work (including Der Barbier Von Bagdad and Penelope), and eight new hopefuls have been added (among them Emmeline, The Mother of Us All, and Sophie's Choice). Otherwise, the text is, word for word, the same as the earlier edition. The illustrations have changed: new black-and-white photos are scattered throughout the text, and sections of color photographs show sets, costume designs, posters, and scenes from various productions, including some staged as late as 2005. Another change is the inclusion of David J. Levin's perceptive introduction, "Issues and Trends in Contemporary Opera Production," which discusses the pros and cons of modern staging, directing/designing innovations, the introduction of technology into the opera world, and "opera at the margins." The essay ends with a list of suggested readings supporting his opinions. An extensive glossary and three large, cross-referenced indexes complete what is, to opera fans, an indispensable companion for consultation before performances (whether live or recorded), or, for novices, a key to a specialized realm. This volume is as informative and demanding as the previous edition.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195387112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195387117
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.5 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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The writing style is very readable.
Anne Lautner
The fact that it includes a fair number of 20th century contemporary operas makes it even more valuable.
Barbara J. Williams
The New Grove Book of Operas is the best single-volume opera reference available in English.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Florestan on November 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The New Grove Book of Operas is the best single-volume opera reference available in English. The term "reference" deserves careful emphasis. The New Grove Book does not read like a textbook, and is best suited for individuals seeking details about specific operas rather than opera in general. It is to some extent the "Reader's Digest" version of the massive New Grove Dictionary of Opera, which is acknowledged as the end-all, be-all tome of operatic scholarship. I own both. While the Book borrows the bulk of its material from the Dictionary, its scope is less ambitious. Only entries relating to specific operas are included, and the "Book" focuses (mostly) on operas that might appeal to opera enthusiasts and not merely specialists.

* Thoughtful selection of operas. The truly greats, and should-be greats are mostly here, and the inaccessible and and never-will-be-accessible are mostly not here
* User-friendly organization
-operas are listed alphabetically
-includes an index of operas by composer
-includes an index of role names to operas
-includes a surprisingly comprehensive index of incipits/arias to operas
* Provides illustrations, many in color, of historical as well as modern productions
* Entries read like listening notes rather than mere plot synopses.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Henry Thoreau on June 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The prior "customer reviewer" wrote a great review in MOST respects. HOWEVER, he stated the following:

"I own both, and while the Book borrows some material from the Dictionary, most of the entries have been modified to reach a broader audience."

Huh?! I, too, own Grove's four-volume edition. And, as I randomly select and compare any of its "opera" entries with the analogous entries in this smaller, single-volume edition (a copy of which I've checked out from my public library), I see, again and again, that virtually all such entries are roughly "98% IDENTICAL". In other words, virtually all of the entries (i.e., opera synopses with commentaries) that ARE included in this single-volume edition were (almost) simply copied VERBATIM from the four-volume edition. That's not a bad thing, but just don't be misled by the above-quoted remark from that other reviewer.

So, why would anybody ever bother buying the MUCH costlier four-volume edition? Well, it depends on your needs. If ALL you need are "story synopses" and commentaries for the approximately 250 operas that happen to be included here, then look no further.

But if you want coverage of Berlioz' "Damnation of Faust" (not to mention "hundreds and hundreds" of still less popular yet noteworthy operas--a goodly number of which are available as CD recordings, new or used), you won't find it here. Moreover, this edition includes ONLY opera synopses and commentaries, not biographies of the composers or discussions of operatic terms, performers, venues, techniques, and much else.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Filippo Secondo (aka AB) on December 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book distinguishes itself with the unusual inclusion of rare works (eg I DUE FOSCARI), which almost all other guides of the same size totally ignore: it isn't - as the previous reviewer claims - 'leaving out content [ie lesser-known works] that only the most committed afficionado [sic] would demand and actually use'. I just wish that the editorial board got rid of the indices: the 60 pages wasted on merely role names and excerpts could have covered many other unfamiliar operas (eg DIE AEGYPTISCHE HELENA). One slightly bothersome inconsistency is that (for some strange reason) only particular roles are mentioned in connection with their famous interpreters: eg while there are long lists of well-known performers of Parsifal, Brunnhilde, and Wotan, we're not told which singers made parts like Leonora (IL TROVATORE), Don Giovanni, and Falstaff their own. Another inconsistency is that the Introduction focuses only on contemporary production: what about the pre-modern periods? The absence of a discography isn't a disadvantage: like the indices, it is as unnecessary as the missing chronology. But the cover is depressing, so are the accompanying pictures taken from 'updated' productions. Though this is a welcome addition to any opera library, I can't part with KOBBE'S COMPLETE OPERA BOOK (Harewood and Lascelles), THE VIKING OPERA GUIDE (Holden, Kenyon, and Walsh), THE PAN BOOK OF OPERA (Jacobs and Sadie), OPERA GUIDE (Westerman), 50 FAVORITE OPERAS (England), 100 GREAT OPERAS AND THEIR STORIES (Simon), as well as THE OPERA COMPANION and THE COMPANION TO 20th-CENTURY OPERA (Martin).
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