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Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera Paperback – January 1, 1900
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The first chapter is a history of opera. The second discusses the mechanics of opera - the various types of singers and concepts involved in opera. Next is a chapter on the mechanics of attending an opera, buying tickets, what to beware, etc.
The real heart of the book, though, is the eleven chapters covering eleven different operas. As you progress through them, you learn about new concepts such as the use of music to evoke emotion, french opera, grand opera, etc. By carefully choosing the sequence, Plotkin is careful to reveal opera's mystery in a way that will bring listeners in rather than turning them off. Plotkin also suggests a particular recording for each opera as a way of introducing different singers and conductors as well. In contrast to others, Plotkin uses the entire opera - not merely highlights.
As a companion, I'd suggest Denis Foreman's A Night at the Opera, which is a highly informative, although highly opinionated, reference guide to all the major operas.
This is the PERFECT book for any adult who knows absolutely zilch about opera but who wants to learn it all, and learn it all out of a single source.
Good information on popular operas and obscure operas, retired singers and current singers, what to look for and what to listen for. Doesn't talk down to the reader. Published in 1994 so some resources (phone numbers of opera companies) out of date.
The reviewer whose complaint centers on the need to have the recording playing and libretto in front of you while reading is, I believe, misinterpreting the function of the book. It does not present itself as a book with summaries of many great operas and shouldn't be criticized for not being one. The chapters on the 11 operas it introduces you to are in depth, track by track, introductions so he can point out things to listen for, etc. His descriptions of certain passages as sensuous, etc. are indications of how he interprets the music. He often repeats that the listener needs to find/feel their own emotional reactions to the music, whether or not they agree with him.
I'm only on my second opera now (I'm spending a great deal of time with each on before moving on), but have found this book a very interesting and helpful introduction.
I was skeptical. However, I am no longer!
Mr. Plotkin is experienced, informed, and well-read. So as not to belabour the structure of the book (since there are many descriptions of it) I'll say that the idea of walking someone through 11 operas is excellent. That Mr. Plotkin picks a particular recording (with commentary per track) is an indespensible fusion with the book.
That is to say Mr. Plotkin has carefully chosen themes, operas, and what he believes to be superior recordings of the above mentioned as illustrations of what opera can be to the average listener. His decisions on recordings are in no way arbitrary, and he takes special care to choose recordings more easily found than those that might be "better" but are less easily found outside of major metropolitan areas.
Let's remember, the original version of this book was written before the internet made just about any recording available in any area. He admits that sometimes he's arbitrary (especially with his recommendation for Il Barbiere di Siviglia...YUCK) but he always explains his good reasons for choosing inferior performances on disc. His are not "Gospel" recommendations, but those he thinks best illustrate the power of opera in recorded form, customs, and the sheer beauty of the human voice.
Beyond that, Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is THE best introduction to the fascinating world of opera. The author does a great job of describing each of the fundamental components of opera and then going through... Read morePublished 1 day ago by RexWA
Probably the best "beginners" book on opera but an excellent resource for old pros.Published 3 months ago by Grammy at a young age