Why does opera exist as a form? Why do people attend operas, and listen to them? Why should you do so? This classic, brilliant book by Kerman makes the case clearly and strongly.
Opera is drama; beyond the staged spectacles and emblambed warhorses that seem to draw the biggest audiences, opera exists to convey drama, especially the drama of interior actions, emotions and existence. This is why characters are singing, not merely speaking.
Kerman uses the examples, in case study form, of arguably histories greatest operas to point out why the form exists and thrives, and also what makes a work good, and what makes one fail. He begins with Monteverdi and ends with 20th century works like "Wozzeck" and "The Rakes Progress," while also covering Verdi, Wagner, Mozart. His chapter on Mozart's operas is one of the greatest pieces of musical critical thinking that has been written, it explains the greatness of Mozart as an opera composer and also the near-greatness, and flaws, of "Don Giovanni" and "Cosi fan tutte." Kerman also points out what some popular works fail as drama, and thus as opera.
This is the single best work to introduce listeners to the form. Highest recommendation.