Opera is growing--in the size of its audience, in the number of companies, in general interest--and is attracting a lot of attention among younger, more visually oriented people. But opera can be intimidating to the uninitiated: it's sung in foreign languages and has odd little customs (such as women singing the parts of young boys, and hefty middle-aged singers portraying teenaged lovers) that may be disconcerting at first. But opera needn't be at all intimidating, thanks to the miracle of supertitles (like subtitles, but projected above the stage), the advent of generations of singers who work at staying in shape, and the appearance of reference works like Opera for Dummies
that are designed to remove the snobbery and mystery from opera. If you don't mind the flippant tone, IDG Books' Opera for Dummies
makes an excellent guide for those who are new to this splendid art form. All of opera's details are explained clearly and without pretension; there's a lot of useful information packed into its 358 pages. The package includes an enhanced compact disc (listen to it in your stereo's CD player or in your computer's CD-ROM drive), with more than an hour of operatic excerpts from classic EMI releases. The illustrations, while not lavish, are adequate.
There are, however, a few glaring errors in this book that demand correction: Scott Speck and David Pogue confuse the opera chorus with the supers (the "extras" who march in armies, wait on tables, and never, ever sing), and--even worse--maintain that soloists and choristers are two entirely separate breeds. In fact, there's not a soloist alive who has never done chorus work--and choristers frequently do solo work as well. These are rather foolish mistakes for a pair of acclaimed experts to make in a book that wants to be taken as a basic guide to opera.
From Library Journal
Though musicians and other music lovers continue to lament the lack of classical music enthusiasts, their concern may have diminished somewhat over the last 25 years. The "Hooked on Classics" recording series, Peter Schickele (a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach), the Three Tenors, and the movie Shine are but a few of the media phenomena that have popularized classical music. Lately, some authors have taken a lighthearted approach to the genre, hoping to make it less intimidating; Barry Scherer's delightful Bravo! A Guide to Opera for the Perplexed (LJ 11/15/96) is an example not to be overlooked. It does appear, however, that with these two books from IDG's ever-expanding "For Dummies" series, classical music has finally arrived. Orchestrator, synthesizer programmer, music copyist, and vocal arranger Pogue and symphony conductor Speck have collaborated to make musical facts fun to peruse. In some cases, the information may seem oversimplified, but novices will come away with a fairly good idea of the important composers, the main periods of music, the instruments, the conductors, the artists, when to applaud at a concert or opera, and even what to wear to a performance. Icons throughout pinpoint tips, advanced information, listening guides, when to use the accompanying CDs, and stories to use in conversations. Both books are recommended for public libraries.?Kathleen Sparkman, Baylor Univ. Lib., Waco, Tex.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.