From Publishers Weekly
Puccini, the celebrated composer of La Bohème
and Madama Butterfly
(together, the three make up perhaps a quarter of all U.S. opera performances) is often regarded as a "guilty pleasure," too melodic, too "easy." Not so fast, says Berger, who proceeds to demonstrate exactly why attention must be paid. This is the third in the amusing, educational opera series by the popular NPR commentator and radio host, following Wagner Without Fear
and Verdi with a Vengeance
. The informal, sometimes slangy tone assumes readers' ignorance (but willingness to learn) and coaches them in everything they need to know. The formula follows that of the earlier books: first, a brief biography of the artist; then a breakdown of each opera (eight here) with comments, introducing the characters and explaining what kind of singer each part calls for; then an act-by-act summary with instructions on what to watch and listen for. Next, Berger veers off into three idiosyncratic essays, including one on Puccini's influence on modern show biz (on Bohème
knockoffs: Moulin Rouge
was good; Rent
, not so much). Then it's back to instruction: singers to recognize, recordings to buy or rent, books to read and a glossary of musical terms, many Italian.
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About the Author
William Berger was born in California and studied Romance languages and music at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He worked for five years at the San Francisco Opera Company, where he acquired for the company’s recorded music collection. He is the author of Wagner Without Fear: Learning to Love–and Even Enjoy–Opera’s Most Demanding Genius
and Verdi With a Vengeance: An Energetic Guide to the Life and Complete Works of the King of Opera.
He is a frequent lecturer and radio commentator and has recently been a regular host for New York Public Radio’s Overnight Music.
He has written libretti, performance pieces, and articles on a wide variety of topics including architecture, religion, and, of course, music. He is a music host for WNYC radio and lives in New York.