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The Operas of Verdi: Volume 1: From Oberto to Rigoletto Paperback – September 3, 1992
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Volume 1 covers "Oberto" to "Rigoletto," 2 covers "Il Trovatore" to ""La Forza del Destino," and 3 "Don Carlos" to the final "Falstaff." The revised edition, which is now available in paperback format, begins with an introduction to Verdi and his times and a general consideration of the early operas. Volume 2 offers two chapters on the changing traditions in Italian opera and Verdi's maturing in his craft; while Volume 3 (in the hardcover edition I managed to find) plunges directly into the operas.
Each opera is handled in two sections. First an in-depth narration of the circumstances leading to the creation and opening night of each work, and then a scene by scene analysis of plot and music. This differs from the organization of the one-volume Charles Osborne book, "The Complete Operas of Verdi," which treats the music separately from plot. As much as I admire and have used that work for years, I believe the Budden volumes--so much fuller and therefore so much more useful--will supplant it from this time forward.
I can only urge Oxford to reissue that 3rd volume as soon as possible.
general introduction situating Verdi in the Italian opera structure of his time, the
author present a separate chapter on each title, first giving the background of the
project and then analyzing the action scene by scene, with plenty of musical examples.
Instead of following a recording with the libretto, you can follow it using Budden's
precis, for much enlightenment on how Verdi created music drama. It's really an
amazingly detailed excursion. Had you heard about Budden's plans before he actually
started writing, you might guess that no one life is long enough to allow an author to
lay out so much detail, so much thought and insight. There are many great books. But
this one is astonishing.