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The Sibyl Sanderson Story: Requiem for a Diva (Opera Biography)

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 007-3999843774
ISBN-10: 1574670948
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Editorial Reviews


". . . If it's possible for the category of opera biography to include a guilty pleasure, [this book] would qualify." -- Opera News, August 2005

"Clearly, [Hansen] has left no stone unturned . . . an entertaining biography of an unusual operatic personality." --, April 2005

"Extraordinarily detailed, the reader is carried along on a tumultuous ride that is both sympathetic and shocking." -- The Post-Star, April 24, 2005

"Hansen brings people, events, and geographical and historical sites to life most vividly . . ." -- American Record Guide, January/February 2006

"meticulously researched and furnished with rare photos." -- Bay Area Reporter, December 8, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: Opera Biographies (Amadeus) (Book 16)
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Amadeus Press (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574670948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574670943
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,938,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on March 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Born in 1864 in Sacramento, CA, Sibyl Sanderson was the first in a long line of celebrity opera singers running to Maria Callas and Beverly Sills in recent years. Yet, the first of this line of modern divas, she was vulnerable in ways that those following her were not--vulnerable both to illusions she created in her own mind and also to the designs of others on her. These others included Gilded Age tycoons and European royalty she met as she performed throughout the U. S. and Europe. Her marriage to a Cuban Lothario named Antonio Terry was especially destructive. With little protections against the harmful penchants of her own nature or guidance from any cautionary tales in the new environment of celebrity, media, high financial stakes, and notoriety by association that many sought from her, Sanderson suffered breakdowns onstage and practically continuous emotional pain and confusion. She died at 38 from an illness made worse by her ignoring her doctor's advice; which led some to believe she had intentionally brought on her own death. Hansen's is a voluminous biography of this latter 19th-century opera star whose fame in her day has been eclipsed by others who followed in her pattern of international fame, cult-like adulation, and impetuousness. With research from papers kept by Sanderson's relatives--often quoting from these--and a skillful balance of the many sides of her life, it's a basic resource for any study of Sanderson. Winsor uses his impressive background in music for a biography that is sympathetic and insightful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Prada on March 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting story not only of a famously wilful and brilliant singing actress, but also of life in late Nineteenth Century Paris. It mentions many key figures in opera of the period, and serves as a cautionary tale for aspiring artists as well as a good read for aficionados and those who love a good story - in this case a true story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charles D. novak on September 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Maria Callas had Oristotle Onassis to complicated her life and jepordize her singing career, Sibyl Sanderson had Jules Massenet. I doubted a four hundred page book was necessary about the life of this opera singer, but by the time I finished the story, I wanted two hundred more pages of information. This book is well written, researched and informational. I thought I knew who Sibyl Sanderson was - a one operatic hit soprano (THIAS) who coasted through a singing career under the lustfilled eyes of composer Jules Massenet. How wrong I was! I couldn't put this book down once I got into the story. It's as much about the life of Massenet as it is Sanderson. The author captures the period perfectly. He takes you on Sibyl's path of self destruction to the point where you want to shout out "be careful!" Beautifully written. Buy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maria Beadnell on December 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When the author has no writing credits in his bio on the jacket, but does tell you about his descending from an old New England family, you're in for trouble. A loftier, smugger book I have never seen. I could practically hear Kelsey Grammer's intonation as I read.

And the book is so old-fashioned in its values. I found myself looking back at the publication date several times: was this REALLY written in 2005? Hansen repeatedly refers to married couples by the man's name only, e.g. "Sibyl was good friends with the Oscar Wildes." He has an archaic terror of lesbianism which would be comical if it were not coming from an educated man, and one in the music business. Hansen writes with disgust how the composer Massenet contrived to have Sanderson made drunk and then seduced by a woman. OK that's horrible. He frequently re-refers to the incident and calls several women "that Lesbian" rather than using a name or pseudonym. But when a tenor liquors her up and seduces Sanderson, that's dismissed with a "boys will be boys," paragraph or two. Since by Hansen's own account Sanderson later approached women in public restrooms for favors, it seems the singer had her own ideas on her sexuality, but for Hansen she was merely a victim of the evil woman and of Massenet. (I think even Frasier would see that differently.)

Hansen is more sympathetic when writing about Sanderson's alcoholism, and speculates that she could find better help today than she did in her own time. Maybe. He paints a picture of a classic self-destructive, creative manic-depressive artist whose patterns can be seen just as easily in Hollywood today as in Paris in 1890.

Hansen was fortunate, having started his research in the 1950's, to interview people who had actually known his subject.
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