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Showing 1-10 of 32 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 40 reviews
on April 24, 2012
The title page of this edition includes the following words: "A new revised and abridged edition of Festival of Opera."

I sort of wish I'd been aware of that fact BEFORE ordering my copy of this 554-page, 1989 paperback. I've subsequently ordered (a used copy of) the original, 704-page, 1957 hardback edition. Not only does Festival of Opera cover 129 (instead of just 100) operas, but also it includes intermittent illustrations (black-and-white line drawings by Fritz Kredel). NO illustrations remain in this 1989 abridgement.

The deletion of such "adequate" (far from stunning) pictures doesn't greatly perturb me (though I do prefer having `em to not having `em). But the excision of such operas as Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur," Monteverdi's "Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" and Berlioz' "The Damnation of Faust" does somewhat perturb me (even though the 29 deleted works are the relatively less popular ones). [Note: On the "plus" side(?), Britten's "Peter Grimes" is included in this 1989 edition (it wasn't included in the 1957 edition).]

Also, the final, 32-page "index" of the 1957 hardcover edition has been totally deleted from this 1989 paperback edition. That's a fairly significant omission, insofar as you can no longer look up (for example) a composer's surname alphabetically to find the page numbers pertaining to his opera(s).

The only other noteworthy difference between this 1989 paperback and its 1957 antecedent involves the editions' respective (different) prefaces. This paperback includes only a (nearly two-page) preface by the author; by contrast, the 1957 hardback includes only a (nearly three-page) preface by Dario Soria. [That said, neither preface is significant enough to constitute a major selling point for either edition.]

Due to sheer age, the pages' paper in this 1989 paperback edition has somewhat tanned (especially at the pages' outer edges); in this regard it's virtually on a par with the still older (albeit more UNIFORMLY tanned) paper of the 1957 hardcover edition. [If you absolutely demand pristinely "bright-and-new-looking" pages, neither this 1989 nor the 1957 edition is likely to thrill you.]

Incidentally (in case you didn't happen to know), Henry W. Simon's (the author's) life spanned the years 1901-70.

P.S.: Alternatively/additionally, you should consider the following three single-volume titles:

Ticket to the Opera: Discovering and Exploring 100 Famous Works, History, Lore, and Singers, with Recommended Recordings

The New Grove Book of Operas (Covers over 250 operas.)

The Viking Opera Guide (Covering over 1,500 operas and an unspecified but large number of composers, this classy 1994 hardcover is surely "the ultimate SINGLE-VOLUME REFERENCE on opera" [and is altogether superior to, and more satisfying than, its 2002, revised incarnation, "The New Penguin Opera Guide"].)

Then again (if you can spare the requisite money and shelf space), there's "the ultimate reference on opera":

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera: 4 volumes (Covers over 1,800 operas and over 2,900 composers.)

Finally (if you're strong enough to wield its immense bulk), consider "the ultimate single-volume book on opera":

OPERA: Composers. Works. Performers. (Ullmann) (Covers approximately 350 operas, and includes countless breathtaking, color illustrations.)
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on November 16, 2014
This book is EXCEPTIONAL. One of my very best references -- and there are other good ones -- for top-rated operas. First of all, it is not easy to pick 100 "Great" operas to build the list on. Secondly, his research is astounding. I learned things about operas I thought I knew pretty well. Third -- his writing style is delightful. Fourth - he does a good job of briefly telling the story of how the opera came to be, and of how it has fared since premiere.

I am a lifelong fan of the Milton Cross book "Complete Stories of the Great Operas" - a wonderful book, but in many respects Simon's book is better. More conversational, a bit more current, more readable, more concise on the synopsis, and a bit more background information. Both books are quite dated. If I were to recommend just ONE of these to come out in a new edition, it would be Simon's -- with about 50 more operas included. The one downside of the book IMHO is that it is limited to only 100 operas, and of course they were all in the repertoire before the 1960 publication date.

GIving this book five stars is a very easy decision for me. Thanks to for leading me on to it in the first place.
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This is a neat book for newcomers and seasoned listeners alike. If you need a light paperback to take with you while you are travelling or use it as a reference material at home before or after viewing an opera on DVD/Blue ray, this is it.

This is not your gigantic coffee table book of operas, chock a block with picture etc.; it is a modest paperback with no photos. The author writes with a wry humour and provides 100 operas with a synopsis of the work, how the work came to be composed, and the circumstances etc. - followed by an act by act explanation. Each opera is a chapter and is explained in about 4 to 5 pages. I found the author's writing style engaging, injecting humor on several occasions. The author also writes in a casual and easy to read style. No pedantic paragraphs or complex musical terminology is used to show off the author's authority.

I am a big opera enthusiast who just started out some months ago. The greatest way for me to get know the repertoire is to buy DVD and blue rays (if I relied on going strictly to opera performances in my city -not having the advantage of being in New York - aka MET, I 'd probably only get to know 3 operas a year and I have 100's to get to know). So I watch operas in the comfort of my home, getting acquainted with the stories, the singing and the music. What I noticed consistently is that the DVDs/Blue rays I order come with a very small booklet which at times have very little write up in terms of synopsis. So I started relying On Wikipedia for the story and details of the act till I checked out this book on Amazon. Since I like to see the first viewing of an opera without knowing anything about it so that I have no plot spoilers, I do not look up the plot in this book if it is the first time I am seeing that opera. After seeing it once on DVD/Blue-ray, I refer to this book and read the story and it makes a lot more sense to me. I found myself re-reading certain opera chapter on any given day with no apparent reason, but to browse through and read something. Each reading gets me more interested in the opera. Some opera chapters require reading and re-reading (esp. if you start seeing 3 operas a week, you can get your stories and characters mixed up). Some operas like Berlioz's Les Troyens have a long story arc and it helps to refresh your memory quickly by reading that chapter if you have 10 minutes to kill. You can have the book by your side while watching the Blue-ray or even take it to opera performance as it is not too heavy.

Just don't expect each chapter to be an exhaustive essay on the opera because the author has to cover 100 operas in over 500 pages. Some operas take more pages case in point, Wagner's ring cycle due to the amount of material to cover. For subjects like the ring, you are better off buying separate books which analyses all of Wagner's 4 operas, since there is so much to read up on. I think this is a great book, although it may seem modest and unglamorous; but Henry W Simon's writing is great. In other words, no pomp and splendor type coffee table book with glossy photographs etc., but packs a punch and gives you the information you need to the point. Get this book and enjoy your operas.
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on March 8, 2017
good book for every opera lover. Act by act to all most staged operas. very informative to read before going to opera
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on June 12, 2017
condition of book was ok however i had just seen 'nebecco' and wanted to read the plot, characters etc so bought the book - unfortunately 'nebecco' was not included !
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on March 17, 2016
so glad i found this book. i had one years ago when i was learning about different operas. now that i'm 80 i forget who wrote what. Was it Verdi or Pucci? this is the perfect book for looking things up.
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on October 6, 2016
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on March 4, 2016
Entertaining, informative, and a treat to read!!!! An excellent anthology of great operatic works.
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on June 28, 2016
makes it easier to focus on what you are looking for in opera
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on October 12, 2014
Stories are exactly what I needed, but the condition of the old, discolored paperback that is fragile on the binding has me being too careful handling it to enjoy it.
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