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Opera Lively - The Interviews Paperback – December 4, 2012
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Even on a casual perusal of the book, one thing becomes immediately clear: Gazzola must not eat or sleep. In addition to overseeing the rapid development of the website into a highly respected opera resource, he has somehow found time to arrange for and conduct these interviews with various opera professionals, many of them the biggest names in the business, including Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Danielle de Niese, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Deborah Voigt, Piotr Beczala, Matthew Polenzani, and Thomas Hampson. Traveling the world, he has managed to sit down for lengthy, in-depth conversations with thirty-eight of these figures--some of them more than once--to assemble a hefty collection totaling nearly five hundred pages. The project is clearly a labor of love, and it shows on every page.
Gazzola himself is one of the great strengths of the book. His passion for and extensive knowledge of opera comes through clearly, and that in turn seems to win the trust and elicit the unguarded response of his interviewees. They obviously relish conversing with such an informed, enthusiastic devotee. To cite just one example, when Gazzola identifies three of soprano Danielle de Niese's most successful productions on DVD and asks her to discuss each in turn, she is delighted by his astute choices. By the end of many of these interviews, the opera luminaries appear to feel as privileged to have sat down with Gazzola as he does with them.
Unlike many other opera interview books, this one doesn't just focus on established stars. Along with a dozen of the international celebrities mentioned above, Gazzola interviews ten emerging, regional, and/or young singers, who offer their own fresh perspectives on the trials and rewards of those still defining their careers.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the book, though, is Gazzola's determination to go beyond the usual obsession with singers and seek out a balanced range of various opera professionals. Some of the more intriguing interviews feature conductors, directors, administrators, scholars, and composers. Thaddeus Strassberger may not be a household name even among opera lovers, but he offers some telling thoughts on the current phenomenon of director-driven "Regie" theater. The musicologist Philip Gossett gives penetrating critiques of current production choices based on his vast knowledge of original editions. One of the most compelling sections is the interview with the 94-year-old American composer Robert Ward, whose life reads like a vivid history of the last century, even as he offers his still-insightful views on a range of contemporary composers and trends.
As an interviewer, Gazzola may not be completely without idiosyncrasies. His enthusiasm sometimes threatens to overwhelm his objectivity, and he does appear to have more than a bit of a crush on the beautiful Russian soprano Anna Netrebko. But he's hardly alone in that particular failing, and since any lack of reserve on his part clearly springs from a lifelong passion for opera and those who bring it to life, one quickly forgives any excesses.
With the range and depth of its explorations, this book should have lasting value as a historical document on the state of opera in the early twenty-first century. More immediately, it's an absorbing read for devoted opera fans, providing a wealth of detailed, fascinating information and opinions on a variety of current topics. Finally, the book will be of great interest to those just beginning to love opera, offering a behind-the-scenes view that makes this exotic art form all the more human and accessible.
One can only hope for a second book of such interviews in the near future.
In the course of reviewing opera DVDs and CDs for Amazon customers, I have been ... "challenged" .. . frequently on my opinions on modern opera's artistic health, as well as the superb artistry of the modern singers. I have the benefit of having heard the singers of the last half of the 20th century whose absence is regretted by many who believe that today's singers do not measure up to those of bygone times. Recorded sound these days puts the quietus to that concept quite firmly, I believe.
What Dr. Gazzola presents here is proof of the comittment, hard work and intelligence of those interviewed. These are elements that, as one reads, come through quite clearly. Some of the singers are favorites here: Joyce DiDonato, Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polanzani and Piotr Beczala, just to name four. While I am presently unacquainted with the "new" talent interviewed, their remarks make me want to experience their work.
The author, a practicing shr ...I mean psychiatrist ... is as passionate about opera as I, and that's a LOT!.He interviews with a comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter, as well as an obvious love of it and respect for its practitioners. He writes well, too; his prose is crisp and clear.
In addition, Dr. Gazzola runs a fabulous website that has a huge amount of opera related information, including interviews to be published in a second volume (which I fervently wish he would get finished!). He even puts up with my inane posts, which is another issue.
I like this book a lot! I think it is a valuable resource for folks who know and love opera, as well as those who wonder what all the fuss is about.
Recommended without reservation, as is the Opera Lively web site, which demands a bit of your attention, gentle reader.
Rarely does an author bring so much passion to his work (the author is a doctor by day, an opera fanatic by night and weekend). The dedication to the art form, and the excitement is on every page here. He himself offers the best explanation: "Opera touches the very core of the human condition. It has a force of truth, or "Satyagraha", a very appropriate name for a contemporary opera. Opera is sublime music that expresses and illustrates love, desire, duty, friendship, loyalty, jealousy, power, greed, death, murder, war, religion, mythology... what makes us human. And it does so by way of the ultimate art form that encompasses the musical, theatrical and visual arts, including instrumental playing, singing, acting, scenery, costumes, props, lighting, prose, poetry... "
Outstanding publication, not to be missed. Give a look to Dr. Gazzola's Opera Lively web site from whence it came as well.