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Opera Lively: The Interviews Volume 2 Paperback – September 7, 2014
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About the Author
Luiz Gazzola, MD, PhD, has loved opera since a lucky encounter with Carmen decades ago. Over the years, he has explored the opera repertory from Monteverdi to George Benjamin, taking in hundreds of recorded and live performances (he used to live two blocks from the Metropolitan Opera House), as well as reading widely on the subject. Opera is in Dr. Gazzola’s blood, given that he is a dual citizen of Italy and the United States who speaks five languages. He holds the position of Senior Editor at Opera Lively Press and the www.operalively.com web site, and is the author of "Opera Lively – The Interviews" and "The Opera Lively Guides - Les Troyens" also published by Opera Lively Press. His passion for this fascinating art form drove him to embrace a second career as a registered opera journalist, while remaining active as a Board Certified Psychiatrist. Dr. Gazzola, who authored a book on Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, is a graduate of Columbia University, with a doctoral degree in Psychoanalysis from the University of Paris, France. He has written articles for cultural magazines, and led a seminar on Cinema and Psychoanalysis at Columbia University. Opera, cinema, and literature join fine wines as his main interests outside of his family and profession. He currently lives with his wife Marta in North Carolina, where he teaches students from Duke University. In between Psychiatry lessons, he always makes a point of introducing opera to his students, refusing to be discouraged by a dismal 6% conversion rate for new opera fans among them.
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Like its predecessor, it consists of 464 pages of interviews (plus a nice index) with some of the folks who make modern opera what it is. Singers come first, broken down by vocal categories (mezzo, tenor, bass, etc.), followed by conductors, stage directors, educators and even a couple of modern composers. The interviews are focused, highly informative and enjoyable to read. The sequencing of interviews is handy for folks who like to read in "small bites"; I spent over a day and one half with it to get a sense of how it compares with Volume I and to get enough from it to provide you, gentle reader, with (hopefully) a review of substance.
Among the singers are some interesting choices. Susan Graham and Federica von Stade do not presently do much lead role operatic performances, but have significant discographies and fan bases to make them appropriate for interviews. Diana Damrau and Eva-Maria Westbroek, of course, are both well known performers, as are Juan Diego Florez, Lawrence Brownlee, Ildar Abdrazakov, and the other singers featured. Conductors include two personal favorites, Marco Armiliato and Yannik Nezet-Seguin.
But rather than simply list the interviewees, let me focus on the quality of the interviews. In sum, they have substance. Unlike the rather superfluous and shallow "interviews" one experiences on HD simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, Dr. Gazzola respectfully and knowledgably elicits information about who these people are, why they do what they do and some opinions on the various aspects of operatic performance. Many who attend opera, either in person or via electronic media, can only experience the characters these singers portray, hear the score as the conductor interprets it or see the staging that the director has contrived to allow his/her view of the work to take on substance.
To get that sense of the "who, what, where, why and how" aspects of these artists is most enjoyable.
And it is simpler in the abstract than it is in the execution. The author, Luiz Gazzola, is a practicing psychiatrist with a profound knowledge of and love for the operatic art form. What that has enabled him to do in both of these works is to get the interviewees to be comfortable in sharing their thoughts, ambitions, etc. in a highly readable form. Quite frankly, gentle reader, I consider myself well informed on matters operatic ( and so passionate about Italian Opera so as to be addicted to it). Dr. Gazzola is one of the few people whom I know or whose works I have read that is better informed and more passionate than I.
He also writes well. The questions he asks are respectfully incisive, and where an answer may be a bit unresponsive, the follow up is always done nicely. Since "the proof of the pie is in the tasting", the best way to sum up my reactions to the interviews is to state that I felt like I had a much better sense of who my favorite singers were after reading these interviews.
Highly recommended for both opera fans and those who are tempted to put a metaphoric toe in the water.
Finally, Dr. Gazzola has a website devoted entirely to opera, Opera Lively, which is easily found, but which site addy Amazon will not allow me to type into this review. It ia a neat place to spend some time and hang out with folks who are passionate about opera.