- Series: Opera Biography (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: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,301,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sibyl Sanderson Story: Requiem for a Diva (Opera Biography)
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". . . 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." -- Operatoday.com, 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
Top customer reviews
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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. He also had access to many letters and diaries kept by the family. For this reason there are parts of the book that are sparkling with life and day-to-day detail. As Sanderson lets the wrong person coach her, uses the wrong methods to relax, and chooses the wrong companions, the feeling of horrible inevitability looms. There's also a good feel of the artist as a kind and generous person, when she was able to be.
Despite the uneven writing, it was intriguing almost-500 pages, with good guys such as Sibyl's mother and bad guys such as Massenet and Mary Garden, and a fascinating look at an artist's sad life.