The Opera of the Twentieth Century

A Passionate Art in Transition


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About the Book

In the late 1500s in Florence, aristocrats of the Renaissance renovated classical Greek dramas into dramatic musicals and gave birth to the first operas. After centuries of transformation, the opera is still appreciated as a historically dynamic paradigm of the fine arts. Composers of the twentieth century have worked hard to fashion a voice distinct from the romantic composers of the nineteenth century and the traditions that preceded them, and this volume explores the extent of their success.
Beginning with a thorough introduction to the history of operatic forms and transformation, this book presents a comprehensive discussion of twentieth century opera. Giving ear to many composers and many styles—romantic and modern and assorted variations—the discussion includes such globally renowned composers as Strauss, Puccini, Prokofiev and Mascagni, as well as the esoteric works of less famous composers. Spanning as it does from Puccini’s Tosca and Charpentier’s Louise to Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, twentieth century operatic form has something for every taste. The discussion is therefore structured chronologically and directed at exploring this complex diversity and ingenuity of twentieth-century styles. Examples from across the globe and firsthand commentary from contemporary operatic professionals complement the discussion. Concluding chapters comment upon the operatic presence in the twenty-first century and the future of operatic forms.

About the Author(s)

William Schoell is the author of numerous books about the performing arts and pop culture, and the writer of the blog Great Old Movies. He lives in New York.

Bibliographic Details

William Schoell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 308
Bibliographic Info: notes, discography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2465-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0556-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction      1

1. Giacomo Puccini, Genius of Melody      9
2. Pietro Mascagni, Prince of Passion      22
3. Sex and Violence: Italy, 1900–1950      35
4. The Passion of Zarzuela: Spain, South America, Cuba, 1900–1950      52
5. Elegance and Romance: France, 1900–1950      60
6. Wagner’s Heir: Richard Strauss      76
7. The Final Chords of Romanticism: Germany, Austria, 1900–1950      92
8. Sound, Fury, Significance: Russia, 1900–1950      116
9. JanáVek and Other Europeans, 1900–1950      130
10. (Mostly) Gentlemen at Work: United Kingdom, 1900–1950      142
11. The Musical Theater of Opera: United States, 1900–1950      154
12. The Bright Lights of Opera: United States, 1950–1959      176
13. A Mixed Bag: United States, 1960–1990      194
14. Kitchen Sink International: Europe, 1951–1990      218
15. Old Music, New Bottles: United Kingdom, 1951–1990      236
16. The Final Decade—and the Future: United States and the World, 1990 into the 21st Century      247

Chapter Notes      269
20th Century Arias, Duets, Intermezzos of Note      273
Discography      275
Bibliography      291
Index      295

Book Reviews & Awards

“a thorough introduction to the history of operatic forms…a comprehensive discussion of 20th-century opera”—Opera America Newsline.