This afternoon, I looked at the Metropolitan Opera schedule, which appears in the October-December issue of our quarterly magazine The Musical Mainstream. It lists all of the operas to be performed, along with NLS materials, librettos, lectures, etc., pertaining to the operas. Nowhere did I find any mention of a reference book that I read about when it first became available. And when I decided to check it out myself, a colleague said that this work has rarely left the building.
So let me introduce you to The Viking Opera Guide, Edited by Amanda Holden, BRM29585. For each opera composer, it offers a short biography, followed by summaries of the composer’s operas in chronological order.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with Idomeneo, as I am (Met. Broadcast for February 28). In Volume 50 of The Viking Opera Guide, you will find an article about this Mozart work, beginning with cast and orchestration, and concluding with recommended books and recordings. As for Cyrano de Bergerac (May 6), I confess that even the composer is unfamiliar to me, but Volume 2 contains information about Franco Alfano.
February 18 is the broadcast date for I Puritani by Bellini, but do you know when the first U.S. performance was? According to Viking (vol. 5), it was at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street Theater on July 22, 1843.
In this same volume, I find information on an opera that some have dismissed, but which I have always found exciting: The composer “got it right in the end…The opera ends in a mighty hymn to liberty…in a blazing C major that dissolves the personal drama into a vision of universal love.” Hear it for yourself on the April 1 broadcast of Beethoven’s Fidelio.
So why has this book remained largely untouched? Probably because it is in 94 volumes! “How can I deal with 94 volumes of braille on the porch?” Or in the living room or den? No problem. The online catalog lists what is in each volume, so you can know which ones to order. Also note that the first volume includes a glossary, with terms ranging from aleatoric to Zeitoper.
So please check out some volumes of BRM29585, and enhance your opera-going experience.