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How to Listen to and Understand Opera | [The Great Courses]

How to Listen to and Understand Opera

To watch any opera lover listen to a favorite work, eyes clenched tight in concentration and passion, often betraying a tear, is to be almost envious. What must it be like, you might think, to love a piece of music so much?And now one of music's most gifted teachers is offering you the opportunity to answer that very question, in a spellbinding series of 32 lectures that will introduce you to the transcendentally beautiful performing art that has enthralled audiences for more than 400 years.
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Publisher's Summary

To watch any opera lover listen to a favorite work, eyes clenched tight in concentration and passion, often betraying a tear, is to be almost envious. What must it be like, you might think, to love a piece of music so much?

And now one of music's most gifted teachers is offering you the opportunity to answer that very question, in a spellbinding series of 32 lectures that will introduce you to the transcendentally beautiful performing art that has enthralled audiences for more than 400 years.

As you meet the geniuses - including the likes of Monteverdi, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini - who have produced some of the landmark artistic achievements of the form, and listen to many of their most beautiful moments, you'll grasp how the addition of music can reveal truths beyond what mere spoken words can convey, and how opera's unique marriage of words and music makes the whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

Beginning with opera's origins in the early 17th century and continuing into the 20th, you'll trace the art's evolution and its ability to convey every shade of human emotion, whether sorrow or joy, drama or buffoonery. You'll understand how different types of voices enhance character. And you'll understand how the invention of the aria gave operatic composers a new power to make human emotions soar, adding to the impact of what continues to be one of the most beautiful musical forms ever devised.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©1997 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1997 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.7 (131 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Shannon 11-28-14
    Shannon 11-28-14 Member Since 2013

    I love listening and usually get in at least three hours a day. I like fiction, biographies and medical non-fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Learning and loving it"

    I have been attending operas for 40 years. Although I have no musical training, I've always loved going to the opera, particularly Mozart. This course taught me a lot about opera terms, the history of the composers, the history of music and the how language influenced opera (different rhythms in the language require different phrasing in the music). Professor Greenberg tossed many jokes, often in the language of the composer, into the mix, about 2/3 of which amused me. The recordings selected nicely illustrated Prof. Greenberg's points.

    Please, I must make one additional observation. If you are attempting to make any changes in your life, in addition to learning about opera, I recommend that you commit yourself to doing so whenever Prof. Greenberg says either "Please!" or "Quickly". If you promise to do 10 pushups, for example, you will likely get 70 to 100 done per lecture with a commitment to "Please!", and 20 to 30 if you go for "Quickly". If you're a drinker, you will be well on your way to alcoholism.

    Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed the lectures and the lecturer. If you're curious about or not thoroughly knowledgeable about opera, this is a great place to start learning and (I hope) loving it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 08-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Wish It Was Even Longer"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes! I loved the parallel of the historical development of opera in general with the analysis of each individual opera's context, story and music.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of How to Listen to and Understand Opera?

    The description of singing voices and how each is used to further an opera's impact.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Tosca, one of my favorites and the author's as well.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of Desdemona from Otello.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ona 05-17-14
    Ona 05-17-14 Member Since 2014

    reader

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    "The Fat Lady Will Never Sing for this one"
    Would you consider the audio edition of How to Listen to and Understand Opera to be better than the print version?

    I haven't read the print version, so I really could not compare the two. However, if you simply read the work, you would miss out on all the wonderful music clips used throughout.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Professor Greenberg's humorous way of dealing with what could be a fairly dry topic.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Robert Greenberg – was your favorite?

    Now I can't see that this really applies. He covers a lot of territory in the history of opera. Figero is certainly memorable, but I wouldn't necessarily call him a favorite. Otello was also well done.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    This question so does not apply to this work.


    Any additional comments?

    This is my second "Great Course" audio book performed by Professor Greenberg. He clearly enjoys his topic -- music -- and is adept at couching history in modern terms without getting tooo campy about it. I enjoyed this book and "how to listen and appreciate music" very much. Both added a great deal to my appreciation of music history and classical format.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    -Maha Vishnu 05-21-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Avenge guard analysis"

    excellent presentations on a gorgeous tradition of fantastic proportions which Greenberg couches in modern sensibilities. if you're into opera, like the idea of opera, or see yourself as a dilettante fan this presentation is for you

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey NYC 05-19-15
    Jeffrey NYC 05-19-15 Member Since 2015

    Don't change the truth, let the truth change you

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    "You will not be disappointed!"

    Brava amazing, I'm a concert composer and deeply enjoyed this series

    Highly recommend this to anyone

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gazit Austin, TX 04-26-15
    Gazit Austin, TX 04-26-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Extraordinary in every way possible!!"

    It is only two years now that I have begun to enjoy opera. Thanks to this course and this extraordinary passionate and knowledgeable professor, I now understand it more and therefore enjoy it much more! It taught me a lot about the history, and aroused me to go and research it is in further for the ones that I liked. Thank you a thousand times!!
    Gave it also as a gift to my auntie, who is now enjoying it too :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katey 04-19-15
    Katey 04-19-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Perfect for new opera fans"

    I went to my first opera performance earlier this year and became an instant fan. This course was very enjoyable to listen to and was very helpful for helping me understand the art form. Professor was very knowledgeable, interesting, and engaging. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    eag 03-26-15
    eag 03-26-15
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    "Greenberg is fantastic"

    If you're familiar with the Great Courses at all, you know that the quality is generally outstanding. The opera course is the one that makes me feel like I should revise my other ratings downwards so that it stands out more! He's passionate and knowledgeable, which are essential, but he's unique in his ability to make me invested in opera and to describe it as something that can and does resonate in modern life. Often after a course my thoughts are, that was really interesting, I learned a lot, I'm glad I listened. But now my thoughts are, I want to listen to more opera!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn Goss 02-16-15
    Robyn Goss 02-16-15
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    "A wonderful course"
    What did you love best about How to Listen to and Understand Opera?

    A fascinating course, packed full of information; Professor Greenberg is an absolute pleasure to listen to.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alcairha Brooklyn, NY 01-25-15
    Alcairha Brooklyn, NY 01-25-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Outstanding review of opera through the ages"

    Professor Greenberg has tremendous depth of knowledge and understanding of classical music and opera, which he makes more interesting by placing it in context with the historical and political events of the time. What could be dry and boring is made tremendously entertaining by Professor Greenberg's great sense of humor, the intermingled personal anecdotes about the composers and performers, and of course the music itself. Perhaps my only criticism is that I would've preferred more Verdi and less Monteverdi, but that is a very minor issue. My understanding and enjoyment of opera has been increased considerably by listening to these lectures. I can't recommend it highly enough, both to the novice and the connoisseur !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Andy
    Leicester, United Kingdom
    2/21/14
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    "Never knew opera could be so much fun or so funny"
    What made the experience of listening to How to Listen to and Understand Opera the most enjoyable?

    Lots of insight into the world of opera and the way pieces are constructed and the different forms and style


    What was one of the most memorable moments of How to Listen to and Understand Opera?

    The marriage of figaro lots of information and insight. Also made the funny side stand out


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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