Opera 101 is recognized as the standard text in English for anyone who wants to become an opera lover. It is a clear, friendly, and truly complete handbook for learning how to listen to opera, whether on the radio, on recordings, or live at the opera house. Fred Plotkin, an internationally respected writer and teacher about opera, who for many years was performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera, introduces listeners, whatever their level of musical knowledge, to all the elements that make up opera.
The major part of Opera 101 is devoted to an almost minute-by-minute analysis of 11 key operas, ranging from Verdi's thunderous masterpiece Rigoletto and Puccini's electrifying Tosca to works by Mozart, Donizetti, Rossini, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, and to the psychological complexities of Richard Strauss's Elektra. Once you have completed Opera 101, you will be prepared to see and hear any opera you encounter, thanks to this book's unprecedented detail and enjoyable method of revealing the riches of opera.
©1994 Fred Plotkin; (P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks
This book is a superb introduction for anybody who wants to have a good understanding and a better appreciation of operas. It is complete in all aspects, since it comprehends history of opera, biography of composers, analysis of major works and so forth. Besides, the narrator, who happens to be the author of the book himself, reads it as wonderfully as he wrote it. After listening to this audiobook, you will be promoted from an opera novice to an opera lover and enthusiast. Go ahead! It's a good buy.
Say something about yourself!
I write that title with a caveat, which I'll explain. This book is geared to the idea that perhaps you know just a little about the world of opera and feel like maybe you're ready to be dangerous and don't know where to start. Mr. Plotkin offers his credentials as to why he's the right man to be your guide to this strange world, which are impressive, and then he leads you through the basics just as he says he will. He's one part tour guide, one part college professor, and he clearly loves opera. And he hopes you will too.
The history of opera is offered at Wikipedia speed, broken down for you in sections so you can see how it evolved into what it's become today. He'll even give you pointers on how to attend a performance and get the most out of it, which that alone is invaluable information. Where it gets dicey is that sometimes he forgets he's talking to a beginner when it comes to the actual operas, but he does bring it back down to beginner level sooner or later. A lot of the times, though, you will be expected to rise to the next level up without warning, and where this subject is concerned, that's not a bad thing if you're truly interested. He covers a handful of operas within this tome and explains why he picked them. His insights are well worth it for anyone who wants to dig deep. The thing is, and he'll tell you this up front, he's working from very specific recordings of these works that you will have to hunt down on your own, either in a library or online. Some of his explanation is specific to those recordings. Don't let that disuade you. If you can't find that recording, try another and compare it to what you learn in this book. The point of this entire thing is to help you make the leap from novice to enthusiast with confidence enough to discover more, and where you go from there is up to you. I've heard it said that for some beginners, it's many years - if ever - before they go from hearing an aria or two to listening to an entire opera with anything close to understanding. This book connects the dots if you're willing to meet the author halfway.
If you are serious on fast tracking your opera appreciation experience, study this book, buy or borrow the CDs and in 3-6 months you will be chatting away with the most seasoned opera lovers. But much more importantly, if you follow Fred's experienced advice, you will be entering a new world of deep insight into music and human endeavor of the greatest sophistication and pleasure. Just do it step by step and do not get turned off by the demanding and lecturing style. He is right all the way!
Most people coming to opera for the first time feel a calling of some sought- having been taken to an opera by chance or catching a snippet as part of a movie soundtrack etc. This really isn't the book to inspire a lasting passion for the art. The content dwells on particulars which aren't that interesting (eg. how you applaud/ express disapproval at an opera) and suggests kinds of attendance and audience behaviour (all better learnt by going or watching a video of a live performance). Sections looking at the great opera are basic, not revelationary and well, the actual reading/performance of this book makes the content even less engaging. Not particularly inspiring! Money better spent on a good opera recording or a cheap back row ticket would be much more enjoyable. After all opera isn't that scarry.
"A valuable guide"
A very informative and sympathetic approach to invite new opera goers into a brilliant wonderful & enchanting world of music and art that can be so very life enhancing. Though not a newcomer to opera I found Plotkin's book a real plus on many levels. For one thing, his genuine love of the subject is so apparent. This matters. And he "names names"...he has opinions and shares them forthrightly. I haven't been able to take full advantage yet of the accompanying material re the cd examples aspect but hope to be able to do so.. highly recommended.
Yes, if they REALLY wanted to get into opera.
The breakdown of each opera was genius
Fred Plotkin has the greatest voice I've ever heard. He contributes occasionally to Rick Steves' podcast as an opera/cuisine expert and his lived-life-to-eleven voice is almost edible.
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