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Puccini without Excuses: A Refreshing Reassessment of the World's Most Popular Composerby William Berger
Synopses & Reviews
Puccini is the most beloved composer of opera in the world: one quarter of all opera performances in the U.S. are of his operas, his music pervades movie soundtracks, and his plots have infiltrated our popular culture. But, although Puccinis art still captivates audiences and the popularity of such works as Tosca, La Boh?me, and Madama Butterfly has never waned, he has long been a victim of critical snobbery and cultural marginalization.
In this witty and informative guide for beginners and fans alike, William Berger sets the record straight, reclaiming Puccini as a serious artist. Combining his trademark irreverent humor with passionate enthusiasm, Berger strikes just the right balance of introductory information and thought-provoking analysis. He includes a biography, discussions of each opera, a glossary, fun facts and anecdotes, and above all keen insight into Puccinis enduring power. For anyone who loves Puccini and for anyone who just wonders what all the fuss is about, Puccini Without Excuses is funny, challenging, and always a pleasure to read.
_ Why Puccinis art and its message of hope is crucial to our world today
_ How Anglo audiences often miss the mythic significance of his operas
_ The use of his music as shorthand in films, from A Room with a View to Fatal Attraction
_ A scene-by scene analysis of each opera
_ A guide to the wealth of available recordings, books, and videos
"Puccini, the celebrated composer of La Bohme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly (together, the three make up perhaps a quarter of all U.S. opera performances) is often regarded as a 'guilty pleasure,' too melodic, too 'easy.' Not so fast, says Berger, who proceeds to demonstrate exactly why attention must be paid. This is the third in the amusing, educational opera series by the popular NPR commentator and radio host, following Wagner Without Fear and Verdi with a Vengeance. The informal, sometimes slangy tone assumes readers' ignorance (but willingness to learn) and coaches them in everything they need to know. The formula follows that of the earlier books: first, a brief biography of the artist; then a breakdown of each opera (eight here) with comments, introducing the characters and explaining what kind of singer each part calls for; then an act-by-act summary with instructions on what to watch and listen for. Next, Berger veers off into three idiosyncratic essays, including one on Puccini's influence on modern show biz (on Bohme knockoffs: Moulin Rouge was good; Rent, not so much). Then it's back to instruction: singers to recognize, recordings to buy or rent, books to read and a glossary of musical terms, many Italian. Agent, Al Zuckerman. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
William Berger was born in California and studied Romance languages and music at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He worked for five years at the San Francisco Opera Company, where he acquired for the companys recorded music collection. He is the author of Wagner Without Fear: Learning to Love-and Even Enjoy-Operas Most Demanding Genius and Verdi With a Vengeance: An Energetic Guide to the Life and Complete Works of the King of Opera. He is a frequent lecturer and radio commentator and has recently been a regular host for New York Public Radios Overnight Music. He has written libretti, performance pieces, and articles on a wide variety of topics including architecture, religion, and, of course, music. He is a music host for WNYC radio and lives in New York.
Table of Contents
The case of Puccini — The operas — The Puccini code — Exploring Puccini.
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