Synopses & Reviews
From backstage squabbles and box-office chicanery to the gallantry and glory of creation, this book unveils a delightful panorama of opera lore, alternately hilarious, poignant, and wise. Ethan Mordden has mined the literature for "the best stories" and retells them in the fresh and witty style that prompted Publishers Weekly
to hail him as "one of the most entertaining and provocative writers around."
Mordden has selected a vast collection of classic, arcane and unusual anecdotes, including Giuseppe Verdi's advice on how to run an opera house and how to write an aria, Enrico Caruso's adventures in the San Francisco earthquake, Arturo Toscanini's reunion dinner with his former lover Geraldine Farrar, and Beverly Sills' ad libbing from the Met balcony during a Lily Pons Lakmé. The volume contains sad stories, too, as when Hans von Bülow confronts his wife Cosima after she has left him for Wagner; and silly stories, as when Colonel Henry Mapleson attempts to put on Il Trovatore while missing one of the four principals, Azucena. We see history being made when Gluck's "psychological" orchestration so startles the Paris Opéra orchestra that the players trail off in astonishment; and we see history nearly unmade when Luciano Pavarotti's plane crashes en route to Milan.
"There is history here," Mordden notes, "for if many of the tales are silly, many others are telling. They bring us close to a moment in which art is invented, revised, elaborated. The characters of opera's adventures are so vital and stimulating that almost anything they do enlightens us."
About the Author
has taught at Yale University and is the author of numerous books, including The American Theatre
, A Guide to Orchestral Music
, Broadway Babies
, Opera in the Twentieth Century
, and A Guide to Opera Recordings