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."
"A charming romp through opera legends, some fact, some fiction, all delightfully assembled and sparklingly presented. An opera lovers' handbook that should always be near at hand."--Schuyler G. Chapin
"[An] entertaining anthology of opera fact and fiction....The author obviously relishes his task and has chosen the material well."--Library Journal
"Entertaining and frequently insightful....A very fine book; it is well worth reading."--Best Sellers
"Mordden, who knows his way around backstage...has gleefully amassed hundreds of such anecdotes, exchanges and choice bits of opera lore."--Time
"Mordden...has collected some of the most famous anecdotes--fact and fiction--to keep the conversation at many a music-lover's table humming."--Daily Press, Newport News, VA
"A thoroughly charming and light-hearted panorama of fact and fiction."--The Evening Gazette, Worcester, MA
"Mordden is one of the more entertaining--at times outrageous--popular writers on opera....He writes with authority and conviction....Highly entertaining."--Opera Journal
"Romping good fun."--Buffalo News
"A rare and delightful tour through the world of opera, led by a writer who has a firm grasp of his subject and tells his tales with alternate wit and poignancy....A wealth of information, as well as some lore about virtually every phase of opera life and production."--Charleston Evening Post
"An entertaining collection for the opera lover or for the after-dinner speaker to mine for amusing stories."--Antiquarian Bookman
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