First published in 1996 to great critical and popular acclaim, the Grove Book of Operas, is a collection of synopses and descriptions of over 250 operas. Each succinct yet insightful entry is written by a leading authority on the opera and includes a full synopsis of the plot, a cast list, a note on the singers in the original production, and information on the origins of the work and its literary and social background. Contributions conclude with a brief comment on the particular work's place in operatic history. A glossary offers brief and accessible definitions of terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader. And indices of role names and of arias and ensembles allow the reader to find operas containing their favorite aria or a well-known character.
The second edition brings the book up to date with several recently composed operas and a fascinating introductory essay by David Levin on opera performance in the 21st century. Recent additions to the operatic repertory included for the first time in this edition include Nicholas Maw, Sophie's Choice; Poul Ruders, A Handmaid's Tale; John Adams, Death of Klinghoffer; and Mark Adamo, Little Women.
Covering all operas in the current repertory along with some less-well-known early and very modern ones, this is an ideal volume for the general opera lover.
Drawing on the magisterial four-volume The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992), this revision of The New Grove Book of Operas (1996), coedited by Sadie and Macy, provides composers/librettists, character names with voice type, setting, original cast lists and later exponents of roles, conductors, premiere date and locale, synopses, and historico-musical information on more than 250 operas arranged alphabetically by title, with English translation when needed. Most operas familiar to American readers are listed, as are many international operas. Operetta is excluded, except for a few examples that have become standard repertoire pieces, such as Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus (but not Franz Lehar's Merry Widow, surprisingly). The current edition, which opens with an intriguing essay by David Levin on opera performance in the 21st century, maintains almost the entire text of the earlier edition, with the exception that seven newer operas are included while seven less-performed ones have been dropped. It is gratifying to see such recently acclaimed works as Mark Adamo's Little Women and Tobias Picker's Emmeline be acknowledged, but one misses anything by William Elden Bolcom, John Harris Harbison, Jake Heggie, or Andre Previn, all of whom have had significant premieres at the Metropolitan or other major houses within the past decade. The illustrations are for the most part different from those in the previous edition, while the typeface is a bit larger and the contrast more pronounced; the headings, in bold capitals this time, help make the entries stand out. All are marked improvements. A glossary and indexes by role name, text incipit, and composer are useful additions. Bottom Line Libraries that missed the first edition, are just starting an opera collection, or are completists will find this a useful and up-to-date reference volume at a bargain price; those with access to Grove Music Online (www.grovemusic.com), the original title, or the above cited dictionary can probably skip. (Color plates and indexes not seen.)-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.