Opera: A Research and Information Guide

Opera: A Research and Information Guide

Opera: A Research and Information Guide

Opera: A Research and Information Guide

Synopsis

This is a guide to the research writings on all aspects of opera. It contains the core literature on the operas of 320 individual composers and details of operatic life in 43 countries.

Excerpt

Bibliography is the art of the impossible. It was ever so, although the impossibility was not always recognized. The early compilers of lists of books—practitioners of what we came to call enumerative bibliography—hardly sensed the intractability of their projects. They worked alone. They wanted to find and report everything. Indeed, there used to be an ideal of “universal bibliography, ” a master list of all that had been written—an exotic mirage, not mentioned after around 1800.

We who work in music bibliography have shared in the grand illusion that we could make complete lists of scores or writings and do it single-handedly. Valiant efforts, lifetime toils, of Robert Eitner, Carl Becker, and Emil Vogel—mileposts of bibliographic history—are superseded by more inclusive (still incomplete) inventories created by teams and projects. The last warrior to face the challenge of totality in music bibliography was Franz Pazdirek, whose 14-volume Universal-Handbuch der Musikliteratur aller Zeiten und Volker (1904–1910) resonates, in title and scope, with the bluster of romanticism. Pazdirek identified a half million musical compositions, but they were not really from “all times” (it was an in-print list heavy with recent publications) or “all peoples” (it was primarily about Europe and the United States).

During the 20th century, we music bibliographers have picked smaller targets. Going from more to less requires selectivity, which demands criteria for choosing and rejecting. Nobody will compile a list of all the music written in the century, or all the books about music, and certainly not all the periodical articles. Instead, there are selective inventories of restricted patches, such as a list of critical writings about the Vienna performances of Die Frau ohne Schatten, or—a bigger patch—writings about Zoltán Kodály. Along with selectivity has come the useful practice of content description, at times offering critiques and comparisons. This mode seems more manageable than the earlier all-inclusive one, but it also remains impossible. There is far too much music and too much written about it, for anyone to discover. We tend to select from a selection made by others (librarians, other list-compilers), to skip troublesome languages, to step away . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.