Opera Odyssey: Toward a History of Opera in Nineteenth-Century America

Opera Odyssey: Toward a History of Opera in Nineteenth-Century America

Opera Odyssey: Toward a History of Opera in Nineteenth-Century America

Opera Odyssey: Toward a History of Opera in Nineteenth-Century America

Synopsis

Ottenberg synthesizes material from a variety of sources--annals, memoirs, and scholarly sources--and, with them, weaves a coherent narrative of what was performed where, by whom, and what developments took place. Works, companies, and individual singers are discussed to reveal the 19th-century world of performance styles and audience expectations. This is a fascinating look at a relatively unexplored part of American musical and cultural history; the book casts new light on opera in America--its variety, popularity, and appeal to changing audiences throughout the century.

Excerpt

This study had its beginnings in 1979 as a fairly extensive article that for various reasons never reached publication. Some of the research was used in a paper read at a national meeting of the Sonneck Society for American Music, and a revised version of that appeared as an article in the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music. When, in the late 1980s, I was asked by OperaDelaware to write an article entitled American History Through American Opera to accompany a Lecture/Performance series, I returned to aspects of the topic and again became fascinated by this little-known and uniquely colorful world. Subsequently I decided to attempt a history of opera in nineteenthcentury America that would be aimed at the general music lover, music student, or musician. Scholars of American music are probably already familiar with much of the material, but scholars in other fields are probably not and may also find the book of interest.

I found several aspects of the project rather daunting. One was the problem of dealing with the many mixed or borderline musical works, such as melodramas or spectacles, often advertised as operas, that appeared in the first quarter of the century. Fortunately the reader could be referred to other scholars for more detailed information in this area. Another was the generally ephemeral aspect of opera performances in which other songs and musical pieces were introduced. At best opera is difficult to discuss because it has so many interlocking facets, but the added . . .

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