Operas in German: A Dictionary

By Greschner, Debra | Journal of Singing, September/October 2018 | Go to article overview

Operas in German: A Dictionary


Greschner, Debra, Journal of Singing


Griffel, Margaret Ross. Operas in German: A Dictionary, revised edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. Cloth, xxvi, 1016 pp., $180.00, ISBN 978-1-4422-4796-3; eBook $171.00, ISBN 978-1-44224797-0 www.rowman.com

When Margaret Ross Griffel conducted research for the first edition of Operas in German, the Berlin Wall was still in place and the technological advances that now put the world at one's fingertips were in their infancy. Access to more information, both through the crumbling of political borders and the rise of the Internet, allowed Griffel to greatly expand the contents of this dictionary devoted to German operas. The first volume, which was published in 1990, listed only 380 tides in the body of the dictionary, and cited roughly three times that number in an appendix. This revised edition includes more than 2900 additional titles in alphabetical listing, bringing the total listings to 4500 entries.

The dictionary is prefaced with a brief history of operas in German. Griffel proffers a survey of the genre, from Dafne by Heinrich Schütz (written in 1627) to the works of the early twenty-first century. Reading the chronology of German opera in a condensed format throws both the musical developments and the cultural, social, and political influences into sharp relief. Music history is frequently the story of reactions, and the saga of German opera is no exception. For instance, the long shadow cast by Wagner in the nineteenth century was countered with a renewed interest in comic opera. The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a proliferation of political operas as composers reacted to the rise of the Naziism. Griffel offers a comprehensive, yet succinct, history of German opera, one she describes as "long, sometimes tortuous, and often glorious."

The dictionary is published in two volumes. The first book is comprised of entries for each opera; in addition to title, composer, librettist, genre, number of acts, text source, plot summary, and characters, there is information about first performances, special musical or technical considerations, and other settings. Griffel also lists source materials, such as first editions and critical scores and libretti, and a bibliography that includes recordings.

The second volume contains four appendixes. The first is an alphabetical listing of composers, and the second is listing of librettists; they include date and place of birth and death, and the operas written by each entrant. …

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