This page will be under construction for a long time, At this time, it will be limited to opera house chronologies which are currently in print and fairly readily available from dealers such as George Burr (GBOpera@Aol.com), or, if he doesn't carry them, the publisher. A section dealing with books on singers is planned for the immediate future, with books on other opera personalities tocome later. A few out of print titles may also be included if there is a reasonable chance of finding them.
Unfortunately, there are many theatres and/or opera houses for which books with up to date chronologies are not readily available at this time. Some of these are among those considered by many to be the most important in the world.
I will be most grateful if anybody who knows of current books on cities not listed here, they would let me know. Please write to TomKauf2@aol.com. I will endeavor to obtain the book, and provide a review as soon as possible. Thanks.
Dillon, Cesar A. and Juan A. Sala: El Teatro Musical en Buenos Aires: Teatro Doria-Teatro Marconi; Buenos Aires, Ediciones de Arte Gaglianone, 1997, 485 pages.
This is the first volume of a planned series of books on various theatres in Buenos Aires. We can be extremely grateful for the two authors, the second of whom is now deceased, for initiating what will be a superb series. For their first book, they selected two theatres (on the same site) which had virtually nothing published on them in the past. I must admit to being tremendously surprised at the extent of operatic activity at these theatres, with regular seasons at the Doria from 1887 (operetta) and 1888 (opera) to 1903, and then at the Marconi into the 1950s. Most of the season involved were "popular"--lesser artists, singing for less, making it possible to charge lower prices than for the grand companies that sang at the Opera, the Politeama, the Colon, and the Coliseo. Still, there were some prominent singers, such as Juanita Capella, Ada Giachetti, Apollo Granforte, Julian Biel and others.
Having myself researched opera seasons in Buenos Aires extensively in several local newspapers, I know what a Herculean task the authors faced. Unlike other cities, casts are only rarely announced in the advertisements, and performances by lesser companies, such as those who performed at these theatres are only rarely reviewed. My guess is that any number of newspapers had to be examined in order to get all the information that is provided.
Rather than start with a narrative, and then providing a formatted chronology, the authors opted for a season by season approach. They added, in many cases, a particularly fascinating and informative narrative, followed by a good chronology including all titles given (not only opera, but zarzuela as well), with complete casts, but virtually no dates except for the first performance of each season. There are occasional exceptions: for instance winter 1910 when the great Argentinean soprano Juanita Capella sang at the Marconi. Selected reviews are included, as are brief biographies of the most important artists. There are also many photographs, quite a few of them rare.
This promises to be the beginning of a major series. The Teatro Coliseo has already been published (see below), and rumor has it that the equally (or even more) important Teatro della Opera will be next.
This title can be highly recommended, and should be in every collection of opera house books.
Dillon, Cesar A. and Juan A. Sala: El Teatro Musical en Buenos Aires: Vol. II-El Teatro Coliseo; Buenos Aires, Ediciones de Arte Gaglianone, 1999, 495 pages.
This title was published quite recently. It is similar in many ways to the earlier book on the T. Marconi, but with two extremely important differences. These two differences explain why it has been so eagerly awaited by many of the world's leading record and opera book collectors. They will not be dissappointed. In fact, I would predict that their reaction will be the same as mine: sheer delight.
1. While the T. Marconi was a relatively minor theatre, at least in terms of the artists who sang there, the Coliseo was one of the most important theatres in the world for a period of some 18 years from 1907 to 1925. Some of the prominent stars who sang there include Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Beniamino Gigli, John O'Sullivan, Apollo Granforte, Rosa Raisa, Enrico Caruso, and countless others.
2. Dates are included for all performances, including changes in cast. The latter is rather unusual for chronologies of this type.
There also are brief capsule biographies of many of the artists. And, finally, the book is copiously illustrated.
Plate, Leonor: Operas-Teatro Colon—Esperando el Centenario, Editorial Dunken, Buenos Aires, 2006, 2 vols. 287 and 316 pages.
Volume I consists primarily of a long season by season resume which includes highlights of each season as well as a list of the operas given, but without dates or casts. This is followed by indices of directors and artists (giving the years and works for each), as well as a bibliography. Volume II consists primarily of an alphabetical list of all the operas given, with dates and casts for each, followed by a list of operas given by composer.
Considering the importance of the Teatro Colon, and the many years that have elapsed since the Caamano books(see above) have been published, this could easily have been one of the finest and most important titles of the decade. Unfortunately, it falls quite short of what could have been.
Looking first at the author’s handling of the 60 years covered by Caamano, she failed to do the necessary research to fill in the principal gap in his coverage: the dates and actual casts of later performances of operas where the cast was changed in any given season. This is particularly important whenever two major singers sang the same role. Thus, there were five Rigolettos during the 1927 season (four with Fleta and one with Lauri-Volpi, while Dal Monte sang Gilda four times and Linda Romelli sang one). But we have no way of knowing from the Caamano book which performances were sung by which artists. It would have been wonderful if Ms. Plate had done the necessary research to get the needed information. Perhaps more serious still is the fact that during some of the seasons there also were performances during the spring in Argentina, sometimes with artists returning from a tour, sometimes with “new” artists. Thus, in October of 1928 six operas were given by artists including Claudia Muzio, Renato Zanelli and Titta Ruffo. These operas are included by Caamano, but omitted by Plate.
The Plate book is much more useful for the seasons from 1969 to 2006 which came after the Caamano book was published, but even there if falls short of the mark. It is necessary to go to the first volume to get a list of the operas given, and to the second volume to get the singers, dates and casts.
Di Nobile Terre, Roberto: La Lirica en Rosario (Argentina) 1854-1884; Aldecoa; Burgos, 1997, 398 pages
Di Nobile Terre, Roberto: La Lirica en Rosario (Argentina) 1885-1910; Imprenta Santos S.L., Spain, 1999, 454 pages.
The importance of Rosario on the Parana river about 250 miles North-west of Buenos Aires as a center of operatic activity was not fully recognized until the publication of these two essential volumes. Yet, many of the world?s greatest artists sang there, especially in the years between around 1885 and 1929. This was a period during which the grand opera companies based in Buenos Aires began to travel frequently to the interior. These tours usually involved visits to Rosario, Cordoba, occasionally Mendoza and Tucuman. They sometimes returned to the seacoast to go back to Buenos Aires or sing a season in Montevideo, or sometimes crossed the Andes to Santiago. But there also were occasional companies that were engaged especially for Rosario, and still others that would tour the interior without performing in the capital.
But, an exhaustive study of this important piece of operatic history has never been undertaken-at least until now. However, with the publication of Di Nobile's first two books on Rosario, a large part of this major gap in the history of opera in South America has finally been filled in.
To name a few of the major artists who sang there: Gabrielescu in 1888, Tetrazzini in 1892 and subsequent seasons, Regina Pacini in 1899, Barrientos in 1901 and 1902. Carelli came in 1902 and 1903, then Stracciari in 1904, Darclée in 1906, Tetrazzini, Darclée, Zenatello and Amato in 1907, Taccani in 1908, Carelli and Palet in 1909, and finally Kruszelnicka, Galli-Curci and Mardones in 1910. It was to get even better in the next few years.
The author provides year by year coverage, with newspaper reviews whenever available, and gives a chronology and review of the year at the end of each chapter. The fact that he also provides capsule biographies of many of the artists who performed in Rosario is particularly innovative, and makes these into model books to an even greater extent. There are also many striking illustrations, as well as chapters on various aspects of opera and zarzuela. The last few years have seen some superb new titles, and these are right at the top of the list. Absolutely wonderful, and essential for any library interested in the history of opera.
Love, Harold: The Golden Age of Australian Opera-W. S. Lyster and His Companies; Sydney, Currency Press, 1981, 309 pages.
The author covers, in great detail, the history of opera in Australia from its inception to 1880, and also touches on the previous careers of many of the principal singers who appeared there during that period. The complete career of the chief impresario, William Lyster is also discussed at some length. The book is very well written and informative, and gives many dates and casts. It provides what is probably the best coverage of the circumstances under which a nineteenth century touring company operated that has crossed my desk. My only problem with it is that it does not include a chronology in the form of an appendix, even though the author states that such a listing has been prepared. Its inclusion would have made a fine book even better.
Gyger, Alison: Civilizing the Colonies-Pioneering Opera in Australia , Pellinor, Sydney, 1999, 285 pages
This book is an essential companion to the author's Opera for the Antipodes, annotated below. It goes into repertory and casts to a far greater extent than the Love book (above), but has less background information on Lyster and his singers. On the other hand, it gives far more detail on the 1870s, when Italian opera predominated.
No chronology, but dates, locale and casts of Australian premieres during this period are provided.
Gyger, Alison: Opera for the Antipodes; Currency Press, Sydney, 1990, 364 pages
This book was originally billed as a companion to Harold Love's The Golden Age of Australian Opera, published by Currency Press in 1981. The earlier volume had covered the period from 1860 to 1880, a time frame of 20 years while Dr. Gyger brings the story up to 1939 (almost 60 years.)
Virtually nothing has ever been written on this fascinating subject, thus the author was faced with the prospect of covering virtually virgin, but still vitally important territory. These circumstances make her book doubly welcome--not only does she delve into a field where no one has ever trod before, but rather than doing so superficially she brings her many scholarly abilities into play. Opera for the Antipodes is thoroughly researched and superbly presented. It is divided into twenty-five chapters, generally providing one chapter for each of the previously mentioned tours. There also is an appendix giving casts and dates of the operas that had their Australian premieres from 1881 to 1939.
There is no formatted chronology (other than the one for Australian opera premieres), however, the whole book is, in effect, a chronology and is filled with details as to dates and casts of productions. But there is much more, reviews, gossip, anecdotes and many beautiful photographs, most of which probably have never appeared in print before.
This title can be highly recommended.
Stecker-Konsalick, Dagmar and Walter Ingenhiller: Musik auf dem See; Hestia Verlag, Bayreuth, 1986, 284 pages
This is an attractive, copiously illustrated book containing a complete chronology (including opera, ballet, drama, concerts and operetta) of the festivals from 1946-1986.
Nemeth, Carl and Peter Vujica: Welch ein Haus-Die Grazer Oper 1972-1990 ; Verlag Styria, Vienna, 1990, 131 pages.
A small-scale "coffee table" book, which is copiously illustrated and contains a chronology of local premieres (and new productions) for the years covered. Singers are included.
Welch ein Augenblick-100 Jahre Oper Graz; Leykam Druck, Graz, 1999, 236 pages.
A beautifully produced book, copiously illustrated. There is a season by season chronology of premieres, listing everything except (as is so often the case in Central Europe) the singers. This is so typical of books published in Austria and Germany that I am not surprised. An occasional cast can be found in the playbills.
Hadamowsky, Franz: Die Wiener Hoftheater (Staatstheater) Ein Verzeichnis der Auggeführten und Eingereichten Stücke mit Bestandnachweisen und Auffürungsdaten; Osterreichische Nationalbibliotek, Vienna, 1975, 2 vols. 167 and 669 pages.
The first volume deals with the years 1776-1810 while the second covers 1811-1974. The bulk of the second volume consists of an alphabetical list of all operas given during this period with the dates of all the performances, but no casts. There is also an indication as to whether the original language (generally Italian) or a German translation was used. Finally, there is a chronological list of premieres and new productions. A massive, and important reference work.
Hoyer, Harald: Chronik der Wiener Staatsoper 1945-1995 ; Verlag Anton Schroll & Co., Vienna, 1995, 691 pages.
This book lists performances at the Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien, Volksoper and Redoutensaal. Unfortunately, they are arranged by opera rather than chronologically, and while all interpreters of a given role are indicated, the authors do not give dates or seasons. There also is an index of singers, giving their repertory, as well the total number of times a singer sang a role with the dates of the first and last performances of each role. This is fine if a singer sang a role only during one season, but if, as is the case, Gruberova sang Lucia 70 times between 1978 and 1995, we have to look at the various Edgardos and hope to be able to determine who sang what and when.
I would say that this book has perhaps the finest indices of any title I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the book proper (in this case a formatted chronology with dates and casts) is missing. Still, I find it a fascinating title, full of valuable information.
There is a supplementary volume from 1996 to 2000 which I have not yet seen.
Cardol, Georges: Cent ans d'Art Lyrique a Verviers; Verviers, Editions la Derive, 1992, 362 pages.
In terms of chronologies, this is easily one of the finest books published to date on any northern European theater-and certainly the best for any French or Belgian city. It was timed to commemorate the centenary of the new theater, which opened in 1892, and starts with a copiously illustrated narrative arranged by director. This is followed by lists of principal artists, which are arranged by season. Finally, there is a season by season chronology. For the early seasons (through 1933-34) this is in two parts: operas and dates of the premieres, followed by casts where available. For the remaining years, operas and casts are provided. There also is an excellent and comprehensive index.
Páscoa, Marcio: Cronologia Lirica de Belem; Electrobras, Belem 2006, 302 pages.
This volume continues and exceeds the tradition of superb accomplishment begun by Pascoa in his previous volumes on opera in Manaus. It is a large size coffee table book, with several major sections. First is a series of chapters dealing with each of the seasons, giving operas with casts, but no dates (the latter can be found in a separate chapter on a day by day basis).Second in importance is a series of capsule biographies, with chronologies of all the artists singing in Belem.
This is a model book, and it is to be hoped that the author will soon turn his great skills to other Brazilian cities—not only Rio and Sao Paulo, but also Recife and Salvador.
Pascoa, Marcio: Cronologia Lirica de Manaus; Edicoes Governo de Estado, Manaus, 2000, 558 pages.
Manaus is a good sized city in the heart of the Amazon jungle, near the confluence of the Negro and Amazon rivers, which has become a major center of opera in the tropics. It is no wonder that Marcio Pascoa, a leading researcher and scholar into opera history, who resides there, has begun what is to be hoped will be a major series of books on Brazilian theatres with a history of opera in his "home town".
This is an extremely well done and meticulous book, providing what is essentially a day by day history of opera in this city, with full casts of all the operas given (wherever possible) and dates of the repeats. There are many "mini-biographies" of singers and conductors, as well as a separate section of pictures and a CD by Bonini, Martinez-Patti and De Franceschi: three of the more important singers (there were others) who sang in Manaus. Highly recommended
Schabas, Ezra and Carl Morey: Opera Viva-Canadian Opera Company-The First Fifty Years; Dundurn Press, Toronto, 2000, 312 pages.
This is a generously illustrated book, with both a narrative text and a first class chronology. This chronology is particularily strong as far as staged performances of the company in Toronto are concerned. Dates and full casts are given for these. On the other hand, the cast of a concert performance of Verdi?s Giovanna d?Arco (presumably, the Canadian premiere) is omitted. Also, the company toured widely, and, for these tours, only operas and casts are indicated. As an example, Don Pasquale was given 82 performances in English in Western Canada in 1967, and another 33 in Eastern Canada in 1968. Other productions were given in the United States as well. Again, no specific cities nor dates are indicated. I do realize, of course, that the information might not have been accessible, and, had it been included, it might have made for a very cumbersome listing.
In spite of a few quibbles, I consider this to be an essential book for anybody interested in the history of opera performances.
Rio Prado, Enrique: Pasion Cubana por Giuseppe Verdi: La obra y los interpretes verdianos en La Habana colonial; Havana, Ediciones Union, 2001, 189 pages.
A similar title (La Musica Italiana a Cuba-Prime rappresentazioni di Verdi e Morlacchi all'Avana) had been published in Italy in 1996 by Bese Editrice in Lecce, but this is now a somewhat expanded version. This book deals primarily with the premieres of the Verdi operas in Havana, treating these in considerable depth, with full casts of the premieres (as far as possible), reviews, and frequently some details about revivals, often with dates and casts.
Also, the author provides the dates of the premieres of the Verdi operas in the Americas. There is some coverage of other events in each season.
Everything considered, this may well be the best book available so far on opera in Havana during the 19th century.
Tancsik, Pamela: Die Prager Oper heisst Zemlinsky-Theatergeschichte des Neuen Deutschen Theaters Prag in der Aera Zemlinsky 1911-1927; Vienna, Boehlau, 2000, 763 pages
The subject of this title is the Neues Deutsches Theater (NDT) in Prague, once one of the most important theaters in Central Europe, although it had a relatively brief existence (1887-1938). Until Ms. Tancsik had her book published, it was perhaps the theater about which the least had been published as far as individual opera performances are concerned. It's importance is partly due to the impressive number of major singers who appeared as guests: Enrico Caruso, Mattia Battistini, Leo Slezak, Alfred Piccaver, Luisa Tetrazzini, Barbara Kemp, Vittorio Arimondi, Tino Pattiera, and many others. But the fact that Alexander Zemlinsky, a major opera composer of his day, whose works are still being given with ever increasing frequency, was the conductor for 17 years did not hurt either. In fact, Erwartung, one of the operas of Zemlinsky's friend, Arnold Schoenberg, had its world premiere there.
The introductory chapters, which go into the history of the theatre in Prague, the sources for the book, and the multi-cultural nature of the city's population are both fascinating and well written. These are followed by a narrative description of the Zemlinsky seasons, which includes the rosters of the companies for each of these seasons. Finally, we get to the appendices, which are pretty outstanding. They appear to be a day to day chronology, listing date, opera and guest artists, if any. Full casts are apparently only provided for the local premieres of operas and significant new productions. This compares favorably with many other books on German-language theaters, where considerably less information on performances and performers is given.
Other important appendices include lists of world and theatre premieres at the NDT between 1888 and 1910, a complete list of the repertory before 1911 with dates of the first performance there, statistics (number of performances per season) in the Zemlinsky seasons, and singer biographies during the Zemlinsky era.
Vrbka, Tomas: Statni Opera Praha 1888-2003; Prague, 2004, 600 pages.
This is one of the most stunning volumes on any opera house I have ever seen. It deals with the building, which started life as the Neues Deutsches Theater in 1888, then became the Smetana Theatre, and more recently the Statni (State) Opera. It is copiously illustrated with many photos of singers, theaters, stage settings, and playbills. One of the latter is of a performance of Hamlet with Mattia Battistini in the title role, Elvira de Hidalgo as Ofelia, and the young Alfred Piccaver as Laerte. The text is trilingual: Czech, German and English. There is a chronology of premieres and new productions at the beginning of the chapter on each season, sometimes group of seasons. As is the fashion in Central Europe, these identify the conductor and stage director. However, casts can often be ascertained either from the text or the playbills.
This magnificent volume is divided into several sections, as follows:
1. An introductory section entitled 115 Years of the Prague Opera
2. The theater building through the tranformation of time
3. The New German Theater (1888-1938)
4. The New German Theater (1938-1945)
5. The Theater of the fifth of May (1945-1948)
6. The Smetana Theater (1948-1992)
7. The Prague State Opera (1992-2003)
8. Various appendices including a list of illustrations, a list of premieres and new productions, indices of names, works and roles as well as a bibliography.
The list of premieres and new productions deserves special mention. On the positive side, it is arranged by composer rather than opera, and gives the date of the first performance of each such premiere. Unfortunately, it is limited to the productions given by the theatre, omitting those brought in from other theatres or given by touring companies.
Each section gives a brief introductory discussion of the changing nature of the theater and the background for the name change.
It might be worthwhile to consider the way the theatre's significant revival of one of Meyerbeer's great masterpieces, Robert le Diable, given in the 1999-2000 season, is handled. There are 15 entries for this work in the index. Some of them merely mention that individual singers also took part in it when the singer's name comes up. The date of the first performance is given in the box on page 478 listing premieres for the season. There is a photo of the ballet on page 484 and of the tenor and bass on page 485. The Isabella and Alice are named in passing elsewhere.
I was also particularily interested in the treatment given to the Mai-Festspiele(May festivals), held during the month of May starting in 1899. These are of particular importance to me, since I have prepared chronologies of Tetrazzini, Caruso and Battistini, who sang there, and am considering Signorini. As the author states in his introductory remarks, coverage of performances is far from complete. This is the case here. Thus, a great deal of information including all the dates is provided for Caruso's season in 1904, somewhat less for Battistini's longer season in 1909, and virtually nothing for 1910 (they gave the premiere of Elektra, which was considered the highlight of the festival). But, to return to Battistini, there is the previously mentioned playbill for Hamlet in 1911.
All considered, the amount of information provided is staggering, and far exceeds what has been published on most Central and Eastern European theatres, including these in Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Frankfurt, Belgrade, Warsaw, Bucharest, Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
This title can be recommended in the strongest terms.
Lampila, Hannu-Ilari: Suomalainen Ooppera : WSOY, Helsinki, 1997, 830 pages
This is largely a narrative history of a company that began in 1914. But the coverage starts well before that, and does briefly discuss the early seasons right from the start. There are indices of singers and operas, and an occasional date and cast.
Tamvaco, Jean-Louis: Les cancans de l'Opera-Le journal d'une habilleuse 1836-1848 Chronique de l'Academie Royale de Musique et du theatre, a Paris sous les deux Restaurations; CNRS Editions, Paris, 2000, 2 vol. 1307 pages.
This book may well be the most important book on opera in Paris during the middle of the 19th century that has been published so far. The title is misleading, since while it is true that the book "zeroes in" on the Opera bewtween 1836 and 1848, it contains a great deal more. Frankly, this is one of the relatively few books I have come across that actually delivers much, much more than the title promises. And does so in a scholarly, informative, yet extremely readable manner. It is based on the journal of a costumer at the OpÃ©ra from 1836 to 1848 which has been expanded and annottated by Dr. Tamvaco. It is subdivided into a number of sections which include:
1. A summary history of the Salle Le Peletier from 1820 to 1835. This is essentially a year by year summary including dates and casts of the most important local premieres.
2. The first publication of the manuscript by Louis Gentil, which carries the reader from 1836 to 1848, but is most detailed for the first three years.
3. Detailed chronologies of the Opera and the Theatre Italien from 1836 to 1838 (with some entries for the Opera Comique).
4. A summary history of the Salle Le Peletier up to 1854.
5. Copious bibliographical notes of the principal artists mentioned in the text and/or the chronologies.
This is a book that is of great value as a general history of opera in Paris during the years covered. They featured the world premieres of any number of major works: Robert le Diable, La Juive, I puritani, Marino Faliero, Les Huguenots, La Fille du regiment, La Favorite, La Reine de Chypre, etc., etc. But it is also essential for those interested in composers like Meyerbeer, Halevy, and Donizetti, or many of the superb singers who centered their careers in Paris during those years.
There are numerous pictures of singers (I lost count), making this not only an essential book for its' text, but also a stunningly beautiful volume.
The chronologies are superb, give full casts, most importantly for some of the major premieres at the Italien for which I have never been able to find casts including the comprimarii.
The heartiest congratulations are due to M. Tamvaco and his publisher.
STRASBOURG Geyer, Miriam: La vie Musicale a Strasbourg sous l’empire Allemand (1871-1918); Paris, Ecole des Chartes, 1999, 302 pages.
Strasbourg is perhaps the most important French city without an adequate theatrical history which also devotes a fair amount of space to opera performances. Unfortunately, this title does not change the situation, although it makes an effort in that direction. There is a chapter entitled "music in the theatre" (pages 101-133) which does discuss opera performances, but generally without dates or casts. Then, there are two annexes: One, which lists operas by composer, and the year of their premiere in Strasbourg for those which had their premiere during the German occupation (1872-1881, 1890-1910, and 1913-1914). Finally, there is a table listing the Wagner operas given and the number of performances in each season. One wishes that Verdi, Meyerbeer and other composers of French and Italian opera had been given similar treatment.
Remplon, Lucien: Gloire Immortelle du Capitole 1880-1995-Histoire de l'Art Lyrique au theatre du Capitole de Toulouse; Toulouse, 2003, 518 pages.
I consider this to be one of the finest books published in years on any theatre in France, although it is far from perfect, since there are few details on individual performances. Thus, this title might list the operas sung by Vezzani in the 1947-48 season, but with no dates and only some of the co-interpreters. Another example is that it states that Robert le Diable was performed in the 1928-29 season, giving the cast, but no date. This is important, since there were so few performances of this masterpiece after World War I anywhere in the world. Of perhaps even greater interest is the mention of a revival of Halevy's Charles VI during the 1901-02 season. Information on such revivals of neglected works by such prominent composers is of particular importance, since revivals of many of these are in the planning stages. Thus, whatever information as to when and where they were last given is of great interest, not only to the writers of program notes for these revivals, but also to future biographers of the composers.
Many local premieres are also listed without date.
With the exception of the ten years from 1914-1923, it provides season by season coverage starting with 1880. This coverage is largely based on Cadayé's unpublished manuscript up to 1940, and on the author's own research and experiences from 1940 to 1995, getting better and more informative as it comes closer to 1995. It is beautifully illustrated, with some of these illustrations in color.
Quander, Georg (Editor): Apollini et Musis 250 Jahre Opernhaus Unter den Linden; Verlag Ullstein, Frankfurt and Berlin, 1992, 473 pages.
A gorgeous, oversize book with chapters on various periods in the history of the Hofoper (later the Staatsoper) by many distinguished authors. It is copiously illustrated and also contains a chronological list of all the theatre premieres as well as many important revivals and new productions. However, there are no indices: neither singers nor operas. In spite of this one shortcoming, it is easily the definitive work on the theatre to date.
Hochmuth, Michael: Chronik der Dresdner Oper Zahlen, Namen, Ereignisse; Hamburg, Verlag Dr. Kovac, 1998, 354 pages
This is probably the most comprehensive title published so far on the history of opera in Dresden. It includes dates of all local and world premieres in that city, as well as casts for most of them (when they were available to the author). The names of many of the artists involved are also provided.
There also is a fair amount of data on other significant events, including local debuts of future members of the regular company. Guests are generally not listed.
Smith, Gus: Love and Music-The Glorious History of the Dublin Grand Opera Society; Atlantic Publishers, Dublin and London, 1998, 370 pages.
This book consists primarily of a narrative history of the Society, and an excellent chronology comprising the years from 1941 to 1998 by opera enthusiast Paddy Brennan. Dublin had festivals of Italian opera each spring from 1955 to 1967, with some performances in Cork as well. While they were no longer referred to as festivals, other Italian opera seasons were to follow, usually in the spring. Some of the International stars who sang in these seasons include Giuseppe Di Stefano, Luciano Pavarotti, Caterina Mancini, Virginia Zeani, Gian Giacomo Guelfi, Magda Olivero, Ebe Stignani, and many others.
The chronology also includes performances in Cork, and has just about everything one might want to know about opera in Dublin-dates, casts and roles sung by each singer. There are no indices.
Smith, Gus: Dr. Tom's Festival Legacy; Dublin, Atlantic Publishers, 2001, 377 pages.
The Wexford festival has long been famous for its revivals of unfamiliar works, including many Italian rarities. This book is particularily welcome. The bulk of it comprises a narrative history by Gus Smith with some illustrations. Then there is an appendix by Paddy Brennan which gives a full chronology with dates and casts of all the productions.
Salvarani, Marco (ed.); Le Muse-Storia del Teatro di Ancona; Ancona, Comune di Ancona, 2002, 302 pages.
While this title was not published by a bank, but by the city of Ancona, it is just as stunning as many of the recent Italian bank books on opera houses.
It has separate chapters by many leading Italian scholars-prominent among them being the editor, Marco Salvarani, and such distinguished individuals as Paolo Fabbri (The operatic repertory), Fabio Brisighelli (famous voices), Franco Battistelli (Italian opera houses in general), and Gabriele Moroni (the rivalry between Ancona and Sinigaglia.
The chronology which takes the reader from 1827 to 1943 is excellent, and almost good enough to serve as a model for similar books on opera houses. It provides casts for each opera, dates for the beginning and end of each season, and, wherever possible, for the run of each opera.
There are indices for titles (primarily operas) and names (primarily singers and conductors)
Luna, Luca: Teatro Ventidio Basso storia e dintorni; Cassa di Risparmia di Ascoli Piceno, 1994, 316 pages.
This book has an unusual arrangement in that practically all the data is entered chronologically according to the date. All these entries are in prose, and while they usually give the opera involved, they may or may not provide cast details. There are no indices. The value of the book lies in the many prominent singers who sang there, such as Carlo Galeffi, Giuseppe Taccani and quite a few others.
Luna, Luca: Teatro Ventidio Basso, Citta di Ascoli Piceno: D'Auria Editrice, Ascoli Piceno, 1996, 288 pages.
This is a reworking of the previous title, now in a deluxe hardbound format. Some of the more extraneous details of the chronology have been removed, while more dates have been added to the chronology, especially in the 19th century. All considered, this is one of the finer books of its type a real beauty.
Trezzini, Lamberto: Due Secoli di Vita Musicale: Storia del Teatro Comunale di Bologna; Edizioni ALFA, Bologna, 1966, 2 vols., 249 and 364 pages, and republished by Nuova Alfa Editoriale in 1987, 3 vols., 249, 364 and 385 pages.
This was originally a two volume set, with the first volume giving a history of the Teatro Comunale in narrative form, while the second gives a detailed, well annotated and thoroughly indexed chronology. The third volume from 1966 to 1986 is by Roberto Verti and continues to use the original format. Highly recommended.
Battistelli, Franco, Giuseppina Boiani Tombari and Luca Ferretti: Il Teatro della Fortuna in Fano-Storia dell'edificio e cronologia degli spettacoli; Fano, 1998, 2vols., 412 and 221 pages.
This is one of the most luxurious of all the Italian theatre titles that I have seen. They are oversized (coffee-table) books in a perfectly fitting slip-case, and are sumptiously illustrated, providing just about all the information on opera and concerts in Fano anybody could possibly want to know. The first volume not only deals with the architecture and the construction of the theatre, but also provides a narrative history of the performances. The second volume is in three parts: chronologies of the old theatre (1677-1839, the temporary theatre (1841-1859) and the new theatre (1863-1944). The latter in particular had many great singers, including both Enrico Tamberlick and Francesco Tamagno. All three chronologies are absolutely first class.
One of the finest titles of this type ever.
Fabbri, Paolo and Maria Chiara Bertieri: I teatri di Ferrara Il Comunale ; Lucca, Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2005, 2 vol., 422 and 478 pages.
The Teatro Comunale opened its doors in 1798, construction having been begun in 1786. It was Ferrara's leading opera houuse during the 19th century, although occasional performances also took place at the Bonacossi, and, after 1856 at the Tosi-Borghi.
After a preface by Paolo Fabbri, volume I consists of a chapter on the construction of the theatre by Raffaella Montanari, and a detailed history by Alessandro Roccatagliati. These are followed by separate indices of titles of operas and musical works (including individual arias, duets and ensembles) as well as names.
Volume II is primarily an excellent chronology which has more detail as we get closer to the 20th century. Thus, for some seasons around the middle of the 19th century, casts are only given for one opera (not necessarily the first), or dates may be missing. But these gaps get fewer and further apart as we get closer to 1950. An unusual feature is that the makeup of the chorus and orchestra is also provided.
This is one of the most comprehensive theatre chronologies I have ever seen.
Bardi, Aloma and Mauro Conti: Teatro Comunale di Firenze-Maggio Musicale Fiorentino: Catalogo delle Manifestazioni 1928-1997; Casa Editrice Le Lettere, Florence, 1998, 2 vols., In slipcase, XXIX + 602 and VIII + 708 pages.
The first volume is a complete and highly detailed chronology, while the second is an index. In spite of the complete absence of photos, these books make for a very attractive presentation.
Venturi, Fulvio: L'opera lirica a Livorno 1847-1999: dall'inaugurazione del Teatro Leopoldo al nuovo millenio; Circolo Musicale Galliano Masini, Livorno, 2000, 266 pages.
This seems to be the only major Italian theatre book published during 1999, but it is also among the best ever to appear. It starts out with brief narrative histories of each of the major theatres in that city: the Leopoldo, the Goldoni, the Avvalorati, the Carlo Lodovico, the Rossini, and the Politeama Livornese.
The next sections consist of narrative histories of the repertory and artists during the second half of the 19th century and the two halves of the 20th.
Finally, there is a detailed chronology giving theatre, date of the first performance (if known), and full casts as far as possible. Changes in casts are indicated, but without dates. Finally, there are indices of operas (arranged according to composer) and names, with singers listed first.
A quick glance at the index of singers shows that, operatically speaking, Livorno was one of the most important cities in Italy. It featured such major artists as Enrico Caruso, Alessandro Bonci, Amedeo Bassi, Lina Pagliughi, Toti dal Monte, Magda Olivero, Hipolito Lazaro, Beniamino Gigli, Mario Del Monaco, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Bernardo De Muro, and Maria Caniglia.
This is a wonderful and essential book, and can be recommended in the strongest terms.
Maione, Paologiovanni and Francesca Seller: Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli Cronologia degli spettacoli (1851-1900); Istituto italiano degli Studi Filosofici, Naples, and Avagliano Editore, Cava de? Tirenni, 1999, 858 pages.
This is Volume III, although the first to be published, of a projected series of six volumes on the Teatro San Carlo. Volume I will comprise 1737-1800,vol. II 1801-1850, Vol. IV 1901-1950, vol. V 1951-2000 and vol. VI will be the indices (presumably massive.)
The book essentially comprises a day by day chronology, listing full casts, and identifying the characters sung by each singer. Cast changes are also indicated.
While it would have been handy to have had indices at this point, I can well understand the author's decision to simply do one index in the final volume, especially since it is an easy matter to consult the chronology by Carlo Marinelli-Roscioni as needed.
An absolutely essential volume for lovers of and researchers into 19th century Italian opera.
Various authors: Teatro Municipale di Piacenza; Edizione Tip. Le. Co., Piacenza, 2004. 539 pages.
An enormous and stunning (but also very expensive) book, with chapters on various aspects of the theater by a number of authors. The chronology is much better than that in the Forlani book published some 20 years ago, but is still less than perfect. For one thing, many of the dates of the first performances of the productions are missing. These may simply have been unavailable. But the lack of indices of names in the chronology and of operas in both the chronology and the text is more difficult to understand. Still the book is far superior to any previously published on Piacenza.
Garbato, Sergio (ed.): Il Teatro Sociale di Rovigo 1819-2003; Marsilio, Venice, 2003, 302 pages.
This is another beautiful coffee-table book, with participation by many Italian musicologists and stunning photos. The highlight of the book is a model chronology of opera performances, with all the dates (where available) and full casts, indicating roles, authored by Sergio Garbato and Milena Dolcetto. All in all, a stunning and highly informative title.
Various authors: Latvijas Nacionala Opera: Riga, 2000, 302 pages. Another stunning coffee-table book dealing with various aspects of this house from its initial construction in 1863, to replace the old municipal theatre, to the present. Much of this volume deals with the construction of the theatre, followed by many color photos of recent productions, and a brief English translation of each chapter. Finally, there is a chronology giving the local premieres of various operas from 1863 on, and providing casts for those after Latvia's first independence in 1920.
Unfortunately, many of the famous singers who were part of the regular company, such as Herman Jadlowker, or visited Riga at various times are not mentioned, unless they took part in a local premiere. In addition to Jadlowker, these include such famous stars as the Marchisio sisters, Mattia Battistini, and Nino Piccaluga.
Sosa, JosÃ© Octavio: La Opera en Guadalajara; Guadalajara, Secretaria de Cultura de Jalisco, 1994, 179 pages.
This book is essentially a formatted chronology, with much more detail for the years up to 1896 than the Hidalgo book published in 1966. Unfortunately, all of the seasons from 1897 to 1919 are excluded, due to the unavailability of newspapers for that city. It would be wonderful if such papers were to turn up some day and the author could complete his excellent work.
In spite of the missing years, this is a wonderful and very informative title, and one wishes the equivalent were available on other Mexican provincial cities, especially Monterrey, San Luis Potosi, Vera Cruz and others.
Cabellos, Edgar: La Opera 1901-1925, Mexico City, Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (Conaculta), 2002, 666 pages.
This is a very attractive, copiously illustrated, history of opera in Mexico City for the first 25 years of the 20th century. This was a period when many of the world's greatest singers sang in Mexico, including Caruso, Lazaro, Bonci, Zenatello, Raisa, Tetrazzini, Barrientos, Ruffo, Stracciari, Dolci, and many others. There is no formatted chronology, but it is not really necessary since most (not all) of the details of the operas given are included in the text. Even though an occasional opera might be listed without providing the date and/or the cast, the amount of information actually provided is close to staggering.
The information provided for Mexico City is systematic. But, in addition, some tour performances in provincial Mexican cities are also included. Unfortunately, the coverage for these cities is not systematic, but that may be due to the unavailability of adequate runs of local newspapers from provincial cities. Nevertheless, this book is a superb and an admirable job. This title is a part of the series: La Historia de Mexico a traves del Teatro, and one can only hope that more volumes of the same high quality will make up the rest of the series.
Author not named: De Annalen van de Operagezelschappen in Nederland 1886-1995; Theater Institut Nederland, 1996, 1276 pages
All companies that performed in the Netherlands during this period are covered-including the Dutch, French, German, and Italian. Thus, the book contains a wealth of fascinating information that has never before been made available. These cast lists comprise nearly 1000 pages, generally with 4-6 operas and casts to a page. There also are excellent indices, and numerous photographs of artists.
On the other hand, this book purports to cover all operatic activity in the Netherlands from 1886 to 1995, but for those productions that were given in more than one city, only the date and cast of the first city is listed. This is a particularily significant shortcoming for the Italian seasons, where the company switched back and forth between Den Haag and Amsterdam, also performing frequently in Rotterdam and less so in other centers. As a result, if the Dutch premiere of, say La Gioconda took place, as it did, in Den Haag, the dates and casts of the Amsterdam and Rotterdam premieres are missing. By the same token, we are told that Florencio Constantino sang in later performances of Gioconda-but are given neither the date, the city, nor the co-interpreters. As a result, serious researchers trying to prepare a chronology of a singer including all his or her appearances, or trying to report premiere dates of various operas in as many major cities as possible, may be disappointed with this volume. Good as it is, it could have been better.
Simpson, Adrienne: Opera's farthest frontier-A history of professional opera in New Zealand; Auckland, Reed Publishing, 1996, 304 pages.
This is a "model" book, being exceedingly well written and interesting. It is arranged in a manner similar to that of the Gyger book on Australia, listed under Australia above. Like the Gyger book, it includes a "chronology" of country premieres as an appendix. But it also includes a section of sample seasons giving the itineraries of many of the companies touring New Zealand. Operas are listed for each city, with dates for the length of their stay, the operas being in alphabetical, rather than chronological order. The text also provides many dates and casts of important individual productions. Let us hope, that now that this work is published, Dr. Simpson will publish the actual chronologies, with dates and casts. This would probably be a smaller book, but would prove most valuable for those researchers who are interested in doing chronologies of individual singers. Concert tours (and these featured many major stars such as Nino Piccaluga and Apollo Granforte) should also be included.
Several excellent books on opera and theatre in Lwov have been published recently in Cracow,Poland. These are listed under UKRAINE.
Moreau, Mario: O Teatro de S. Carlos: Dos Seculos de Historia Lisbon, 1999, 2 vols., 1440 pages.
These are the books which most collectors of chronologies have been waiting for for many years. They are perhaps the most sumptious and lavish of their kind ever published. Copiously illustrated, with 1185 photos, they are as strikingly beautiful as they are informative.
They consist of three main sections:
A narrative history covering the inception, construction and inauguration of the house which is then followed by a season by season history of its first two hundred years.
A chronology divided again into three parts: ballets, concerts, and "espectaculos lyricos"-a Portuguese term which includes zarzuelas, operas and operettas. The latter, plus indices occupies all of volume II.
Indices of artists and titles for each of the three sections listed above.
These volumes should serve as a model for all future chronologies of opera houses. Where possible, each season is arranged as follows: The roster of participating artists, arranged by voice type; an alphabetical list of the repertory for the season, and a day by day list of operas given, with full casts. The roles sung by each singer are provided. Since it is a day by day listing, both dates of cast changes and numbers of times each artist sang a given work can be readily ascertained. Thus, it becomes a perfect source document for anyone wishing to research a given singer.
However, these books are much more than a reference volumes to be used for research on singers or operas. They are, of course, essential for these purposes, since the theatre was long one of the most important in the world. They are sumptiously illustrated, with photos, many of which are of singers, including quite a few who are not to be readily found elsewhere. Other personalities who appeared at the theatre are also featured. It will be an essential part of any opera book collec-tion, and can be recommended in the strongest terms.
Moreau, Mario: Coliseu dos Recreios-Um Seculo de Historia; Quetzal Editores, Lisbon, 1994, 411 pages.
Most people who generally associate opera in Lisbon with the Teatro Sao Carlos may not be aware of just how important a house the Coliseu dos Recreios actually is. It was inaugurated with an operetta season in 1890, the first opera being Carmen on May 21 1891. Regular (although not annual) spring seasons started in June 1891, and continued until 1909, while those at the Sao Carlos were in late autumn and winter. During these spring seasons, major artists included Celestina Boninsegna, Carlo Albani, Maria Galvany, Maria Judice, Angelo Masini-Pieralli, and many others. In later years, almost up to the present, the main Lisbon seasons were sometimes at the Sao Carlos, sometimes at the Coliseu. Many internationally known celebrities, such as Giuseppe Anselmi, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Tito Schipa, Mercedes Capsir, Montserrat CaballÃ©, Carlo Bergonzi, Hariclea DarclÃ©e, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Mariano Stabile sang at the Coliseu during these years. Thus, the theatre ranks as one of the most important opera houses in Europe, if not the world, and a book on it fills a major gap in the documentation of operatic performances.
This title is organized along the same lines as the two volume set on the S. Carlos by the same author, discussed above. However, while still stunning it is not quite as lavish.
Still, this book is much more than a research tool. It is sumptiously illustrated, with 462 photos, many of which are of singers, including quite a few who are not to be readily found elsewhere. Other personalities who appeared at the theatre are also featured. It will be an essential part of any opera book collection, and, like the two volumes on the S. Carlos listed before can be recommended in the strongest terms. In fact, it serves as an essential companion work to these volumes.
Giurgiu, Rodica and S-A Ridicat Cortina: Monografia Operei Romane din Timisoara 50 de Stagiuni; Timisoara, Editura Brumar, 1999, 359 pages.
This title deals primarily with the Romanian opera in Timisoara, which opened with Aida on April 27, 1947. However, it starts with chapters on the history of opera in that city before the Romanian opera was inaugurated, giving some details both on 19th century opera there, and on the visits of the Romanian opera from Cluj.
These are followed by a season by season narrative of the first 50 years of the local Romanian opera, giving many highlights in the text. These might include dates and casts of local premieres, or details on the visits of major stars.
There are several appendices, including dates of local premieres and a table listing operas and the number of times each was given per season. Artists are also listed alphabetically, but without any indication of the season or index. Thus, even knowing that, as an example, Giuseppe Di Stefano sang there, it was necessary to go through the entire text to get details. But these details, including the full cast, were there.
In spite of the latter quibble, this is perhaps the most useful and comprehensive book I have ever seen on any opera house in Romania, and one of the best on any in Eastern Europe.
Zarubin, V.I. Bolshoi Theatre Opera Premieres on the Russian Stage 1825-1993 ; Moscow, Ellis Luck, 1994, 320 pages.
A beautiful, copiously illustrated book which gives dates and casts of all of the Moscow premieres of operas which were given at the Bolshoi in Russian. Performances by the Italian company are generally omitted, although some artists such as Adelina Patti are listed in the singer's index. Many revivals of these operas (generally limited to new productions) are also included.
Turlakov, S. Verdi Beogradu no 1941 Muzej Pozoristne Umetnosti, Belgrade, 1994, 350 pages.
This title, in the cyrillic alphabet, contains a chronology of Verdi performances in Belgrade up 1941. It is arranged season by season with dates of all performances including repeats. Casts are provided separately. A great deal of additional information, such as performances in other cities as well as performances of non-Verdi operas can be found in the text and footnotes. There is an index of singers, which makes it possible to check the many important artists such as Zinka Milanov who sang in Belgrade. She, however, has to be looked for under Kuntz. Considering the scope of the references cited in the footnotes, this appears to be a magnificent research effort.
During the nineteenth century, Italian opera was probably more popular, and more extensively performed in Spain than in any other country outside Italy. Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia all had regular seasons lasting from October to March or April. Another company shuttled back and forth for years between Cadiz and Seville. In the Spring and Summer, after the Madrid season was over, artists from that company (sometimes combining with artists that had been singing in Barcelona or Italy) regularly toured Spain, most often stopping in Seville, Valencia, Malaga, Bilbao, San Sebastian, La Corugna, Palma de Mallorca and other places. In addition, there were frequent extensive tours of Spain by both great stars and minor companies. The Teatro Real in Madrid, and the Liceu in Barcelona are, of course, world famous, but the much lesser known San Fernando in Seville deserves special mention, and will be discussed in greater detail below in connection with a wonderful new book on opera in that city. Seville will be singled out, but most other larger Spanish cities also had splendid (although somewhat less so) operatic histories.
While the coverage of Spanish performances in the literature had been very poor only some years ago, it is improving rapidly. Thus, late 1997 saw the publication of excellent books on the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona (from 1947-1997), and the theatres of Valencia from 1901-36. 1998 has already seen a very useful title on Seville (so far, without casts), and another volume on the Liceo is planned for publication some time in the future. Thus, there is now a glimmer of hope that Spain will soon have some of the best documentation of any European country outside Italy. Finally, the coverage for Spain in the Italian theatrical papers is generally quite good, especially that of the seasons in Barcelona and Seville. Also, books on a number of additional cities and theatres, including Bilbao, Seville in the 20th century, and two more titles on Valencia are currently under consideration.
Suero Roca, Maria Teresa: El Teatre Representat a Barcelona de 1800 a 1830, Institut del Teatre, 1987, 1990 and 1997, 4 vols. 291,450, 438, and 435 pages.
There is a day by day listing of all plays, ballets and operas at the Teatro della Cruz (later T. Principal). The first volume is narrative, the second volume covers 1800-1815, the third 1816-1827 and the fourth 1828-1830. Casts are given only rarely, generally for benefits. The rosters of the companies are, however, indicated.
The fourth volume also contains indices of artists, works and composers. This is an extremely useful set.
Radigales I Babi, Jaume: Els Origens de Gran Teatre del Liceu; Publicaciones de l'Abadia de Montserrat, Barcelona, 1998, 278 pages.
This book deals with the four seasons of opera given at the "Liceo de Montesion" (a sort of precursor of the current Liceu) from 1838-1842. These seasons included the premieres of many bel canto opeas in Barcelona. There are numerous casts, as well as a formatted day by day chronology without casts. An excellent and important piece of work.
Tribo, Jaume: Annals 1847-1897 del Gran Teatre del Liceu ; Barcelona, Amics del Liceu, 2004, 357 pages.
The importance of the Teatre del Liceu, can not be overstated. The house ranks with all the leading theatres of the world, being right up there with Paris, London, New York, Vienna, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Turin, Naples, Buenos Aires, and other cities of comparable importance. During its long history (158 years at the time of writing) it featured many of the great singers. These include Caruso, Battistini, Tamagno, Ruffo, Caballe, Tebaldi, Mario, Pavarotti, Vignas, Lazaro, O'Sullivan, Stracciari, Pagliughi, Gayarre, Masini, Stagno, Lauri-Volpi, Bellincioni, and countless others. Quite a few of these who sang there before 1897 are represented on the accompanying CD.
With the sesquicentenary of the theatre in 1997, a project was initiated to publish annals for the first 150 years, 50 years per volume. The first, which appeared in 1997, covered the years from 1947 to 1997. This is the second, and covers the first 50 years (1847 to 1897). The remaining 50 years (1897 to 1947) are still a work in progress, and will, hopefully, see the light of day within a few years.
In the last few decades, model chronologies of opera houses have become the norm, with many of these eclipsing previous volumes on the theatres being documented. This is easily the case with Tribo's book. It more or less follows the style initiated with Pau Nadal's volume covering the years from 1947 to 1997, but improves on it in many ways.
However, it should be noted that, especially during the early years, the theatre was also used for plays, ballets, and non-operatic musical performances. These are included, with operas being highlighted by having the titles written in bold-face. Plays are indicated by the letter (t), ballets by (b), zarzuelas by (s), oratorios by (pc) and operettas by (op).
While the book does contain a brief introduction, the great bulk comprises the chronology (with the indexes 327 of 357 pages). Thus, this is quite comprehensive, listing all the operas performed, chronologically by season, with full casts and all the dates that the piece was given. When there are cast changes, the dates (months, if appropriate) that the changes took place are also indicated, as is the language used for French and German works (almost invariably given in Italian during these 50 years). World premieres are indicated by (eA), Barcelona premieres by (eB) and Liceu premieres by (eL). In those cases (especially benefit performances) where selections from other works are included, these are also given.
This is a model book, which can be recommended in the strongest terms.
Nadal, Pau: Anuari 1947-1997 del Gran Teatre del Liceu; Barcelona, Amics del Liceu, 1997, 186 pages.
This book fulfills the last third of the project on the history of the Liceu listed above. It covers the final fifty years, with dates and casts for all productions, including dates of repeats. Concerts are also included. There is one index, which includes both people, and operas-the last being capitalized.
Bacigalupe, Carlos: ABAO 50 Anos de Historia 1953-2003; Bilbao, Amigos de la Opera, 2003, 477 pages.
A gorgeous coffee-table book with hundreds of photos, many in color, this title is superior in every respect to the 25 year book cited above, and is among the most beautiful opera house books ever published in Spain.
The first 43 pages are devoted to a pre-history, which covers opera in Bilbao before the opening of the fesival in 1953. An introduction and a list of the founders of the festival come next, followed by separate chapters on each of the 50 seasons. Each chapter is accompanied by playbills, pictures of the singers and some of the productions.
Finally, there is a formatted chronology for each production, giving dates and full casts. There are no indices, but a list of the singers is provided.MADRID
Turina Gomez, Joaquin: Historia del Teatro Real Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1997, 539 pages.
The Teatro Real in Madrid opened on Nov. 19, 1850 with Donizetti's La favorita, and was one of Europe's leading opera houses from then until it's closing in 1925. Some of the great 19th century singers who sang there include Giulia Grisi, Adelina Patti, Eugenie Julienne-Dejean, Gaetano Fraschini, Mario, Enrico Tamberlick, Francesco Tamagno. Julian Gayarre, Angelo Masini, Roberto Stagno, and Mattia Battistini. Some of these, such as Mario, Stagno and Tamberlick, never even sang at La Scala.
The arrangement of the book is close to ideal, and starts out with some introductory chapters on opera in Madrid before the opening of the Real, followed by a narrative history arranged season by season. The highlights of each season are discussed in this section, which is highly readable and generously illustrated. But, it is my guess that the most frequently consulted, (especially by researchers) and most significant parts of this book will be the appendices. There are five such appendices, as follows:
1. A list of operas arranged alphabetically by composer
2. A list of operas arranged alphabetically by title, giving the total number of performances and the seasons during which each work was given.
3. The chronology proper, which will be discussed in greater detail below.
4. An alphabetical list of artists, giving the seasons during which each sang at the Real
5. A brief guide to the principal source documents on the Teatro Real.
The chronology is arranged so as to give the date of the first performance of each work during the season, the dates of repeats, the artists and the conductor. Thus, it serves as a day by day document. As is so often the case, the chronology gets somewhat more detailed (especially in terms of the dates when changes in cast took place, and new singers assumed various roles) as we get closer to the twentieth century. This problem is due to the fact that repeats were often announced in the press listing only the opera, and were not necessarily reviewed.
The scope, and extent, of the data provided is simply staggering, especially when one considers the importance of the theatre (easily one of the premier houses in the world specializing in Italian opera), and of the singers who took part. If I may be permitted one minor quibble, it is that the roles interpreted by the singers is not indicated--an understandable omission, since the principal earlier chronologies of opera in Madrid (Carmena y Millan, Gonzalez-Maestre and Bilbao) were done the same way.
This book belongs in a select list as one of the finest books published on an opera house in the last ten years. It can be viewed as a must for any collection, and can be recommended in the strongest terms.
Amigos de la Opera Madrid: 40 Anos de opera en Madrid De La Zarzuela al Real ; Madrid, Amigos de la Opera, 2003, 277 pages.
Another magnificent coffee-table book, with a complete chronology, an index of singers giving seasons, and a list of operas performed from 1964 to 2003. It is copiously illustrated. The amigos are to be congratulated for all the work that went into it.
Arrones Peon, Luis: Teatro Campoamor Cronica de un Coliseo Centenario Oviedo 1892-1992; Real Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, Oviedo, 1993, 398 pages.
A complete history of the theatre, with special emphasis on opera. The early seasons are covered by means of narrative, but all the operas and most of the casts are provided. Details on the later seasons (from 1955 on) are provided during the discussion of each season. The book is copiously illustrated, and probably provides the most complete documentation available at the time of publication on any Spanish opera house.
Moreno Mengibar, Andres La Opera en Sevilla en el Siglo XIX . University of Seville, 1998, 420 pages.
This volume is based on a doctoral dissertation by the author which was originally completed in 1995. It has since been modified, and finally published as a book.
Seville had a splendid season virtually every spring from around 1860 to well into the twentieth century, and frequently was able to rival even Covent Garden with the brilliance of its casts. Some of the many distinguished artists who sang there include Roberto Stagno, the Marchisio sisters, Enrico Tamberlick, Julian Gayarre, Angelo Masini, Elena Theodorini, Gemma Bellincioni, Mattia Battistini and Francesco Tamagno. The repertory was just as interesting, and included Maria Stuarda, Ines de Castro, Fausta, Corrado d'Altamura, and others.
The Moreno book includes a day by day chronology at the end of the volume, but unfortunately without casts. For the period before 1850, it is arranged alphabetically by opera, and contains some surprises. Thus, Rossini's Ermione, believed never to have been done in the 19th century, after its' one performance in Naples, was actually given in Seville on Jan. 30, 1829. But many other bona fide rarities are listed. From 1850 on, the arrangement is chronological.
The book starts with a lengthy narrative with a fascinating discussion of the highlights of each of the seasons, containing quite a lot of detail on local premieres, frequently with casts, and on the operas sung by individual singers. Finally, the "rosters" of many, but not all of the seasons are included. Other features of these discussions are an analysis of, for example, the frequency of performances of various bel canto operas during specific time frames, and a graphical break down by composers.
Since much of the cast information that is not provided in this book is available elsewhere, there is a good chance that it will eventually be published, possibly as a smaller addendum to this title. The author has also researched operatic performances in Seville in the twentieth century, and it is to be hoped that these will be published as well.
While we anxiously await additional publications by this first class scholar, the present title can be highly recommended. With it, Seville currently has the third best coverage of any Spanish city during the nineteenth century, behind only Madrid and Barcelona. (Actually, at the time thius review was originally written (early August 1998), Seville was second, since the second volume on the Liceo in Barcelona (1847-97)was originally not due to be published until later. It was finally published in early 2005.
Bueno-Camejo, Francisco: Historia de la Opera en Valencia-y su representacion segun la critica de arte: De la monarquia de Alfonso XIII a la Guerra Civil Espanola; University of Valencia, Valencia, 1997, 430 pages
Valencia is, along with Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Seville one of Spain's five largest cities, and has traditionally been one of that country's princiapl centers of opera. During most of the nineteenth century, it had regular autumn and winter seasons by a "resident company". This slowly changed after around 1890 or so, and the city began to depend on visits by touring companies. But, these touring companies frequently sported major stars, such as Julian Gayarre (actually before 1890), Francisco Vignas, Maria Llacer (a native Valencian), Mattia Battistini, Titta Ruffo, Tito Schipa, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Hipolito Lazaro, and the like.
This title covers the years from 1900 to 1936. It is arranged so that there is one chapter for each theatrical year, which, unlike the calendar year, runs from summer through spring. While there is no formatted chronology at the end, this is really not necessary since the entire book is a chronology.
The number of "seasons (or "temporadas) in each theatrical year varied, depending on the number of companies that visited Valencia. The general layout for each such "temporada" is a roster of the artists, followed by a day by day chronology, giving operas, and, where possible, casts. The roles sung by the singers are not actually identifiedd, no problem in most cases, but difficult if many of the comprimarii are listed. Reviews are provided, where appropriate.
My overall impression of this book is that, while it is not perfect (thus there are no indices of singers or operas), I am absolutely delighted with it, in that it provides such a vast amount of information that was never available before. It, like two other books of Spanish origin published during 1997 (the Madrid and first of three Barcelona chronologies), and several others published in 1999, can be recommended in the strongest and most glowing terms.
De Candolle, Roger: Histoire du Theatre de Geneve; Geneva, 1978, 302 pages.
An attractive narrative history of the theatre, with some informa-tion on performances before 1952, a chronology without casts from 1952 to 1962, and with casts from 1962 to 1978.
Roth, Jean Jacques: Grand Theatre de Geneve-Operas, Moments d'Exception ; Editions Vilo, Paris, 1987, 264 pages. A coffee-table book centered around the productions at the theatre. There is a chronology from 1980-1987 which brings the listings in the De Candolle book listed above up to date, although 1979 is unaccountably missing.
Stanyshevsky, Yuri: The National Academic Opera & Ballet Theatre of Ukraine named after Taras Shevchenko ; Kiev, Muzychna Ukraina, 2002, 735 pages.
This is an outstandingly beautiful coffee table book. It is not only copiously illustrated, especially with photos of artists, of productions and of playbills, but also has a great deal of information. This is usually generalized i.e. operas by Bellini and Gounod were given, but are not named. There are very few dates. There is an exhaustive index of names, but not of operas. Finally, there is a tabulation of operas by season, but without casts.
There is an excellent series on opera and theatre in Lwov, now some six volumes authored by Agnieska Marszalek, Barbara Maresz, and Mariola Szuydlowska. I have only seen three of these (from 1875-1894), but, based on the volumes I have seen, this promises to be a superb set:
Marszalek, Agnieszka: Repertuar Teatru Polskiego we Lwowie, 1864-1875 ; Societas Vistulana,Cracow; 368 pages
Marszalek, Agnieszka: Repertuar Teatru Polskiego we Lwowie, s 1875-1881, 1881-1886; Universitas, Cracow, 1992 and 1993, 2 vols., 231 and 215 pages.
This is an excellent study of theatre and opera in Lwow. Each season is covered in great detail, including dates and casts, wherever possible. Dates of repeats and cast changes are included. There are indices of works and artists.
Maresz, Barbara and Mariola Szuydlowska: Repertuar Teatru Polskiego we Lwowie, 1886-1894 ; Universitas, Cracow, 1993, 368 pages.
This title brings the previously listed chronologies by Agnieszka Marszatek, (published in 1992 and 1993), up to 1894, and follows essentially the same format. It is a particularily interesting period in the history of that theatre, especially in view of the many fine singers who sang there during these years. The debut of Salomea Kruszelnicka can be cited as just one example.
Maresz, Barbara and Mariola Szuydlowska: Repertuar Teatru Polskiego we Lwowie, 1894-1906 ; Ksiegarmic, Cracow, 2005, 2 vols.
Palamarchuk, Oksana and Vasyl Pylypiuk: The Lviv Opera House; Lviv 2000, 155 pages
This book is unusual in that the entire volume is in both Ukrainian and English. Each page has two columns of text, while many pages have part of a third column devoted to pictures. The text is surprisingly informative, mentioning many of the major singers who sang there, and giving a general idea of the repertory.
Marsh, Robert C. completed and edited by Norman Pellegrini: 150 Years of Opera in Chicago; De Kalb, Northern Illinois University Press, 2006, xiv + 316 pages.
This is a very attractive book, which, in addition to the expected text, has many striking photos, a list of the operas performed in Chicago, indicating all the seasons in which each work was given, and a season by season chronology, limited to professional companies.
Usually, in looking at a book on an opera house, theater, or the history of opera in a given city, I find the appendices (especially the chronology or cast lists) to be the highlight of the book. This is not the case here, partly because of the unusually high quality of the text, which comprises the greater part of the book, and partly because of the gaps in the chronology. As I started to read the text, I became more and more impressed with the unusual stylishness of the writing and its fascinating subject. It is the sort of writing where every line that you read demands that you keep going, and makes you read on and on. Robert Marsh also draws a wonderful self portrait, including an abiding love for Richard Wagner, apparently his favorite composer. He later implies that he is an operatic Darwinist and a believer in the survival of the fittest. But, it has been my experience that operatic Darwinists tend to look at operas that were once popular but were eventually forced out of the repertory by newer works, through the prism of their own preferences, and this is what happens here. Marsh expresses no regrets at the fact that Meyerbeer was forced out by Wagner and Verismo, but fails to draw the logical parallel with many of Mozart’s operas having been forced out by Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi 100 years earlier.
Knowing from my own researches that Pacini’s Saffo was widely toured in the U.S. during the 1865-66 season, with performances in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis, this is one of the first things I checked. Yet, when Marsh encountered Pacini’s opera in the 1865 season, he jumped to the conclusion that it was Gounod’s. He drew the same conclusion for the local premiere of Massenet’s Sapho in 1918, but identifies it correctly when it was given later.
The chronology has no casts, and is also missing a number of professional seasons reported in the local press. These include at least one that I know of by the New Orleans company which made frequent tours of the Northern and Eastern States. There also are several by Emma Abbott, and some by various other touring companies including Antonio Scotti, Fortune Gallo’s San Carlo Opera company, and the Boston National Opera Company. These overlooked seasons also impact the list of operas given in Chicago.
All considered, this title is a fine book as far as the text is concerned, but also one that could have benefited by having more effort spent on the appendices.
Thierstein, Eldred A.: Cincinnati Opera From the Zoo to Music Hall ; Hillsdale, Mich., Deerstone Books, 1995, 315 pages.
This book fills a major gap in the documentation of U.S. opera companies. The Cincinnati Opera is the second oldest opera organization in the U.S., having had 85 continuous seasons starting in 1920. During this period, they had many wonderful and important singers, such as Zinka Milanov, Licia Albanese, Rise Stevens, Salvatore Baccaloni, Giovanni Martinelli and artists of comparable caliber.
About 1/3 of this volume is a narrative history of the company, while the other 2/3 comprises a first class chronology. The roster of singers is provided for each season, followed by day by day annals indicating all the artists. Indices of singers, conductors and operas are also provided. Finally, there are many fine photographs of artists and productions.
A first class effort, which can be recommended in the strongest terms. In fact, it would have been hard to have done the job any better.
Beverly Sills, Robert I Giesberg, Carl Cunningham and Alan Rich: Houston Grand Opera at Fifty Houston, Herring Design, 2005, 295 pages.
This is a large size coffee table book, illustrated with many stunning photographs. It is, perhaps, the most beautiful book published so far on any opera house in the United States. After a preface by Beverly Sills and an anonymous Houston Grand Opera Timeline, there are chapters on the First Twenty-Five Years by Robert I Giesberg, HGO's Second Quarter Century by Carl Cunningham, and HGO World Premieres by Alan Rich
Judging from this book, the Houston Grand Opera takes great pride in its productions of American operas (Porgy and Bess, Treemonisha, others and world premieres of such modern works as Nixon in China by John Adams and Alice Goodman and Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catan. But bel canto was certainly not neglected, as demonstrated by the American premiere of the new critical edition of Rossini's La donna del lago with a cast including Frederica von Stade, Marilyn Horne, Rockwell Blake, Dano Raffanti and Nicola Zaccaria.
An important feature of this title is a superb chronology, arranged season by season with full casts and dates of all the performances. The list of major artists who performed in Houston is quite impressive, and includes the likes of Joan Sutherland, Virginia Zeani, Marilyn Horne, Beverly Sills, Katia Ricciarelli, Elizabeth Futral, Renee Fleming, Mirella Freni, Richard Tucker, Jose Carreras, Marcello Giordani, Sherril Milnes, Cesare Siepi, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Samuel Ramey, and many others. If I have a small quibble about the book, it is the total absence of any indices, especially one of the artists and operas listed in the chronology.
Several other major American opera houses are going to celebrate their 50th anniversaries in the next few years, including Dallas and Santa Fe. Hopefully, they, too will arrange for books to be published to mark the occasion. If so, they might wish to use this title as a model. Highly recommended.
NEW YORK CITY-GENERAL
Lawrence, Vera Brodsky: Strong on Music The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton Strong, 1836-1875-Vol. I Resonances 1836-1850; Oxford University Press, New York and London, 1988, 686 pages. Reprinted by the University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Lawrence, Vera Brodsky: Strong on Music The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton Strong, 1836-1875-Vol. II Reverberations 1850-56 ; Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1995, 863 pages.
Lawrence, Vera Brodsky: Strong on Music The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton Strong, 1836-1875-Vol. III Repercussions 1857-1862; Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1999, 630 pages.
One of the major gaps in the documentation of opera performances has long been 19th century New York City in general, and the Academy of Music and its predecessors in particular. While it is true that a massive 15 volume set by George Odell , is available, this is really too massive and too expensive for most private libraries, which means that one really has to either copy the pertinent pages or go to a Research Library to consult it. Odell also has many errors and gaps, and devotes only a fraction of its space to music and opera.
Now, with the publication of a three volume set devoted to mid nineteenth century musical life in New York City, Ms. Lawrence has begun not only to fill this gap, but to do so in a most effective manner. This first volume deals with the years 1836-1850, a period of particular interest to members of the Donizetti Society since it saw the New York premieres of some eleven Donizetti operas. Not all of these local Donizetti premieres are treated equally, but as a general rule dates, casts, and excerpts from newspaper reviews are provided. The second volume covers another seven or so years, and, while I would have thought it to be impossible, even better than the first. The final volume, published posthumously, carries the story to 1862, quite a few years short of the 1875 originally intended. Lawrence provides a tremendous amount of vital historical detail, and lets her tremendous love of her subject come through to her readers.
Starting with the private journal of George Templeton Strong, a music loving New York attorney, Ms. Lawrence has managed to make these 27 years of New York's musical existence come to life. She divides the period into 30 chapters in vol. I, another 14 in vol. II, and a final 12 in vol. III, two for each year. The first is entitled GTS, and provides extracts from Strong's diary as they pertain to music. The second, entitled obbligato, is a product of her own extensive research into both published and unpublished contemporary sources: newspapers, periodicals, handbills, programs, diaries, letters, etc. etc.
The fact that the second chapter is often so much more interesting and informative than the first makes me wonder why the title was not "Lawrence on Music". It is she, rather than Strong who comes out as the shining light of this venture.
Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane: Washington National Opera 1956-2006; Washington National Opera, Washington D.C., 2006, 219 pages.
This is a highly impressive coffee-table table book, loaded with stunning photographs of productions, singers, composers, and even our nation's glorious capital.
Mrs. Phillips-Matz is one of America's most talented writers on opera, who has already authored first class titles on Giuseppe Verdi, great singers such as Rosa Ponselle and Leonard Warren, and has now added a book on one of our premier opera companies to her list of accomplishments.
She starts out with a brief, but fascinating chapter on opera in Washington between 1800 and 1956. She discusses the theaters, singers and operas given. Some of the singers include the great tenor Mario, his common-law wife, Giulia Grisi, Francesco Tamagno, Enrico Caruso and many others such as Marietta Alboni, Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti, Luisa Tetrazzini, and Giovanni Zenatello. This is a subject that I, among others, would certainly want to know more about. Perhaps there is more, since the name of Charles Jahant keeps cropping up in statements such as "According to Charles Jahant" or "As Charles Jahant reported". But I was unable to find a footnote, a reference, or even a bibliography to get the precise source of these references to Mr. Jahant"s work.
This history of opera in Washington is followed by a series of chapters on the current opera company, beginning with its founding by Day Thorpe, and a triumphant first night on January 31, 1957 with Mozart"s Abduction from the Seraglio. Such important world premieres as Ginastera"s Bomarzo and Beatrix Cenci were to come later. Other directors followed, including Martin Feinstein, who headed the company for a total of 16 seasons from 1979 to 1995. Finally, in Chapter III, we get to the great day, Domingo's official inauguration as Artistic Director on Nov. 9, 1996 with Gomes's opera Il Guarany, a work probably never before given in that city, although it had been given in both New York City and San Francisco in 1884. Phillips-Matz covers this major event in her usual fine style, providing both a brief history of the work, and key comments from reviews of the performance from several major newspapers. Later in the same chapter (III-Artistic Visionaries and Leadership) she mentions other highlights of Domingo's tenure including Massenet's vivid and dramatic Le Cid with Domingo singing the title role.
The next chapter (IV) appropriately entitled Gracing the Stage, talks about the leading ladies who had graced the WNO's stage: the likes of Regina Resnik, Frederica von Stade, Catherine Malfitano, Veronica Villaroel, Mirella Freni, and many others. Male leads, villains and fathers are discussed in a chapter entitled Heroes and Villains and include a long list comprising, in addition to Domingo, Carlo Bergonzi, José Carreras, Marcello Giordani, Alan Held, Leo Nucci, Paul Plishka, and Justino Diaz among a panoply of stars. Other chapters include conductors, stage directors, set and costume designers, as well as the company's homes in Washington. Finally, such other matters as fund raising, the company's volunteer corps, their outreach program to the young, their young artists program, and their trips abroad are not ignored.
The mention of Carreras brings to mind that he was invited by Domingo to sing the title role of the American premiere of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's superb opera Sly, a work that Domingo later sang at the Metropolitan in New York. Since Domingo followed Sly with another long neglected late verismo opera in New York, Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac, it is to be hoped that he will bring it to Washington as well. The tenor is to be complimented in the strongest terms for his repertoire choices, and I must admit to having been sorely disappointed that he was not named to a comparable position at the Metropolitan Opera. His artistic leadership is something that any major city can be as proud of as they are of his vast repertory and artistry as a singer and as a musician.
Perhaps, the most important section of all is the superb chronology in the appendix. Each production is listed together with all the dates, full cast, and an indication of whether it was a world premiere, an American premiere, or a new production.
This is truly a book that can be highly recommended.
Salgado, Susana: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo ; Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2003, 493 pages.
During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso.
From its inauguration on August 25, 1856 until well into the twentieth century, the Teatro Solis in Montevideo was one of the leading theatres in South America, and was probably not too far behind the major houses in Europe. This is hardly surprising since Montevideo is only a short trip from Buenos Aires, and most of the companies visiting Buenos Aires would spend a week or two there once the Buenos Aires season was over. Thus, almost all of the great artists of the period, including Caruso, Ruffo, Battistini, Tamagno, Tetrazzini, Stagno, Lauri-Volpi, De Lucia, Zenatello, Muzio, Anselmi, O'Sullivan, Schipa, Lazaro, etc., etc., sang there. The repertory was just as interesting as the artists, and works like Pacini's Medea and Bondelmonte are known to have been performed in Montevideo. Felice Romani's libretto for Donizetti's Parisina was used by a local composer named Giribaldi, and the opera was premiered at the Teatro Solis on September 14, 1878. It was repeated in 1899. There are any number of books already published on many legs of these tours, especially for Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Sao Paulo with various others in preparation. Dr. Salgado's effort is easily among the best and most useful of these, particularly because it covers the longest time frame (from 1856 to the present), and is in the English language.
A narrative history of the theatre takes up a little less than half the book, with various appendices taking up the rest. The narrative portion is outstanding in terms of readability, and covers highlights of each season, especially artists and operas new to Montevideo. Since the same companies invariably visited other major South American cities, this narrative really provides more than just a history of the Teatro Solis, being just as valuable for the insight it provides into opera in South America.
The chronology, which takes up most of the appendices, is a model of its kind, with dates and casts (as far as possible) of all the performances. Other appendices of special interest include artists who performed at the Solis (with references to the years they sang), musica works performed there, instrumental and vocal ensembles as well as ballet companies.
The book is copiously illustrated, and includes an exhaustive bibliography. Highly recommended.
Many of the above reviews have been previously published in The Record Collector, and I would like to thank it's editor, Larry Lustig, for the gracious permission to use them on my web site.