2008: 98. Opera Offstage

“In the year 1206 when notions of romantic love were quite new in the world, a group of “minnesingers” held a contest of song.”

Opera Offstage, Milton Brener

I picked this up as a 700 book for the Dewey Decimal game (see link below) and because I figured it was time to start my “read five books about classical music” resolution (although I still haven’t really figured out the Dewey Decimal system, and what numbers correlated to what books, it seems like the 700s are the fine arts).  Our library’s selection of books about music is a little slim, but I thought this book, which purports to tell the backstories on the creations of a number of operas, might be an interesting entry into the world of classical music, particularly since Jon and I are slooowly starting to learn more about Opera.*  The idea is a pretty good one for a book - I always like to hear gossipy stories and learn more about how works of art are created, so this is all right up my ally, and I was interested to learn more about the backstories behind Carmen, La Boheme, Parsifal, et. al.  Unfortunately, the book was just not very good.

I think that the essays in it were written over the years as program notes for a local opera (maybe the New Orleans Opera?), and they are just not very well written.  There are some interesting stories (indeed, how could one tell the histories of the famous operas without hitting upon some interesting stories? Wagner alone has a life strange enough to be an opera itself), but they are told in such a clunky manner as to make even the best tales seem sort of dull.  Brener may be an opera fan but he is not a writer.  Unlikely that you would go read this book, but if you were thinking about it, I would find another book about opera to read.


*Through the Washington National Opera’s pretty cool Generation O program, where people under 35 can get a great discount on opera tickets.  So far we’ve seen Die Walkure, La Boheme, and Don Juan. Though that project is probably on hold, given I suspect that we are not going to be attending much Opera in the next year.


Date/Place Completed: 7/10/08

Categories: Non-Fiction, Library; Book Resolution(s)

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017