The Oxford dictionary of opera

  • Oxford : Oxford University Press 1992
Physical description
  • 0198691645
  • Includes bibliographical references (p. [ix]-xiii)
Other names
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  • text
  • English


  • Opera was born in Italy towards the end of the 16th century, a new form of musical drama emerging out of the heady intellectual debates and experiments of the Camerata meeting at the house of Count Bardi in Florence. Four hundred years later, it is flourishing as never before: the debate and experimentation are now international, and the passionate engagement and critical responses of audiences of both live and televised performances, as well as the huge sales of sound and video recordings, are witness of a following unprecedented in its history. This new dictionary has over 4,500 entries, covering all aspects of the historical development and present standing of opera. The authors define their subject broadly, paying some attention to different ancient and modern dramatic forms and taking account also of some of the dramatic music that preceded the traditional starting date of opera. There are more than 750 articles on individual composers, the most important combining both narrative and critical accounts, supplemented by worklists and bibliographies. Six hundred operatic works of all kinds are described, with synopses, full premiere details, and, where relevant, a note of the first performances in Britain and the United States. Principal operatic roles and well-known arias, choruses, scenes, and interludes are identified in separate entries. Important sources of ideas for operas are given in 85 entries on historical characters such as Hans Sachs, Caesar, and Sappho; on mythical or legendary ones such as Orpheus and Faust; and on writers and poets, as varied as Gogol, Milton, and Henry James, whose works have provided direct inspiration. Details of librettists and their most important sources are given in the opera entries, in composer worklists, and in many separate biographies. Nearly 900 singers are featured, from the earliest exponents of the stile rappresentativo to the new stars of the 1990s, with details of debut, style, reputation, roles created, and notable performances. There are biographies of the major conductors, producers, directors, designers, and entrepreneurs, complemented by separate histories of opera-houses, companies, institutions, and festivals around the world. The history of opera in individual countries, towns, and cities is sketched, from Aachen to Zurich by way of Australia, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, and the United States. There are also entries on a select number of philosophers, musicologists, and critics whose thought has influenced opera, and on miscellaneous topics as varied as censorship, children's opera, the Guerre des Bouffons, and television opera. The whole work is underpinned by 350 entries on specialist terms, ranging from brief definitions of stock-in-trade terminology to detailed accounts of different kinds of opera. The Oxford Dictionary of Opera provides a huge amount of information and learning, packed conveniently in a single volume with helpful cross-references. It will be invaluable to all serious opera-goers, to those professionally concerned with opera, and to anyone needing reliable information on the subject.