Philip Gossett is the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. His reconstruction of Gustavo III, the original version of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, had its première at the Göteborg Opera in Sweden this past September. (March 2003)


The Case for Puccini

Puccini: A Biography

by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz

Puccini: His Life and Works

by Julian Budden
The history of Italian opera throughout most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was directly tied to the fortunes of the publishing house founded in 1808 by Giovanni Ricordi. Casa Ricordi of Milan issued the work of composers of Italian opera from Rossini through Puccini to Luigi Nono and continued …

Up from Beethoven

Nineteenth-Century Music

by Carl Dahlhaus, translated by J. Bradford Robinson
When compared to current work in art history or literary studies, American musical scholarship must seem very old-fashioned indeed. Much of it is devoted to finding, editing, and analyzing a large number of major and minor musical compositions that have been lying dormant in archives, libraries, and private collections. Several …


A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera

by Peter Conrad
Opera criticism today, when it does not deal with works by a single composer, often links opera to something outside it. It is common for books and articles to have such titles as Literature as Opera, Opera and Ideas, or Romantic Opera and Literary Form and chapter headings like “Opera …

Let Handel Be Handel

Handel's Operas: 1704–1726

by Winton Dean and John Merrill Knapp
Eighteenth-century Italian opera seria, once considered a theatrical form of small interest to modern audiences, is proving far more durable than even music historians might have suspected. Within the past few years operas by Handel and Vivaldi have been performed with considerable success not only by state-supported theaters in Europe …

Making a Comeback

Donizetti and His Operas

by William Ashbrook
Nineteenth-century Italian opera was long considered intellectually disreputable. Melodramatic plots, banal tunes over oom-pah-pah accompaniments, sopranos warbling in thirds with a flute, tenors bellowing high C’s: all show and no substance. Several works by Verdi remained in the repertory, but cognoscenti admired unequivocally his last two operas alone, Otello (1887) …


Opera from the Other Side

A production of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, Bayreuth, 1979

To write the history of opera production, not only must one know the repertory well, but one needs to understand the extraordinary work of the many people involved backstage who make an operatic spectacle function. Few people are as capable of writing such a history as Evan Baker, author of the new book, From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging.