Masters of Opera

Fidelio

By Ludwig van Beethoven

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Fidelio is an opera in two acts set in 18th-century near Seville by Ludvig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly. The opera tells how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named "Fidelio," rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison. For further information go here. This is an opera suggested for a seasoned, not novice, listener. CD format.

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Gershwin: His Life and Music

By Charles Schwartz

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This is the biography of George Gershwin, the man who gave America some of our most loved music. It is the story of a man obsessed. His need to create music led to hundreds of hit songs that are still popular, the opera "Porgy and Bess" and such Broadway hit musicals as "Strike Up the Band" and "Lady Be Good." Yet Gershwin, the composer of such concert pieces as "Rhapsody in Blue' and "An America in Paris," was never quite satisfied with his accomplishments, and never quite felt that he had realized his musical goals. This restlessnes and dissatifaction ruled his personal life as well. This is the story of a man who tragically died at the age of 38, just as he approached the full maturity of his creative gifts.

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Handel

By Christopher Hogwood

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"George Friedrich Handel remains one of the unchallenged geniuses of musical history. Yet many revealing and fascinating aspects of his work have been obscured by generations of adulation, prejudice, or misinterpretation. Christopher Hogwood takes us back to the original Handel, blending the evidence from documents of all kinds with judicious biographical observations as well as a delightful selection of illustrations. The result is a comprehensive and entertaining portrait of the developing character and career of Handel, with an important concluding chapter that traces the progress of the Handel legend down to our own time, and a chronological table compiled by Anthony Hicks that outlines major events in the composer's life and musical career."

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La Bohème

By Giacomo Puccini

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La Bohème is a story of young love set in the bohemian culture of 1830s Paris. The bittersweet tragedy centers around an optimistic group of friends surviving on limited means. Rodolfo, a poet, shares a garret with his artist friend. Mimi is a seamstress living in a neighboring apartment. Mimi and Rodolfo meet and fall instantly, madly, in love. But the diva is already desperately ill with tuberculosis and not long for the world. Available in DVD format, plus CDs.

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La Traviata

By Giuseppe Verdi

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The setting is Paris & the surrounding area in August 1850 through February 1851. The story depicts a young man, Alfredo Germont, who falls in love with a prostitute, Violetta. She eventually realizes that she might love Alfredo as well, but does not feel that a relationship is possible because of her unworthiness as a member of a much lower class.

The library has this opera in DVD, VHS & CD formats.

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Life of Rossini

By Stendhal

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"The only reality in music is the state of mind which it induces in the listener."
Stendhal published this biography of Rossini in 1824. It isn't very useful as biography, but that wasn't Stendhal's purpose. It was a vehicle for lively, but unreliable gossip about the Italian music scene. It is propaganda to inject some life into the French opera by encouraging the production of Rossini and other Italian composers in Paris and to free the French opera houses from government control. Stendhal's recommendations were followed: first Rossini was brought to Paris, and after the 1830 revolution the Paris Opera was handed over to an independent impresario. This marked the beginning of the blossoming of French opera. This edition is the 1970 translation by Richard N. Coe.

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Madama Butterfly

By Giacomo Puccini

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An American Naval officer buys a young Japanese wife. When he leaves to rejoin his ship, she waits patiently for him for three years with the young son she has since had. His eventual return with his new American wife leads to the Japanese girl's suicide.

Available in DVD, VHS, and CD formats.

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Mozart: His Life and Times

By Peggy Woodford

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Mozart: His Life and Times not only sings the praises and explains the genius of this prolific composer, but it represents Mozart as a mortal human being. Through contemporary reports and Mozart's own voluminous and highly descriptive correspondence, his life is related to 18th-century Austria. Mozart and his friends, as it were, tell the story from early boyhood in Salzburg to first triumphs in Vienna-and from adulation to eventual total neglect.

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Mozart: Portrait of a Genius

By Norbert Elias

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Mozart is a brilliant study of the great composer's life and creative genius, written by one of the most important social thinkers of our time. In this haunting portrait, Elias examines the paradoxes of Mozart's short existence--his creativity and social marginality, his musical sophistication and personal crudeness, his breathtaking accomplishments and psychological despair.

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Otello

By Giuseppe Verdi

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In 15th-century Cyprus, beautiful Desdemona is married to Otello, the Commander of the Venetian Army. Old officer Iago is plotting against Otello and his lieutenant Cassio. By planting Desdemona's handkerchief on Cassio, manipulative Iago convinces Otello of his wife's infidelity.

Available on VHS and CD in our collection.

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