Commonly referred to as "The Ring", it contains four operas. The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich from gold stolen from the river Rhine. Several mythic figures struggle for possession of the Ring, including Wotan (Odin), the chief of the Gods. Wotan's scheme, spanning generations, to overcome his limitations, drives much of the action in the story. The hero Siegfried wins the Ring, as Wotan intended, but is eventually betrayed and slain. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Siegfried's lover and Wotan's estranged daughter, returns the Ring to the Rhine. In the process, the Gods are destroyed. "The Ring" is not for the novice listener.
Set in 12th century crusade battle for Jerusalem, Goffredo and his brother Eustazio (the fine Daniel Taylor) go to a Christian magician and receive magic wands with which they destroy the castle and free Rinaldo and Almirena. Available in CD format.
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.
It took Wagner more than half of his lifetime to come to terms with his genius, but that struggle and the consequent outpourings of his mature works took an absolute precedence over everything else. He changed the language of music in a way that has no parallel in history.
Verdi was one of the greatest, the most successful, and the longest-lived of all composers. Written with the full cooperation of the Verdi family and drawing on a wide range of sources, this is an authoritative re-examination of a long, vigorous and productive life. The book captures Verdi's tremendous energy, creativity, Italian nationalism and philanthropy and offers insight into the complexities involoved in the composition and production of opera.
Whether he cared to admit it or not, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a hypochondriac, a manic-depressive and a man who, until only a few months before his death, was quite unable to come to terms with his own nature. He was also, quite clearly, a genius: one of the greatest composers ever to have lived, and an artist whose music conveys the very spirit of 19th-century Russia.
This small book has a companion compact disc recording of Rossini's most popular compositions. This is a good introduction to the composer of The Barber of Seville and William Tell. Included are a listing of Rossini's complete works and a list of recommended recordings.
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) stood at the end of five generations of composers. A generous man who helped others when they needed a boost, he loved motorcars and boats for excitement but retreated to his beloved Tuscany's lakes to escape urban hubbub. Much to his jealous wife Elvira's distress, he had many paramours and confidantes. His sense of drama drove him to demand perfection from his librettists. With his third opera, Manon Lescaut, he established himself as a leading composer for the stage. Giulio Ricordi, scion of the music-publishing house, was impresario for productions of his operas, and Toscanini conducted most of their premiers.
Budden, president of the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini in the composer's ancestral hometown, Lucca, Italy, looks closely at Puccini's music per se. He highlights events in the life but leaves out much in the way of conflict and incident, instead covering the operas' scenarios and music in detail. Because Puccini also wrote pieces for orchestra, band, piano, and chorus, Budden analyzes some of those as well. Puccini's operatic music embraces the use of leitmotifs and some of the harmonies that Wagner pioneered, and it demonstrates his ability to match dramatic and musical structures.
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.
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.