What Opera Means
Title Details

14th October 2019

288 Pages

15.50 x 23.50 cm

3 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Defining Opera

Imprint: Plumbago Books

What Opera Means

Categories and Case-studies

by Christopher Wintle and Kate Hopkins

Edited by Kate Hopkins

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
A fresh, elegant and vital enquiry into the elusive character of opera, unfolded through categories and case-studies, with an emphasis on historical background, psychology and performance.
This book mounts a searching enquiry into the elusive character of opera. The author argues that any work of art can be grasped primarily through its constellation of Platonic ideas, or 'categories', several of which he explores in light of a new definition of the art-form. He elaborates each category with case-studies rooted in the time, place and circumstance of an opera's origin: most of these are adaptations of previously-published essays, though somedraw on talks for universities, opera houses and the BBC.

Although he looks back to the infancy of opera, he concentrates on later, more familiar repertory - principally Wagner, Verdi, Strauss and Britten. Case-studies included under 'Psychology' reveal his long-standing involvement with psychoanalysis, and those under 'Performance' reinforce his view of opera as a branch of rhetoric. As the first of a two-volume project, What Opera Means deals with categories accessible to all: of fifty entries, only two require basic musical knowledge (the second volume will be for specialists). The book is thus suitable for the general reader, as well as for college courses.

CHRISTOPHER WINTLE is Emeritus Senior Lecturer in Music at King's College London and General Editor of the series Defining Opera (Plumbago Books). He has published extensively on nineteenth- and twentieth-century music, and for twenty years was an opera critic for the Times Literary Supplement.
KATE HOPKINS (Editor) is Content Producer for Opera at the Royal Opera House and Senior Assistant Editor of Plumbago Books. She has written on opera and literature for ENO, WNO and The Royal Opera.
Author's Preface
Introduction: Defining Opera
Opera Defining Opera (Strauss: Capriccio)
Rising to the Occasion (Verdi: Aida)
A Conundrum and a Problem (Wagner: Tristan und Isoldeand Mozart: Die Zauberflöte)
A Perennial Source (Adès: The Tempest)
Play, Intermezzo and Opera (Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos)
Tragedy of Affliction or Bourgeois Drama? (Verdi: La traviata)
A Comedy of Psychopathologies (Britten: Albert Herring)
A Generic Puzzle (Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
A Boccaccian Comedy (Verdi: Falstaff)
Epic Opera (Weill: Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny)
The Style of the House (Verdi: Les Vêpres siciliennes)
A Melodrama of Two Styles (Verdi: Rigoletto)
New-old Style (Britten: Gloriana)
Old-new Style (Goehr/Monteverdi: Arianna)
Constant Flux (Benjamin: Written on Skin)
From 1853 to 1854 (on Keys) (Verdi: La traviata)
From Dresden to Paris (Wagner: Tannhäuser)
From Paris to Modena . and Back (Verdi: Don Carlo(s))
The Title (Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier)
A Name (Verdi: Simon Boccanegra)
The Prelude (Verdi: Un ballo in maschera)
Multiple Beginnings (Wagner: Das Rheingold)
The Denouement (Verdi: Otello)
Peroration (Cadence) (Wagner: Götterdämmerung)
Topic and Time (Britten: The Rape of Lucretia)
Sources of Musical Invention (Britten: Death in Venice)
Colloquy (Wagner: Parsifal)
Sacred and Secular (Verdi: Stiffelio)
The Force of the Outsider (Verdi: Il trovatore)
Freud and Opera (Offenbach: La Belle Hélène; Peri: L'Euridice;Wagner: Lohengrin and Siegfried; Verdi: Aida; Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spades; Britten: Billy Budd; Bizet: Carmen)
On Neurotics (Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen)
Mother, Madonna, Maid and Whore (Wagner: Tannhäuser)
Loss (Verdi: Simon Boccanegra)
Encapsulated Repression (Verdi: Rigoletto)
Prologue: Alternative Rhetorics (Handel: Ariodante)
Authentic Inauthenticity (Rameau: Les Fêtes d'Hébé)
Psychologizing the Gods (Wagner: Das Rheingold)
Reclaiming Anti-opera (Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande)
Enduring Ephemera (Massenet: Chérubin)
Credible Magic (Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten)
The Memorable Tune (Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges)
Production as Reinvention (Janá?ek: Kát'a Kabanová and The Adventures of Mr. Brou?ek
Aesthetic Inversion (Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex,and Bartók: Duke Bluebeard's Castle)
Remaking a Hero (Britten: Peter Grimes)
Revising Revisions (Britten: Billy Budd)
Reinventing the Style Heights (Blake: The Plumber's Gift)
Mechanical Pastoral (Birtwistle: Yan Tan Tethera)
Sacred Awe and Terror (Messiaen: Saint François d'Assise)
Bardolatry (Oliver: Timon of Athens)
Anti-romantic Romanticism (Weir: Blond Eckbert)
Epilogue: Production versus Music? (Sutcliffe: Believing in Opera (book))
Bibliography
Index
"An academic as well as respected commentator on opera, Christopher Wintle has here assembled a collection of his writings on the genre, including essays for the Royal Opera...plus a selection of reviews for the Times Literary Supplement...a wide-ranging analysis of the meaning of opera...Wintle demonstrates considerable knowledge on Verdi, Wagner, Strauss, Weill, Britten and George Benjamin, [while] Wintle's own expertise in other fields - particularly psychology - adds depth and complexity. Four Stars." BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
"In this superb selection of essays, Christopher Wintle ranges over 400 years of operatic history, from Peri to Prokofiev, Bizet to Benjamin. Whether discussing the mechanics of music or the psychoanalytic import of words and actions, Wintle's prose is always elegant, his arguments accessible and engaging. Readers will discover surprising, fresh insights into the well-known repertoire, and astute reflections - often just as surprising - on the less familiar. (Musikhochschule Basel)"

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Title Details

14th October 2019

288 Pages

1.55 x 2.35 cm

3 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Defining Opera

Imprint: Plumbago Books