The romance, passion, and competition of modern opera come alive in this sequel, aimed at aficionados.




This second volume of a history series on tenors offers extensive interviews, letters, and critiques focused on Franco Corelli.

Picking up where his first installment left off, Zucker (Franco Corelli & a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, Volume 1, 2015, etc.), once host of Columbia University’s radio show Opera Fanatic and a performer himself, applies his impressive pedigree of classical music knowledge to outline the fall of the castrati in the early 1800s. The culture of the Napoleonic era began banning castrati—male children castrated at a young age and raised to sing in more feminine ranges—from schools, and the pope lifted the prohibition against women performing onstage. During the castrati’s decline rose a new group of tenors like Gilbert-Louis Duprez, with his high C from the chest, and Giovanni Rubini, “the king of the high Fs.” These singers’ popularity and heroic characters would turn audiences and composers’ attentions to them and their successors. Among the latter was Corelli, and here Zucker shares his extraordinary access to the star, reprinting wide-ranging interviews as well as various correspondences, most notably the singer’s letters to fellow Italian tenor Giacomo Lauri-Volpi. Corelli recalls developing his voice—not just in his early years, but also across his long career—while discussing his numerous stage rivalries with the likes of Mario Del Monaco and Richard Tucker. Explicit facets of Corelli’s sex life are recounted in conversations with his mistresses and his wife, Loretta, and rumored flirtations are addressed. Despite or perhaps because of these deeply personal touches, this volume stands as an impressive resource for opera fans and scholars, with the author breaking down many of Corelli’s performances in detail, explaining vocal techniques and their origins. Those not well-educated in these concepts won’t find a teaching guide here, and readers who lack a background in music theory and stage singing will often find themselves lost. That doesn’t mean the volume is totally unapproachable, as its numerous (well over a hundred) photographs and illustrations are quite enthralling, and those interested in music history will find some useful trivia, from the technical aspects of castration to the drama between modern opera’s biggest names. Zucker also takes other Corelli biographies to task with a biting, decisive tone that only a true critic can execute so entertainingly.

The romance, passion, and competition of modern opera come alive in this sequel, aimed at aficionados.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-891456-03-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bel Canto Society

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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