Affection is the subterranean river that frequently bursts through the surface to splash readers and, perhaps, convince them...

A former classical music and opera critic for the New York Times summarizes for general readers the evolution of opera and makes some predictions about its future.

In her debut, Schweitzer has several objectives: to explain what sometimes are very elementary aspects of music (the different ranges of human voices, a musical scale, and key terms), to describe, swiftly and chronologically, the careers and most notable works of the great composers, and to argue that opera is not moribund but is in fact thriving. Readers meet such iconic names as Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Bellini, Rossini, Wagner, and many others, including modern and contemporary composers like Philip Glass, Thomas Adès, and Missy Mazzoli. The author escorts us through the plots and musical aspects of some classics—e.g., Lucia di Lammermoor and Madama Butterfly—and points out connections to popular culture (Guillaume Tell and The Lone Ranger, for example). Schweitzer introduces newcomers, as well, and some of the enormous personalities—singers and otherwise—who have been involved: Callas, Pavarotti, Zeffirelli et al. She also discusses the differences between and among opera, operetta, and musical. She has a few cultural points (and complaints) to make, too: the dominance of male composers, the current insistence that singers look as well as sing their parts, color-blind casting, the current fondness for “graphic depictions of sexual violence,” which she abhors. The author looks at the latest technical innovations, including surtitles (projections of translated lyrics), digital streaming, and large-screen productions. What emerges clearly is Schweitzer’s profound passion for opera, her determination to explain the elements of the art so that others might embrace it, and her deep belief that opera is both flourishing now and certain to continue doing so.

Affection is the subterranean river that frequently bursts through the surface to splash readers and, perhaps, convince them to put down the money for tickets.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09693-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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