DONIZETTI AND HIS OPERAS by William Ashbrook

DONIZETTI AND HIS OPERAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An ""entirely reworked and updated version"" of Ashbrook's 1965 Donizetti study, this massive volume remains the fundamental resource for serious students, if not for casual opera-fans. First comes a dry 200-page life history, ""not intended to be a full-length"" biography (Herbert Weinstock's 1963 bio is rather richer); Ashbrook debunks legends about Donizetti's political activism, stresses his problems with the censors, emphasizes the importance of the underrated early operas, finds the composer to be generally ""admirable"" and ""intensely human"" (he ""shared nothing of Bellini's neurasthenic malice""), but doesn't downplay the syphilis which destroyed both Donizetti and (probably) his wife. Part II offers two brief essays--on Donizetti's ""operatic world"" (his influences, his more blatantly Rossini-an contemporaries, the contrast with Bellini); and on D.'s use of operatic conventions (overtures, preludes, introductory choruses, prima donna arias, duets, ensembles). Next: musico-dramatic commentary on all 60-some extant operas, ranging in length from a quarter-page to a dozen pages or more--with the longest treatments going not only to the famous operas but also to under-appreciated standouts (Marin Faliero, Maria de Rudenz, Maria Padilla); the critical analysis here, while never as full or eloquent as Julian Budden's on Verdi, is in the Budden mode, often crisp and shrewd--with notes on Donizetti's self-borrowings, his writing for specific singers, his increasing interest in revelation-of-character, his foreshadowings of Verdi, his libretto problems, his conscious departures from the Rossinian model. And a final section gives basic data and brief plot summaries for all the operas. With generous musical examples: the all-in-one Donizetti reference for anyone studying Italian opera from Rossini to Verdi--and passionate fans will find some of their favorite operas (Roberto Devereux especially) discussed in illuminating detail.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0521276632
Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press