FORTISSIMO by William Murray


Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young Singers
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A season in the lives of young singers struggling get noticed in the demanding world of opera, alluringly told by prolific writer and tenor Murray (City of the Soul, 2003, etc.).

The author, who died in March 2005, spent 24 weeks during the 2003–04 season with 12 artists in the Lyric Opera of Chicago training program, a launching pad for many great international careers. What makes the training program so special is not only the quality of its singers, but the talented coaches who guide the artists through their exercises and roles, instructing them in dramatic interpretation, language meaning and pronunciation and movement. Murray shines in chronicling the development of the singers’ technique; his prose is gratifying, his dry humor a pleasure. He is wonderfully adept at evoking the particular musical personalities of the singers, and he stands in awe of their courage and professionalism. Murray understatedly brings his own history as an opera singer into the picture when it helps shed light on the challenges faced by his subjects. (Of that career, he says: “[I]t never amounted to much, but it had deeply enriched my life.”) He is sensitive to the aspects of opera that help create “sacred monsters,” singers of such ego and celebrity they are like forces of nature. Aspiring artists are judged day after day, he writes, and rarely given more than a nod of acknowledgement. So if perchance one becomes a great star, he or she may well feel it’s another’s turn to play the supplicant.

Murray has left as his final gift a lovely book of song. (8 pp. b&w photo insert)

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2005
ISBN: 1-4000-5360-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2005


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