Monday, June 23, 2008

Losing the plot in Opera
Myths and secrets of the world’s great operas
by Brian Castles-Onion. Exisle Publishing. $30

by guest reviewer Donald Trott.

If anyone should have the rigour and background to write a delightful and entertaining ‘look’ at opera it would be Brian Castles-Onion. Quick witted, very funny and entertaining Brian is deeply involved in and knowledgeable about the art form. His writings are peppered with snippets from his own career and the careers of other famous performers, thus this little book will delight.

Chapters on many of the main repertoire (with a light hearted but useful précis’ of the plot) are covered from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, 1786 to Puccini’s Turandot, 1924 as are the types and foibles of the main opera voices, for example: baritones ‘can be conceited, pompous and egotistical creatures’.

Also included is a chapter on ‘the staple of every opera company’, the chorus and another on Gilbert and Sullivan and a witty glossary of opera terms often used with abandon by aficionados but which may be foreign to the casual opera goer.

Opera lovers and readers mildly interested in the art form will enjoy this publication.

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