American Opera

Publisher : University of Illinois Press

ISBN-13 : 9780252026232

Page : 459 pages

Rating : 4.5/5 from 232 voters

Tired of Tannhuser? Bored with Bohme? Then open your imagination to the unexpected pleasures of American opera.With this generous, accessible overview, Elise K. Kirk provides a lively history of one of America's liveliest arts. A treasure trove of information on a substantial, heretofore neglected repertoire, American Opera sketches musical traits and provides plot summaries, descriptions of sets and stagings, and biographical details on performers, composers, and librettists for more than 100 American operas, many of which have received unjustifiably scant attention since their premieres. From the spectacle and melodrama of William Dunlap's Pizarro in Peru (1800) and the pathos of Caryl Florio's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1882) to the chilling psychological drama of Jack Beeson's Lizzie Borden (1965) and the lyric elegance of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles (1991), opera in America displays the energy and diversity of the nation itself. Kirk shows that this rich, varied repertoire includes far more than familiar jewels such as Porgy and Bess, Candide, Susannah, and The Consul. Beginning with the English-influenced harlequinade of the revolutionary period, Kirk traces the development of comic opera, the rise of melodramatic romanticism, the emergence of American grand opera and verismo, and the explosion of eclectic forms that characterized American opera in the twentieth century. Devoting particular attention to the accomplishments of women and black composers and librettists, Kirk explores how American operas have incorporated indigenous elements such as jazz, popular song, folk music, Native American motifs, and Hollywood's cinematic techniques. She also discusses the impact of radio and television broadcasting on opera in America, the advent of opera workshops in universities, the integration of multimedia effects into recent opera productions, and innovations such as co-commissioning and joint staging that have helped sustain American opera as federal support has declined.An engaging introduction for neophytes, American Opera also offers an array of welcome surprises for diehard opera fans.

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