Review by Choice Review
Rather than presenting a comprehensive history of opera, Cannon (independent scholar) addresses "how operas work," focusing on structure, dramatic function, and contexts. Proceeding chronologically, he gives an excellent overview (with one caveat: the discussion of music is weak) of the complexities of opera and operatic developments. Despite being a part of the "Cambridge Introductions to Music" series, this book is not for the novice. Cannon claims to write for the music student and the opera lover. His approach to addressing both is to omit any musical examples, which will frustrate any musician. To make the best use of this book, a reader needs many scores, recordings, and plot summaries. Lists of available scores and recordings would have been helpful. The presentation is admirably clear: bullet points highlight important concepts, and 130 tables give helpful visual aids. However, the longer tables become mere detailed lists left to speak for themselves. The greatest weakness is discussion of music: in tables, it is purely descriptive, usually of melodic line only. In the main text, Cannon gives little space to music, omitting discussion of music's formal, tonal, dramatic, emotional, or melodic influence on the complete operatic work. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Upper-division undergraduates; general readers. J. Girdham Saginaw Valley State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.