Review by Choice Review
Editor Sadie's latest New Grove title is a treasure trove of opera information that can be endlessly mined by scholars and interested students. It concentrates on opera of the Western World from the inception of opera to the present. Conceived as an offspring of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (CH, Feb'81), it has emerged as an essentially new work. With contributions by more than 1,300 specialists, it provides entries for composers, librettists, conductors, singers, stage designers, opera houses (listed by location), and titles (with plot summaries), as well as thorough reviews of all manner of topics. Lesser-known operas and performers of the 17th and 19th centuries are particularly well represented. Everything is here from film and filming and videotaping to costumes, publishing, voice types, and travesty roles and breeches parts (the British terms for the American "trouser" roles). Major articles are remarkably well written and include substantial bibliographies. There is even an appendix of roles. Has anything been left out? Probably, but who could quibble over the lack of entries on women's or African American contributions, which would be of most interest, perhaps, to Americans. We can only wish for more. Expensive, but well worth the price for any library with the funds and patron interest. Another such magnificent endeavor will not soon be produced. Undergraduate; graduate; faculty. J. S. Sauer; SUNY College at New Paltz
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians has been a dependable reference for music lovers since the first edition was published in London, in 1890. In the 20-volume sixth edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), higher standards of scholarship and a broader interpretation of modern musicology made the work more valuable to specialists while maintaining the readability of previous editions. Acclaim for this title led to the publication of three shorter multivolume works: The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments [RBB Je 1 85], The New Grove Dictionary of American Music [RBB F 15 87], and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz [RBB Ap 15 89]. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera is a superb addition to this Grove family of music reference sources. Under the editorship of music scholar Sadie and with more than 1,000 contributors, this new title easily establishes itself as a comprehensive and definitive reference source in this field. In preparation since 1987, more than 80 percent of the entries have been rewritten, compared with those in the parent Grove publication. The set's four volumes, comprising more than 5,000 pages, include 10,000 articles, with 2,900 entries on composers, 2,500 on singers, and 2,000 on individual operas. More than 1,300 black-and-white illustrations of performers, sets, opera houses, and costumes give life to the text. The preface gives a definition of opera for the purposes of this work: "the genre that arose in Italy about 1600 . . . designed for performance in a theatre, embodying an element of continuing drama articulated through music, with words that are sung with instrumental support or punctuation." Nonwestern musical drama, such as Japanese No, is not covered. In the front matter such details as alphabetization, cross-references, dates, transliterations, bibliographies, and abbreviations are satisfactorily explained. Four appendixes conclude the work. "Role Names" gives character, voice type, opera, and composer ("Carmen, mezzo soprano, Carmen, Berlioz"). For characters appearing in multiple operas (Figaro, Faust, etc.), information for all operas is given. "Incipits of Arias, Ensembles, Etc." gives beginning phrase, character, opera, number of singers, and composer. The last two appendixes are "List of Contributors" and "Illustration Acknowledgments." The thorough coverage of topics in this work is impressive. The definition and history of opera in all its forms (opera buffa, opera seria, operetta) covers 42 pages. Articles on opera in individual cities and countries give details about historical development, theaters and opera houses, opera companies, productions, conductors, and performers, as witness the 28-page article Paris with 25 striking illustrations of theaters (interior and exterior views), scenes, posters, etc. Articles on composers are also detailed. The article on Mozart gives biographical information and discusses his operatic career and his style, the latter with examples of musical notation. The article is followed by a seven-page bibliography. The article on Richard Wagner is followed by a 20-page bibliography. The inclusion of articles for individual operas is a departure from previous practice in Grove publications. Complete and leisurely description of an individual opera includes the history of the composer's creation and production, a list of characters with their voice parts, the opera's setting, an act-by-act summary of plot development and musical activity, as well as a critical evaluation of the opera. Illustrations of sets and scenes appear often. Those who wrote the works that were sources of operas are well covered, as are many other topics. Opera is viewed broadly in this dictionary, as evidenced by such entries as Stage Design, which develops the topic historically in a 24-page article with 28 illustrations, many see references to individual designers, and a three-page bibliography. Costumes are similarly treated in detail as are machinery, dance, theater architecture, lighting, orchestra, traveling troupes, libretto, libraries and archives, and even tickets and opera glasses. A fascinating article on the sociology of opera discusses opera as a social statement and opera in society. Included are many entries on singers, past and present. Articles such as Castrato, Soprano, and Ornamentation describe what the singing was like and how it has changed over time. Superlatives are lacking to describe this wonderful work. A feast for scholars, it can also be an education for opera lovers at any level of sophistication. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera can only enhance the academic or public library that purchases it. This new reference will be especially appreciated in cities where operas are regularly performed. (Reviewed Apr, 1, 1993)
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
This final set developed from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ( LJ 12/15/80) covers all aspects of the modern Western opera tradition, including composers, performers, directors, companies, stagecraft, theaters, cities, terms, and individual works. It follows the format of the mother set, with 10,000 signed articles by 1300 opinionated specialists, plentiful cross references, black-and-white illustrations, and secondary bibliographies attached to most of the entries. Composer listings contain detailed information on specific works; articles on individual operas normally include lengthy plot summaries, dramatis personae, and performance history; performer entries are generally limited to one paragraph and are often less than illuminating. Volume 4 concludes with appendixes of role names (e.g., Radames) and first lines. The editor claims that 80 to 90 percent of the material is newly written since the 1980 set; a spot check reveals many unique articles, particularly on contemporary composers (e.g., Michael Nyman) and their works. The expected British bias is evident, most notably in the column inches devoted to composers and cities (New York receives seven pages, London 38). For overall breadth of scholarship, however, no other work approaches this, although The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia edited by David Hamilton ( LJ 1/88), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera edited by John Warrack and Ewan West (Oxford, 1992), and The Encyclopedia of Opera edited by Leslie Orrey and Gilbert Chase (Scribner, 1976) are all serviceable single-volume guides. Highly recommended as the core opera reference work for all academic and public libraries. -- Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ. Lib., Tex. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.