Dizikes laces this comprehensive chronicle with colorful detail and supports it with an extensive bibliography. Beginning with opera's arrival here in the early 18th century, he describes how it spread, succeeded, receded and finally prospered. Until the middle of the 19th century, ``English opera was at the center of theatrical life''; then, famous European singers--notably Jenny Lind, Marietta Albone and Henrietta Sontag--arrived, opulent opera houses were built ``and Italian opera, in Italian, displaced English-language opera.'' Dizikes, who teaches American studies at UC-Santa Cruz, cites The Bohemian Girl , arriving from London in 1844, as signaling what Americans would become familiar with in the 19th and 20th centuries--operetta, light opera and the musical. He writes not only of singers, conductors and composers, but about the impresarios, promoters and opera's wealthy audience. Invoking the music criticism of Walt Whitman, George Bernard Shaw and others, he documents how U.S. operatic history was affected by politics, war, events in Europe and immigration. Closer to home, he explores 20th-century figures, from Toscanini to Flagstad, Scott Joplin to Marian Anderson; Rudolf Friml, George M. Cohan, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim. Despite occasional backtracking and a pace-slowing plethora of details, Dizikes has assembled a thoroughly enlightening walk through opera history. Illustrations. Reader's Subscription Book Club. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993 Release date: 08/01/1993 Genre: Nonfiction
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