The American Opera Singer: The Lives and Adventures of America's Great Singers in Opera and in Concert from 1825 to the Present

Peter G. Davis, Author Doubleday Books $40 (640p) ISBN 978-0-385-42173-7
Hundreds of minibiographies are presented in this ambitious project, which attempts to tell the story not only of influential performers from Clara Louise Kellogg to Beverly Sills, from David Scull Bispham to James Morris, but of lesser-known performers as well. New York magazine music critic Davis delivers rapid-fire sketches that will delight opera lovers, even given the seemingly identical paths many singers take: success in European houses, triumphant return to America and eventual decline. Davis's stories have a tendency to blend together, and the ""Adventures"" promised in the subtitle--backstage squabbles and occasional affairs--seem tame. He is at an unavoidable disadvantage when discussing singers whose voices he has not heard live; and although he admirably describes the unique vocal qualities of his subjects, for a large section of the book, until his arrival ""on the scene"" in 1950, Davis offers up mildly regretful musings about how the singers ""must have"" sounded. Yet despite his overambitious goals, this nationally respected critic has produced a worthy history of American opera. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-385-42174-4
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