At the Opera: Tales of the Great Operas

Ann Fiery, Author, Peter Malone, Illustrator Chronicle Books $50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8118-2774-4
In this beautifully illustrated primer to opera storylines, Fiery, a California-based writer and editor, offers a lively interpretation of more than two dozen classic scores. Each chapter begins with a brief history of the opera at hand before proceeding to an extended, story-like narrative of the plotline. Largely geared towards neophytes who don't already know the twists and tragedies of Rigoletto or I Pagliacci, these opera narratives are engagingly written. Act One of Tales of Hoffman, for example, opens with this lyrical description:""It is night and the moon gleams silver through the windows of Luther's Tavern, shining its pale light on rows of bottles."" Fiery doesn't shy away from using contemporary colloquialisms in her narratives. Though these shifts in diction sometimes lend immediacy to her retellings, some readers may find it confusing to follow her switches between conversational and formal tones. Fiery also helps out opera newbies by providing text boxes that explain significant facts about the musical score, composer, librettist and singers. But it's Malone's colorful hand-drawn illustrations that turn this primer into a beautiful giftbook for opera fans of all levels. An illustrator of books for both children and adults, Malone (The Magic Flute) provides dozens of playful and sorrowful drawings which complement the book's lovely, storybook design. A glossary of terms may have been helpful, but the index includes the names of the operas, composers, political figures, librettists and singers.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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