Weep, Shudder, Die is an insightful and accessible guide to the grand art of opera for both new and longtime fans.
For too long opera was relegated to high society and perceived as stuffy and remote. But now that has changed. A new generation of opera lovers has emerged, inviting a wave of extraordinary new productions and revivals the world over.
Robert Levine has written an illuminating guide for this growing audience. With his signature wit, he examines the most famous composers and operas, from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen to Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, giving a sense of each opera's history and celebrating its enduring greatness.
Weep, Shudder, Die will inspire anyone who has ever been curious about opera but never knew where to start to discover one of the world's most entertaining and satisfying art forms.
Reviews for Weep, Shudder, Die: A Guide to Loving Opera
I saw this cute book at my local bookstore and thought it looked like something that I could give to friends who are interested in opera (being an opera addict and proselytizer myself). The book is very short and a quick, breezy read. I had quibbles with both the synopses and some of the author’s opinions. Also, some may take issue with the author’s occasionally flippant tone. I don’t think this book will add anything if you’re already into opera but it covered the basics in an appealing way and Levine’s passion clearly comes through. Good for the casual operagoer or newbie – it would be a book someone might actually finish. It’s also clearly aimed at an American audience.The author has a quick personal intro where he describes how he came to love opera after growing up on pop and rock. Love this quote – “To this day, I cannot understand why people don’t sing – opera and otherwise – all the time.” His intro includes a brief history, an explanation of the elements of opera and a primer on how to approach some of the criticisms (everyone sings all the time, melodramatic plotlines, not “relevant” to today’s issues, in a foreign language). I kind of disagree with his clearly negative view of Regietheater productions – it was more like he was trying to say that those types of productions are out there, but by citing the “good” ones as the standard Chereau Ring and the Miller Rigoletto, while picking the worst out-of-context Bieito for the negative, then his view on the subject is clear.The rest of the book is divided into sections on German, Italian, French, Russian, and English opera with a separate section for Mozart’s operas. Each section has a list of composers and their operas and the basic repertory is covered (though – no Tristan? Blasphemy!). There’s a quick bio, a paragraph about the composition of each piece and a VERY short synopsis. The best part is the ‘moments to die for’ section – Levine’s passion is apparent and after reading some of those I had to go put the pieces on. Levine continues to mix humor with information and there were some nice touches (the best moments in French operas were titled “Les Petites Morts”, there are a number of serious-looking pictures with silly captions). There were enough little mistakes in the already-short synopses to irritate me (I don’t think this is too important – it’s pretty easy to find synopses and nothing really changed the plot or anything) and the summary of Figaro was pretty much a mess (but Trovatore was admirably summarized in a short period – though the whole spoiler had already been given). I can’t complain about the fact that almost all the operas were from the 19th c. because that’s what you’ll see at your average American opera house. Levine has clear likes and ehs, which is fine, but he says “Mozart’s operas are so perfect that each note counts” and cites Don Giovanni as having “no sense of padding” but there were two premieres – in Prague and Vienna – and Mozart and Da Ponte wrote new music, so – which is the perfect one? And they didn’t write new music for dramaturgical reasons but because there was a different cast. But those are minor things and I do think this is a good primer for beginners.read more
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