Rupert Christiansen

The Sopranos

A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 624pp £30 order from our bookshop

Despite a glut of guides to its plots and dictionaries of its characters, there’s an odd dearth of single-volume histories of opera. This fresh and combative attempt at a synthesis of a uniquely complex art form is brave, challenging and, above all, useful. Composed in apparently harmonious and unusually intimate collaboration by two prominent academics – Carolyn Abbate, currently based at Harvard, and Roger Parker of King’s College, London – who represent the cutting-edge of thought in the field, A History of Opera is couched in a coolly sophisticated style that makes for bracing but entertaining reading.

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