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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,
    • 'Behind Berlusconi’s greasepaint and his rictus grin, the performance of Toni Servillo suggests the affectless holl… ,