Opera for the People is an in-depth examination of a forgotten chapter in American social and cultural history: the love affair that middle-class Americans had with continental opera (translated into English) in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. Author Katherine Preston reveals how-contrary to the existing historiography on the American musical culture of this period-English-language opera not only flourished in the United States during this time, but found its
success significantly bolstered by the support of women impresarios, prima-donnas, managers, and philanthropists who provided financial backing to opera companies.
This rich and compelling study details the lives and professional activities of several important players in American postbellum opera, including manager Effie Ober, philanthropist Jeannette Thurber, and performers/artistic directors Caroline Richings, Euphrosyne Parepa-Rosa, Clara Louise Kellogg, and "the people's prima donna" Emma Abbott. Drawing from an impressive range of primary sources, including contemporaneous music and theater periodicals, playbills, memoirs, librettos, scores, and
reviews and commentary on the performances in digitized newspapers, Preston tells the story of how these and other women influenced the activities of some of the more than one hundred opera companies touring the United States during the second half of the 19th century, performing opera in English for a
diverse range of audiences.
Countering a pervasive and misguided historical understanding of opera reception in the United States-unduly influenced by modern attitudes about the genre as elite, exclusive, expensive, and of interest only to a niche market-Opera for the People demonstrates the important (and hitherto unsuspected) place of opera in the rich cornucopia of late-century American musical theatre, which would eventually lead to the emergence of American musical comedy.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 648
Weight: 1066 g
Dimensions: 238 x 164 x 41 mm
Opera for the People [is] a groundbreaking, indispensable addition to our understanding of opera in the United States, on that will allow future scholars to begin to write American operatic history within the international operatic developments of the nineteenth century * Charlotte Bentley, American Music *
The book's greatest strength is the exhaustive detail about the business of opera ... A book by a music historian that is structured to be most useful to music historians is very welcome. * Christopher Lynch, Notes *
Preston (College of William and Mary) has divided her detailed and comprehensive study of English-language opera into seven chapters: three are overviews of particular periods and four consider important opera companies, offering case studies intended to show the different performance and reception issues during the late-19th century. In covering the tours of more than a hundred opera companies, Preston identifies companies' finances, the crowds they drew, and the
probable causes for their success or demise. Contrary to general opinion, opera was not unknown in the US during this period ... The author examined an enormous number of sources-newspaper reviews, scores, librettos, playbills, and periodicals. This study is both scholarly and well written. * Choice *