Friday, December 14, 2012

The Opera Zoo: Singers, Composers, and Other Primates by Glenn Winters

When I went to see The Mikado at the Harrison Opera House, Glenn Winters presented an introduction to it that greatly increased my understanding and enjoyment. It also motivated me to read Winters' compilation of blog posts and other humor pieces, The Opera Zoo. While I'm not a great fan of opera, I found the book to be both funny and informative.
Winters relates personal anecdotes with flair and never takes his subject too seriously.  He ponders why Amahl and the Night Visitors is practically the only Christmas opera and concludes it is just as well Wagner never wrote one.  "We don't need to see the three wise men soaring through the skies on flying camels." 
His "Two-Minutes" updated versions of Carmen, Rigoletto, Die Valkyrie and Madama Butterfly are laugh-out-loud funny. But he also explains that the music is more than simply beautiful, it is also amplifying the plot and commenting on the characters. For example, the first scene of Cosi fan tutte uses a tune commonly heard on playgrounds to imply that the young men in the scene have a lot of growing up to do.
The Opera Zoo offers a delightful introduction to a subject often parodied as snooty and affected. Winters' affection for opera rings as true as his delight in its occasional follies. How fortunate that he is a local author! Reduced Shakespeare: the Complete Reader's Guide for the Attention-Impaired(abridged) by Reed C. Martin tackles another icon that is too often either reverenced, or else scorned by reverse snobs.

No comments: