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A lively introduction to opera, from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century
There are few art forms as visceral and emotional as opera -- and few that are as daunting for newcomers. A Mad Love offers a spirited and indispensable tour of opera's eclectic past and present, beginning with Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in 1607, generally considered the first successful opera, through classics like Carmen and La Boheme, and spanning to Brokeback Mountain and The Death of Klinghoffer in recent years. Musician and critic Vivien Schweitzer acquaints readers with the genre's most important composers and some of its most influential performers, recounts its long-standing debates, and explains its essential terminology.
Today, opera is everywhere, from the historic houses of major opera companies to movie theaters and public parks to offbeat performance spaces and our earbuds. A Mad Love is an essential book for anyone who wants to appreciate this living, evolving art form in all its richness.
About the Author
Vivien Schweitzer is a writer and pianist based in New York. She worked for ten years as a classical music and opera critic for the New York Times. She has also written for the BBC, the Moscow Times, and The Economist.
“A sparkling cultural history of opera’s greatest composers and their obsessive brains.”—New Yorker, "The Best Books We Read in 2021"
"Vivien Schweitzer is also under opera's spell, and in her delicious history, A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera, she regales us with all you need to know..."—New York Times
"A Mad Love provides such a breezy yet thorough introduction to opera that die-hard fans may want to read it first before gifting it to nieces or nephews. An experienced critic, Schweitzer has a knack for concision, and she covers plenty of ground here, hitting major points about repertoire while tucking in musical terminology, historical developments, cultural movements, and the social aspects of operagoing."—Opera News
"Schweitzer brings both expertise and passion to her guide to the essential elements of opera. For readers ready to engage with opera more deeply and more enthusiastically, this book will be a delight and an eye-opener."—Christian Science Monitor
"What emerges clearly is Schweitzer's profound passion for opera, her determination to explain the elements of the art so that others might embrace it, and her deep belief that opera is both flourishing now and certain to continue doing so. Affection is the subterranean river that frequently bursts through the surface to splash readers and, perhaps, convince them to put down the money for tickets."—Kirkus Reviews
"Dynamic. Passionate. Searing. ALIVE! Vivien Schweitzer's A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera captures everything I love about this often misunderstood art form. She connects the stories and musical treasures from across the centuries of opera to go straight to the heart of why opera is addictive and life-affirming. This is the perfect starting point if you're a beginner, and an ideal landing point if you need to be reminded of why you fell in love with opera in the first place!"—Joyce DiDonato
"A lively and engaging introduction to an art form that belongs to us all, whether or not we know it yet. Welcome in."—Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and professor of music and journalism, University of Southern California
"A wonderful and welcoming introduction to an art form that can seem elusive and forbidding. A Mad Love is engaging and entertaining for anyone from the opera newbie to the cognoscenti. I was drawn in by Schweitzer's intimate conversational style, and you will be as well."—Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival and artistic director of the Washington National Opera
"Opera composers often spin out just a thought or two into expansive arias. Vivien Schweitzer does the opposite, deftly packing centuries of music and a profusion of astute observations into this lean delight of a book. If you think you might like opera, but have no idea where to start, the answer is: right here."—Justin Davidson, Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music critic for New York Magazine
"A delightfully informative ticket to the world of opera."—Anthony Gottlieb, All Souls College, Oxford
"Finally, a book that shines a spotlight on opera, making it accessible and relevant without dumbing it down. A Mad Love shows why opera is an art form for everyone."—Lawrence Brownlee, tenor