Absolutely on Music

Ever wondered what would happen if one put two leading Japanese artist/intellectuals into a room and taped their conversations about music?  No, neither had I.  But that’s exactly what Absolutely on Music  is.  It’s a record of conversations between highly esteemed novelist Haruki Murakami and equally esteemed conductor Seiji Ozawa, translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin.  It’s weirdly fascinating in a very Japanese sort of way.


Continue reading


Silence! Singers at Work

Silence! Singers at Work is a slim volume of humorous drawings about the life of the singer; choral, solo or opera.  It’s by graphic artist turned singer Emmanuelle Ayrton and contains about 50 colour drawings and an intro by Joyce DiDonato.  It’s published by Edition Peters Group but North American distribution seems a bit patchy.  Googling suggests that one could pick up a copy for $10-$15.  I got some chuckles out of it and it might make a good stocking stuffer for those of you unfortunate enough to have a singer in your lives.

Here’s a sample:


The Gilded Stage

gildedstageThere have been many histories of opera. Most of them focus on the development of the genre from primarily a musicological perspective. In The Gilded Age: A Social History of Opera Daniel Snowman does something different.  He looks at opera as a social and commercial phenomenon.  Taking a broad sweep from late 16th century Florence to the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts, he looks at who attended the opera, how much they paid and what they expected from the experience.  He looks at the always vexed question of who subsidised the opera; for ticket sales have very rarely covered costs.  He analyses the entrepreneurs and bureaucrats who ran the opera houses.  Of course, he looks at singers; where they came from, how much power they had and how much they were paid.  It’s an intriguing and comprehensive analysis well worth slogging through over 400 pages plus apparatus.

Continue reading

How did we get here?

abbateparkerCarolyn Abbate and Roger Parker’s A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years, published in 2010, is an interesting and, occasionally, perplexing read.  It looks at developments largely from a musicological perspective only rarely straying into political context and even morer rarely dealing with sociological factors surrounding opera although there is an interesting short section on French grand opéra that deals with the extent to which French opera of various kinds was subsidised and how the odd social habits of the audience shaped the works themselves.

Continue reading

Incidental Music – finally read

SONY DSCWhat can one say about a novel that combines opera, the Hungarian uprising, philosophising about urban planning, Toronto, the immigrant experience and lots of steamy lesbian sex?  We can say that it’s an interesting combination and not surprisingly it appeals to someone who loves opera, is an immigrant, has a half Hungarian partner and thinks a lot about what makes cities work.  The lesbian sex doesn’t do a lot for me but at least it’s well written lesbian sex which beats the heck out of a lot of the other kind in novels.

Continue reading

Incidental Music

Incidental Music is the title of a new novel by fellow blogger and podcaster Lydia Perovic of Definitely the Opera.  The blurb and the launch promise a book that ranges from Budapest in 1956 to contemporary Toronto with opera and somewhat tortuous relationships along the way.  I haven’t yet had a chance to read past the first 15 pages yet but those first few pages are totally Lydia and that is a very good thing.  I’ll post a proper review when I have finished reading it.

Continue reading