A History of Opera – The Last 400 Years
A History of Opera – The Last 400 Years is a new book by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker in which they set out to tell the entire story of the world's most extraordinary artistic medium of the last four hundred years. Opera paints the human passions with astonishing power and drama. This book, (the first new, full-length, single-volume history of opera for more than a generation) hopes to provoke in-depth discussions of many works by the greatest opera composers, from Monteverdi, Handel and Mozart, to Verdi and Wagner, to Strauss, Puccini, Berg, and Britten. Tom Service meets the authors and learns about the books lively discussions of opera's development through the centuries. Abbate and Parker talk about the problems that opera has faced in the last half century, when new works - which were once opera's life-blood - have shrunk to a tiny minority and have largely failed to find a permanent place in the repertoire. Tom then finds out what the tenor Ian Bostridge and opera historian Sarah Lenton think about the book.
For many the operatic productions of Spanish director Calixto Bieito are a byword in sensual excess, cultural criticism, and, for some, the nadir of what happens if you allow a director free rein over Mozart, Verdi, Wagner et al. Nudity, simulated sex, rows of toilets, have become trademarks of a Bieito production. But his defenders say that what his riotous productions do is create new meanings that help sustain the cultural mausoleums of our opera houses. Tom met Calixto Bieto during rehearsals for his production of Carmen which is about to open at English National Opera and found him to be one of the most fearlessly, restlessly, even recklessly creative people working in opera today, whose mind works just as mercurially and vividly as his visions of Bizet or Verdi.
Meredith Monk at 70
The American composer and performer Meredith Monk turns seventy on Tuesday Her practice flows from and is rooted in her voice: Monk's work with movement, dance, theatre, ritual, lighting and instrumental music all comes from the modern yet mythical use of her extraordinary voice, still as strong and resonant as ever. Tom talks to Meredith Monk about her work which was born in the avant-garde of New York in the 60s and 70s, but instead of the fragmentation and deconstruction that so many of her colleagues were up to, Monk’s work was all about putting things together, about making a multi-faceted art-form in pieces like Dolmen Music, Epic, Atlas, or as in one of her recent projects, Songs of Ascension, that is as indebted to Zen as it is to American experimentalism. Above all, her music is direct, mysterious and absolutely unlike anyone else's.