Angels and Monsters: Male and Female Sopranos in the Story of Opera, 1600-1900

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Yale University Press, 2004 - Music - 325 pages
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During its first two centuries, opera was dominated by sopranos. There were male sopranos, or castrati, whose supercharged voices (female vocal cords powered by male lungs) were capable of feats of vocalism that are hard to imagine today. And there were female sopranos, or prime donnas, whose long battle for social acceptance and top billing was crowned in the early nineteenth century when the castrati disappeared from the opera stage and left them supreme. Whether they were male or female, these singers were amazing virtuosi, perhaps the greatest singers there have ever been - angels. Unfortunately, some of them (and often the most famous) were also capable of behaving extremely badly, both on and off stage - monsters. This book tells their colourful stories. disgraced the operatic stage, Richard Somerset-Ward tells the story of their greatest glory - the singing tradition they founded and perfected, which we know as bel canto and which is still the backbone of operatic singing today. Rich in musical, social, and cultural lore, Angels and Monsters illuminates a unique and vanished tradition and will be irresistible to opera lovers everywhere.
  

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Angels and monsters: male and female sopranos in the story of opera, 1600-1900

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In this entertaining and informative work, Somerset-Ward (The Story of Opera) discusses the soprano voice in opera from the genre's beginnings around 1600 through the days of Verdi and Wagner in ... Read full review

Review: Angels and Monsters: Male and Female Sopranos in the Story of Opera, 1600-1900

User Review  - Denise - Goodreads

A good overview of the evolution of the soprano's role in opera since its inception, as well as the evolution of opera as a whole. Approachable enough for the mildly opera literate. One mild ... Read full review

Contents

one Caccinis Pupils
3
two Getting Away with Murder The Prima Donna Comes of Age
19
three Porporas Pupils
43
four The Castrato Ascendancy
63
five Apres Gluck and the Time of Mozart
93
six Prime Donne Assolute
119
seven The Worlds Showcase Paris 18001871
161
eight Dramatic Singing The Verdian Soprano
191
nine Heroic Singing The Wagnerian Soprano
225
ten Marchesis Pupils
265
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About the author (2004)

Richard Somerset-Ward is senior fellow of the Benton Foundation, Washington, D.C., and former director of the BBC in the United States.

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