In volume II of self-standing Short Guides to 25 of the world's greatest operas, Michael Steen, author of the acclaimed The Lives and Times of the Great Composers, and Great Operas provides another compendium in his ebook series.
Much more than a standard reference book, this ranges across influential operas from Monteverdi's Poppea, Gluck'sOrfeo and Weber's Freischütz via Debussy's mysterious and symbolist Pelléas et Mélisande, to Britten's Billy Budd and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Here are Short Guides to Donizetti's comic operas La Fille du Régiment and Don Pasquale, and Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict, Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Smetana's folksy Bartered Bride.
There are guides to dramatic 'historical' operas: Verdi's Don Carlo, Un Ballo in Maschera, The Sicilian Vespers, as well as Mussorgsky's evocative Boris Godunov.
You can be briefed about opera 'shockers', Strauss's Salome and Elektra, Janáček's horrific Jenůfa and Poulenc's emotional Dialogues des Carmélites.
These dramas are tempered by a Short Guide to Norma by Bellini ─ a favourite of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland ─ and romantic opera such as Massenet's Manon and Werther, Dvořák's charming Rusalka, and Humperdinck's bewitching Hänsel und Gretel.
Alongside plot summaries and notes on musical points of interest, Michael Steen shares expert knowledge with a lightness of touch and wit that makes each guide accessible and easy to read. He delves into the historical and cultural context, picking out snippets of fascinating information to entertain, amuse and enlighten.
These will enhance appreciation and enjoyment at home, in the opera-house and cinema, and facilitate appreciation and discussion in the foyer, at a picnic or just with a glass of champagne. This compendium is an indispensable reference guide for both seasoned opera-goers and those enjoying opera for the first time.