American conductor Joseph Rescigno, 75, has published a stunning book about ‘Conducting Opera’. With a vast knowledge of the broad repertoire which he conducted in permanent and guest engagements with more than 50 companies on four continents, Rescigno was able to write about opera from the perspective of a conductor. Of course the book addresses first of all the professionals of the musical industry, and a normal opera lover will certainly be overwhelmed with the quantity and the quality of the information included in over 250 pages. Nevertheless Rescigno is so good a teacher that exploring his texts about various operas brings the reader to see many characters in a new light, to better understand the development of the drama and the music. I read several chapters while comparing the writings with what different conductors did practically and it happened often that I noted big differences between what I read and what I heard, and sometimes I really agreed with Rescigno rather than with the recorded sound.

Of course, Rescigno has his own performance philosophy, which he explains in the first chapter, and his meticulous approach of the scores might not be plausible for every conductor, but his analyses of Mozart’s most-performed operas, standards of the bel canto school including Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, five of Verdi’s works including La Traviata, a selection of Wagner’s compositions followed by French Romantic operas such as Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s major works, and finally four operas by Richard Strauss contain so many details and so many thoughts that the reader, be it a conductor a singer looking for advice or just an opera lover, will be fascinated by such a profound knowledge. I know for sure about one category of professionals that should be obliged by every manager of an opera house to read the book, the stage directors.

Even though one might have own ideas about operas, music this remarkable book leads the reader to analyse and understand opera in a new and refreshing way. (RéF)

Conducting Opera
Where Theater Meets Music
By Joseph Rescigno
Published by University of North Texas Press
978-1-57441-793-7 Cloth
336 pp. 25 b&w illus. Notes.

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