In "Legacy of Hope: The Marian Anderson Story," operatic soprano and educator Sabrina Coleman Clark melds together the music, history, and life story of a great artist, and a great American, into a captivating and thought-provoking narrative. Marian Anderson (1897–1993) was an African American singer who overcame both poverty and the blatant racism of her day to become an international opera star. She may be best remembered now for her historic 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Join us for this special free event, on Saturday, March 16 (2:00 p.m.) in the Library's Central Hall.
This webguide is designed to prepare you for entry into the world of opera, to introduce you to this 'extravagant' art, and show you some sources of information to help you get the most from your first operatic experiences.
And what's the difference between Opera and Musical Theater?
The term opera comes from the plural Italian word meaning 'works.' Opera has been described as an 'extravagant' art form for its representation of raw emotion, powerful musical effects, and love of sheer spectacle. Usually accompanied by an orchestra, opera features songs (arias), ensembles, and sometimes even ballet sections. The dialog is completely sung (although there are a number of English language operas, they texts are typically in Italian, German, or French, often translated into English). Opera has proven to be a very flexible form, adapting for its use many styles of music over the centuries, including baroque, classical, romantic, modern, jazz, and rock.
Musicals (aka 'Musical Theater,' 'Musical Comedies,' 'Musical Plays') have been the primary style of theatrical writing with music in the English-speaking world in the 20th century. Musicals also feature songs, ensembles, and dance numbers in popular, and sometimes pop music styles, all held together by a dramatic structure that often includes spoken dialog. The form developed out of the light and comic operas and burlesques of late19th century London, like those of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
The universe of 'opera' today includes outstanding works from around the world, but for the sake of simplicity we're only considering the western tradition here.
Modern media makes for easy access to the best opera has to offer.
On the internet
Classicaltv.com offers free videos of opera (and instrumental, orchestra, dance, and jazz) performances, as well as pay-per-view specials.
Youtube is a great place to see and hear excerpts from performances of opera, the old and the very new.
Opera magazine, published in the UK, provides coverage of events from the world of opera through reviews of live performances, recordings, and books, as well as features, analysis, and monthly listings of events worldwide.
Opera News , published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, features articles and reviews of opera performances and personalities, with news of interest to opera professionals and the public.
Opera is relevant to today's world. Like William Faulkner said, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."
Many operas are so famous that bits of them have entered into pop culture. For example, here's a list of "10 Operas You Didn't Know You Already Like."
"Why Opera Rocks." The article's author, Jackie Fuchs, is an entertainment attorney and Huffington Post blogger. Earlier in life she was known as Jackie Fox, bass player for the 70’s all-female group , The Runaways, and bandmates with future rock superstars Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
They say that opera is music for the heart, and believe it or not, it may actually be good for your health!
In "Overcoming the Fear of Opera," James Chute of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes about facing up to opera’s intimidating reputation.
The "Top 10 Operas" list (from AskMen.com) suggests that a night at the opera can sometimes be fun, even for men.
In addition to CD's of opera performances in the Fine Arts Department, and DVDs in our Sights & Sounds Department, the Library has many other resources you can use to explore your interest in opera.
Opera: the Great Composers and their Masterworks by Joyce Bourne Kennedy. (Mitchell Beazley, 2008). Biographies of the composers, with plots of their best known works, plus information about famous singers, opera festivals, and opera houses around the world. ML1700.K46 2008Q
Opera, the Extravagant Art by Herbert Samuel Lindenberger. (Cornell University Press, c1984). As Dr. Samuel Johnson said, "Opera is an exotic and irrational entertainment." ML1700.L56 1984
The Story of Opera by Richard Somerset-Ward. (Abrams, 1998). Presents the stories of the real people involved in opera, the composers, singers, librettists, and patrons from the art's 400-year history. ML1700 .S7 1998Q
How to Listen to and Understand Opera by Professor Robert Greenberg. (The Teaching Co., c2001). Part of "The Great Courses" series. Compact Disc ML1700.1.G74 2001b
Don't forget to ask librarians at the Pratt Library's Fine Arts & Music Department for help with your opera-related questions. You can call us, email us through our Ask-a-Librarian service, or write to us:
Fine Arts & Music Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral St.
Baltimore MD 21201