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Book Review: A Guide to Opera on Screen

Ken Wlaschin: Opera on Screen: A Guide to More Than 100 Years of Opera Films, Videos, and DVDs


By Joel Kasow

NEW YORK, 1 March 2005—There have already been books about opera and cinema and/or television, but Ken Wlaschin's Encyclopedia is the reference work for which we have been waiting. Wlaschin tells us in his introduction:

This guide is intended to show what has filmed or taped and what it is possible to view. It has been organized alaphabetically as an encyclopedia with entries on operas, operettas, zarzuelas, singers, composers writers, conductors, directors and subjects of interest. The net is wide and inclusive and includes operas composed for film or television, operas that exist only electronically, operas with cinema content, films with opera content, and singers whose opera career was only on the movie screen.
And the book lives up to its promise. We are told of television productions that languish in the broadcaster's archives, some fortunately available through the parallel circuit, all the films based on familiar operatic stories (Carmen has over nine pages, Bohème almost five, Tosca five and a half, Traviata almost seven), includes non-operatic appearances by singers in performances with orchestra or even lieder with piano accompaniment. In addition to items difficult to come by, we can see what was once available on tape and can only hope for release on DVD. As with any good reference work, once you start you are occupied for several hours, as one article leads to another. Cross-checking with Cinéma et Opéra (one of the issues of the French publication L'Avant-Scène Opéra), I came across a few omissions - a 1941 Italian film of L'elisir d'amore featuring the late Margarita Carosio, Italian silent films based on the operas Iris and Germania—difficulty in finding the film Tosca's Kiss unless one knew the name of the director (Daniël Schmid) or thought to look under Casa Verdi. And to demonstrate that no one is perfect, I even found a typo where Colin Davis becomes Colin David. One might question the inclusion of either Andrea Bocelli or Russell Watson, but this, however, is minor compared to the nature of the task, and we are grateful to Wlaschin for his exemplary contribution to both cinematic and operatic history.

Now if only someone would do the same thing for dance.



Opera on Screen: A Guide to More than 100 years of Opera Films, Videos and DVDs

Opera on Screen: A Guide to More Than 100 Years of Opera Films, Videos, and DVDs
by Ken Wlaschin
Hardcover: 896 pages
Yale University Press, New Haven and London, July 2004
ISBN: 0-300-10263-1
$75.00

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor of Culturekiosque.com.

 

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