This useful, brief guide to Western opera by a longtime critic is a welcome curtain raiser for newcomers who have never experienced opera. It is also a handy refresher course for those who have attended operas, seen or heard them on radio or television, but who still want to dig a bit deeper ... Schweitzer may have slighted some works—there is no discussion of Puccini’s Turandot, no mention of the two Manons and only a passing reference to Fidelio.. Nevertheless, this is a valuable and blessedly concise addition to the literature.
In her debut, Schweitzer has several objectives: to explain what sometimes are very elementary aspects of music (the different ranges of human voices, a musical scale, and key terms), to describe, swiftly and chronologically, the careers and most notable works of the great composers, and to argue that opera is not moribund but is in fact thriving ... What emerges clearly is Schweitzer’s profound passion for opera, her determination to explain the elements of the art so that others might embrace it, and her deep belief that opera is both flourishing now and certain to continue doing so. Affection is the subterranean river that frequently bursts through the surface to splash readers and, perhaps, convince them to put down the money for tickets.
Vivien Schweitzer is...under opera’s spell, and in her delicious history, Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera, she regales us with all you need to know about 'musical tragedy,' which is what opera was called before the word was coined.