1st Edition

Opera, a History of the Impossible Genre

By Jeffrey Langford Copyright 2025
    256 Pages 86 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 86 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Opera, a History of the Impossible Genre offers an accessible and chronological survey of opera.

    Beginning in the 16th century, each chapter hones its focus on a representative opera and composer, and provides discussion on historical and political context. With further reading lists, key term definitions and composer biographies to support learning, this book covers the fundamental elements of the genre, including: subject matter, musical structure, aria and ensemble forms, singing styles, orchestra and the structure of the libretto. The book will also help readers develop an appreciation of opera as a form of musical entertainment which, despite seemingly insurmountable financial, philosophical, and artistic hurdles, has overcome the “impossible” to become one of the most popular and thrilling types of music heard on stage today.

    Opera, a History of the Impossible Genre is an approachable undergraduate textbook for students of opera and survey courses.

    1. First Steps toward a New Genre  2. Claudio Monteverdi, the First Genius  3. The Rise of Italian Opera Seria  4. French Opera of the 17th and 18th Centuries  5. The Birth of Comic Opera  6. Gioachino Rossini, a Bridge to the 19th Century  7. Gaetano Donizetti and Romantic Italian Opera  8. Giuseppe Verdi, Part I—Italian Opera in Revolution  9. The Rise of German Romantic Opera  10. Hector Berlioz and French Grand Opera  11. Charles Gounod and French Opéra Lyrique  12. Russian Opera, Part I—Mussorgsky and the Nationalist Style  13. Russian Opera, Part II—Tchaikovsky and the Cosmopolitan Style  14. Giuseppe Verdi, Part II—the Final Years  15. Bizet, Puccini, and the Advent of Verismo Opera  16. Richard Strauss and the Changing Styles of Symphonic Opera  17. Claude Debussy and Impressionism in Opera  18. Alban Berg and the Problem of Atonal Opera  19. Béla Bartók, a 20th-Century Nationalist  20. Benjamin Bitten and 20th-Century Operatic Conservatism  21. Igor Stravinsky and Neo-classical Opera  22. Minimalist Opera 23. Opera Today

    Biography

    Jeffrey Langford is Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY. He is author of A History of the Symphony (Routledge 2019) and Evenings at the Opera (Amadeus Press 2011).