Books in Brief


A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera, by Vivien Schweit-zer (New York: Basic Books; 288 pp., $27.00).  I need to be fair to this book, because the author, a concert pianist and writer who worked for a decade as a classical-music critic for the New York Times, certainly knows her stuff so far as opera goes.  And she can write, too.  So my response to A Mad Love resembles William Faulkner’s to a manuscript sent him by an aspiring writer: “It’s not how I would have done it, honey, but you go right ahead, you go right ahead.”  (I should leave out “honey,” of course.)  Encouraging people of all ages to understand and appreciate opera is surely a worthy endeavor in this day and age.  My objection is to Schweitzer’s pedagogical approach, which is the modern one of establishing a rapport at his own level with the student setting out to confront a supposedly antiquated art by assuring him that, really, it has its own kind of cool; and besides, cool people today are making cool contributions to it.  The technique is supposedly facilitated by starting on a slightly apologetic note, whose purpose is to demonstrate a sympathetic understanding for whoever might bring a degree of doubt, or even hostility, to the subject.  And...

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