Opera A to Z: A Beginner’s Guide to Opera by Liddy Lindsay

Opera A to Z; A Beginner's Guide to Opera by Liddy Lindsay(Cover picture courtesy of NetGalley.)

Look no further than this book for a succinct yet thorough primer on the world’s most famous operas! From Aida to Zauberflöte, this ABC of operas will inform music lovers of the storylines and characters in these beloved masterpieces. A book intended for young readers (ages 8-12), but sure to delight music lovers of all ages.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ARC ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

As someone who loves opera and who grew up in a household where opera was treasured, I never really had the disadvantage of having to learn about it later in life.  If I had, I’m know Opera A to Z would have been the perfect place to start.  My earliest memories of the holiday season in December are of listening to Christmas with Pavarotti as well as Handel’s Messiah, so as an opera lover for years I do feel qualified to comment on how Liddy Lindsay represents opera.  (Even if I sort of ignored opera throughout my tween years and fell in love with it again at the age of 14.)

So how does she represent opera?  Quite well, actually.  She explains the basics, from the fact that it’s an art form that has developed over four distinct periods, what an opera entails and some of the technical terms like libretto, overture, aria, etc.  These are all explained thoroughly in the introduction but Liddy Lindsay actually had faith in her tween audience and decided not to overdo the explanation part.  Her writing style is simple but easy to read, so I doubt there’s much danger of misunderstanding in the beginning.

When she launches into her list of operas from A to Z, she really shows her knowledge of opera in an easy to read and understand way.  For each opera, she gives a brief summary of the plot and explains certain famous elements (i.e. the habanera from Carmen).  And for beginners, that’s really all you need.  The illustrations she provides are awesome even on my Kindle, but I still highly recommend picking up the print copy to fully appreciate them.  My only real criticism of the book besides from the occasionally slipshod proofreading is that in her plot summaries, Lindsay greatly oversimplifies things.  She tells them in a simpler manner than they are told in the actual opera, which I can see why she did but I still didn’t like.  It sort of misrepresents the opera, or its plot to be more accurate.

I could dispute some of her choices for letters, but I won’t as they’re a matter of personal preference more than anything.  Overall, I was actually quite pleased at the selection of time periods and composers that Liddy Lindsay chose to include.  She includes every opera from Aida to Vanessa and every composer from Verdi to Francesco Cavalli.  It’s quite an impressive selection and even I learned some new things.

If you’re looking to get into opera or just want to know what the heck all the fuss is about, this is the book for you.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll give opera a chance and have that magical moment where you inexplicably fall in love with it in the midst of watching one.  I know I did.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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