Here is an excerpt of what The Good Opera Guide has to say about Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur: “The one about the star of stage and screen whose rival sends her a bouquet of poison gas violets. She sniffs it: snuffs it.”
The Good Opera Guide is not only for regular operagoers but also for people who are new to the world of opera, or indeed people who want to bluff their way through a performance! It is written with humor and is entertaining as well as informative. Where else would you find a “dagger count” for La Gioconda, and have Hansel and Gretel categorized as a “Gingerbread Opera”?
From Adriana Lecouvreur to Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, for each opera, Sir Denis details the plot and cast of characters, awarding stars to parts that are “worth looking out for,” “really good,” or, occasionally, “stunning.” He goes on to tell the history of each opera and its early reception. Finally, each work is graded from alpha to gamma, and Sir Denis has no qualms about voicing his opinion. The guide also presents brief biographies of the great composers, conductors, and singers. A glossary of musical terms is included, as well as “Operatica,” or the essential elements of opera, from the proper place and style of the audience’s applause (and boos) to the use of subtitles.
'“The first guide to take the sensible decision of separating comments on the music (serious and helpful) from descriptions of the plot (invariably flippant and often funny).” —The Sunday Telegraph '