The best opera books 📚

Browse the best books on opera as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record

The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record

By J.B. Steane

Why this book?

J.B. Steane’s massive book, over 600 pages, is one of the most comprehensive books on historical singers ever written. My copy is riddled with text underlining and notes in the margins. His evaluations of singers are always honest, but fair. I have read this book at least 3 times and have re-read sections many more times. It invaluable.
From the list:

The finest books on historical opera singers

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Book cover of Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-1950

Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-1950

By Paul Jackson

Why this book?

One of the greatest series of books ever written about the early years of live broadcasting from the Metropolitan Opera. Jackson’s detailed analysis of the existing broadcasts is informative and fascinating. Even better they can be read by themselves, or even better, when listening to the actual broadcast. The amount of information in this series (3) is unbelievably vast and fascinating. All three are recommended.
From the list:

The finest books on historical opera singers

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Book cover of Herman Klein and the Gramophone

Herman Klein and the Gramophone

By William R. Moran

Why this book?

Herman Klein wrote for the magazine, Gramophone during the 1920s and his reviews of the then-current 78 r.p.m. recordings are among the best you can read. This book from Amodeus Press contains all his reviews and articles for that magazine and is a fascinating, essential read. This is another book that I have read and re-read over the years, scribbled in the margins, and quoted from in my own writing.
From the list:

The finest books on historical opera singers

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Book cover of Opera on Record

Opera on Record

By Alan Blyth

Why this book?

This series of 3 books traces the recordings of various operas from the infancy of recording through modern-day recording and is another fascinting read. Making this even more interesting is the fact that each opera is taken on by a different writer so you always get a fresh view on the works being discussed.
From the list:

The finest books on historical opera singers

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Book cover of Female Singers on the French Stage, 1830-1848

Female Singers on the French Stage, 1830-1848

By Kimberly White

Why this book?

Through a dazzling collection of sources that include letters, contracts, memoirs, biographies, newspaper reviews, and fictional stories about the figure of the cantatrice, Kimberly White’s French Singers on the French Stage is a brilliant account of the various stages of singers’ lives in nineteenth-century France, beginning with their births and following them up to and past their retirements. In between, she describes their training at the Paris Conservatoire, debuts, marriages, benefits, and scores of other important issues that they grappled with throughout their careers. I do not know of any other work in the field of prima donna or opera…

From the list:

The best books about nineteenth-century divas

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Book cover of Bravo! Brava! a Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew

Bravo! Brava! a Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew

By Anne Siberell

Why this book?

There are many jobs in theatre, from the performers on stage, to all of the people like the writers, directors, and designers who make their magic behind the scenes. This book makes the excellent case that there is a place for anyone in the theatre, taking kids by the hand walking them through how it requires a team effort to make a production happen.

From the list:

The best books about theatre written for children

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