Cover image for Emperors of song : three great impresarios
Emperors of song : three great impresarios
Stockdale, F. M. (Freddie M.)
Publication Information:
London : J. Murray, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 214 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML406 .S76 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the age of Verdi and Puccini, Wagner and Richard Strauss, opera in Britain and the USA was almost exclusively the preserve of individual private businessmen - the impresarios - who made (and lost) fortunes by personally employing the great stars of the day. Concentrating on the period 1860-1939, this book looks at the successes and disasters of such impresarios as Colonel James Mapleson, grandest and then most unlucky of showmen; and John Christie, whose love for his wife led to his building the largest private opera house since Bayreuth. Patti and Melba, Caruso and Tetrazzini - the legendary super-egos with jewels, parrots, castles and private investment accounts at Rothschilds - were the raw material these enterprising men tried to turn to gold.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

When asked what he thought of the opera business, Oscar Hammerstein I exclaimed "Opera's not a business. It's a disease." That statement could just as well have been made by Colonel James Mapleson or John Christie, the other impassioned impresarios profiled in this engaging book. Mapleson (1830-1901) was the consummate showman, adept at calming the tantrums of temperamental divas. After the failure of a project to build a National Opera House in London, he came to America and continued his grandiose schemes, which included a performance by Adelina Patti in the 12,000-seat Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Many of his projects failed to pan out, and he died penniless. Hammerstein (1846-1919), the grandfather of the famous Broadway composer, used revenues from various business ventures to build 17 opera houses. Although his stars included Melba, Caruso and Tetrazzini, he, too, always teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Last-minute rescues by his long-suffering sons only led to further expensive undertakings. By the time he died, all his projects had failed, and only one of his opera houses remains standing today‘as a church. Christie (1882-1962), less flamboyant but equally obsessed, used inherited money and a large estate to establish a private opera festival. He, however, managed his enterprise soundly, and the Glyndebourne Festival thrives. Stockdale (Figaro Here, Figaro There) relies heavily on previously published material, but his account of these colorful men who would stop at nothing to fuel their mania for opera is thoroughly entertaining. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The production of grand opera in the days before government and corporate support was a social, economic, and artistic minefield that only the most aggressive, risk-loving, charismatic, and obsessed individuals dared enter. While the names of the three gentleman chronicled in this book‘"Colonel" James Mapleson, Oscar Hammerstein I, and James Christie‘are no longer familiar to most opera aficionados, in their times (roughly 1860-1940) they were celebrated as the most influential impresarios of grand opera. Stockdale, himself the founder of a small British opera company, has drawn compelling portraits of these enterprising men and laces his book with anecdotes about the celebrated and much-pampered superstars of the Golden Age of opera‘Adelina Patti, Enrico Caruso, Nellie Melba, and others. If Stockdale is occasionally guilty of hyperbole, he is overall a reliable and sympathetic storyteller. Readers interested in English and American opera-making in the late 19th and early 20th centuries will be vastly entertained.‘Larry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.