Cover image for Baker's dictionary of opera
Baker's dictionary of opera
Kuhn, Laura Diane.
Publication Information:
New York : Schirmer Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvii, 1047 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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ML102.O6 B26 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Reference-Music

On Order



This reference work on all aspects of opera offers over 1100 entries on performers, librettists, set designers, scholar directors, and more. Special features include a synopses section, providing a timeline, covering the genre's 400 year history, and a glossary of operatic terms. There is a special pre-publication price of u50.00."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Kuhn promised in the preface of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians [RBB Ag 97] that there would be other spin-offs from the eighth edition of Nicolas Slonimsky's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians [RBB F 1 92]; and Baker's Dictionary of Opera (BDO) includes many entries from these two earlier volumes. Because the majority of BDO is devoted to biographies, it is unfortunate the title does not reflect this. Most of the 1,000 entries are either composers, conductors, or singers, with a few for critics (Harold Schonberg), directors (Jonathan Miller), producers (Otto Schenk), and designers (Franco Zeffirelli). Many entries are a paragraph in length, but Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner, among others, are accorded more than a page, their biographies supplemented by lists of works and bibliographies. Some entries have been updated; AndrePrevin's mentions his most recent opera, A Streetcar Named Desire. New names that appear in BDO include tenor Roberto Alagna and the countertenor David Daniels. There are some surprising omissions, such as James Courtney and Dwayne Croft, and minor errors: Richard Leech's birthplace is incorrect, and there is no entry for Martha Argerich although she is cross-referenced from the entry on Charles Dutoit. Separate, much smaller sections of BDO provide a time line of operas, descriptions of opera characters and synopses, a glossary, and a selective list of grand opera houses of the world. The four in the U.S. list are interesting choices--Civic Opera House in Chicago, Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans, Santa Fe Opera, and the Met in New York. This is the first Baker's dictionary that includes illustrations, with more than 200 black-and-white likenesses in five signatures interspersed throughout the volume. Grove Dictionary of Opera (4v., Grove, 1991^-1998; and now online [RBB N 1 99]) is still the comprehensive operatic reference source. But BDO provides good biographical information on people involved in the operatic world. As an added benefit, some of Slonimsky's marvelous descriptions are retained. To quote him, opera enthusiasts and librarians that support them should "buy, read and enjoy" Baker's Dictionary of Opera.

Library Journal Review

This latest effort by Kuhn (Baker's Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians, LJ 8/97) offers 1000 alphabetical entries on opera singers, composers, and selected related artists (e.g., conductors, impresarios, and musicologists). Similar to The Oxford Dictionary of Opera (1992) in coverage, it supplements and updates entries in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992). The entries are highly current, reflecting activities and obituaries up to mid-1999 and including extensive bibliographies and worklists on composers and shorter citations on others. Appendixes include opera character names, terms, chronology, synopses, and descriptions of selected world opera houses. Satisfactory illustrations of singers in costume, composers, and opera house buildings abound, but many photographs of living musicians are outdated. The treatment of operetta and musicals is haphazard, with the inclusion of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber as well as Oscar Hammerstein but not Jerome Kern or Richard Rodgers. Unfortunately, the welcome inclusion of many lesser-known composers coincides with the omission of soprano Marcella Sembrich and a lack of separate entries for librettists like Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Because of its currency and cost, and because the information is generally helpful and accurate, this book is recommended (with the above reservations) as a complement to The New Grove or as a one-volume reference for libraries not owning The New Grove.--Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The greater part of this book consists of a collection of biographical essays; separate chapters have opera synopses, characters, and terminology. A single alphabetical list would have made searching easier. Also included are pages of captioned photos, a chronological listing of operas to 1998, and brief entries for international opera houses. The foreword reprints a general essay on opera from Nicolas Slonimsky's Lectionary of Music (CH, Oct'89). Slominsky's influence and personality are stamped on the current volume, although he died in 1995. Many of its 1,000 biographical essays on opera composers, singers, conductors, directors, librettists, etc., are reprinted with little or no change from Slominsky's Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (BBDM, 1949, frequently revised). Of 50 consecutive essays in Kuhn, 35 were nearly identical to BBDM; only seven did not appear in it. Questionable editing decisions include an extensive essay on Liszt (who wrote no operas) and a much briefer one on Bellini, both copied with only slight revision from BBDM. A better one-volume guide is John Warrack and Ewan West's The Oxford Dictionary of Opera (CH, Apr'93). Despite its tiny typeface and its duplication of material published elsewhere, inclusive music libraries and those supporting music departments will want Kuhn. J. L. Patterson; University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire