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Operas in English

A Dictionary, 2 Volumes, Revised Edition

Margaret Ross Griffel

In this revised and expanded edition of Operas in English: A Dictionary, Margaret Ross Griffel updates her work on operas written specifically to an English text, including not only works originally in English but also those set to new English librettos. Since the book’s initial publication in 1999, Griffel has added nearly 900 new items, bringing the total number of entries in this new edition to 4,400, covering the world of opera in English from 1634 through 2011.

The front matter includes a brief history of English opera, to “set the stage” for the dictionary entries that follow. Listed alphabetically, each opera entry includes alternative titles; a full, descriptive title; the number of acts; composer’s name; librettist’s name, with original language of the libretto; the source of the text (date, place, and cast of the first performance); date of composition (if it occurred substantially earlier than the premiere); similar information for the first U.S. (including colonial) and British (England, Scotland, Wales) performances; brief plot summary; main characters (names and vocal ranges, where known); names of noteworthy numbers; comments on special musical problems and techniques; other settings of the text, including non-English ones; other operas, if any, involving the same story or characters (cross references are indicated by asterisks). Entries include such information as first and critical editions of the score and libretto; a bibliography, ranging from scholarly studies to more informal journal articles and reviews; a discography; and information on video recordings.

Operas in English features four appendixes, a selective bibliography, and two indexes. The first appendix lists composers, their places and years of birth and death, and their operas included in the text as entries; the second does the same for librettists; the third records authors whose works inspired or were adapted for the librettos; and the fourth comprises a chronological listing of the A–Z entries, including the date of first performance, the city of the premiere (or composition date if unperformed or performed much later), the short title of the opera, and the composer. There is a main character index and an index of singers, conductors, producers, composers of other settings, and other key figures.

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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 1020Size: 8 3/4 x 11 1/4
978-0-8108-8272-0 • Hardback • 2 vol set • December 2012 • $185.00 • (£125.00)
978-0-8108-8325-3 • eBook • December 2012 • $184.99 • (£125.00)
Margaret Ross Griffel is senior editor at Columbia University’s Office of Publications. She is the author of a companion volume to the present work, Operas in German (Greenwood, 1990), also under revision for Scarecrow.
Griffel’s new two-volume set is a reminder of (or an introduction to) the vast number of operas in the English language. This update to the author’s 1999 edition includes approximately 900 additional works and totals more than 4,000 entries. The first volume is an alphabetical listing of works, with each entry including title, composer, librettist, date of composition, publisher, and date of first performance (if known). Most entries also include a brief plot summary, and some contain original cast names and related bibliographic sources, like performance reviews. Volume 2 features a variety of useful appendixes, such as composers, librettists, authors and sources, a chronology, an index of character names, and a general index of names.Covering operas from 1634 through 2010, the work lists and describes standard repertoire by composers like Britten, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Henry Purcell. Griffel also unearths a wealth of interesting and obscure works, such as the 8 operas based on the Pied Piper. She also points readers to specific reference sources for more in-depth details on many of the operas. In the preface, Griffel notes that certain elements inspired this update. First, her desire to introduce readers to many new works composed in the last decade. Second, with the expansion of the Internet, she was able to add new insights based on research she was unable to do for the first edition (e.g., examine digital scores and librettos held by various institutions). There are numerous dictionaries and encyclopedias about opera, such as the fourvolume New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992) and The New Penguin Opera Guide (2001). This work is set apart from these by the focus on English-only works and the exclusion of biographies of composers and singers, resulting in many more unique opera listings than most other resources. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Booklist, Starred Review

Opera lovers will rejoice with this revised edition by a noted musicologist that updates many of the original 3,500 entries while adding coverage of 900 more works, most focusing on the past decade. There is an introductory brief history of opera in English arranged by country. The core text arranges operas alphabetically by title and provides information on authors, first and notable performances, principals and conductor, setting, bibliography, and discography. Volume 2 lists composers, librettists, and authors and offers a chronology. There’s even an index of characters with vocal ranges listed.
Library Journal (Reference)

This dictionary, compiled by Griffel (senior editor, Office of Publications, Columbia Univ.; Operas in German: A Dictionary), is dedicated to operas that include English text, either originally or in a translation of a libretto originally written in another language. The text is broken into two volumes. The first volume lists 3,500 English-language operas in alphabetical order by title. Basic information, such as the type of opera, the number of acts in the piece, the composer’s name, the librettist’s name, the original language of the libretto, and details about the opera’s first performance, is included in each entry. Some entries also include brief plot descriptions. The second volume includes a list of works organized by composer and librettist respectively. A chronological organization of the operas, an index of characters, and a helpful selective bibliography listed by subject are also included in the second volume, offering researchers alternate ways to find information in the text. The bibliography points readers to a wealth of information that music scholars and enthusiasts alike could easily use to deepen their research. This dictionary is unique in focusing solely on English-language compositions. Additionally, this source is one of the most up-to-date reference books on the subject of these performances. Works performed for the first time in English as recently as 2010 are listed in the chronological appendix. VERDICT This dictionary does a wonderful job of offering readers several different ways to find the information they may be looking for. It will be useful to classical musicians, vocalists, and actors. Music scholars and historians may also find it a good first stop for information. This is a helpful resource for a wide variety of music researchers specifically interested in operas that include English text.
Library Journal

A greatly expanded and revised edition of Griffel's 1999 publication (CH, Apr'00, 37-4209) featuring some 900 new terms, this dictionary has its main listings in the first volume and the appendixes and index in the second. For inclusion, an opera must be originally composed in the English language. Entries have librettist, composer, voice types, plot précis, and more. Information about the location and availability of scores and librettos is especially valuable. The addition of some performance reviews and notable videographies and discographies is extremely useful. Of the appendixes (which cover composers, librettists, authors/sources, and chronological entries), the most valuable from a reference standpoint is the one on authors and sources, which makes locating the settings of works of literature much easier. More general works, such as The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie (CH, Jul'93, 30-5942), while containing the same type of material (and, of course, covering some of the same works), lose English-language works in an ocean of multilanguage works. Griffel (Columbia University's Office of Publications) previously wrote Operas in German (CH, Apr'91, 28-4264). Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates; general readers.

Operas in English is an excellent starting point for researching this literature, and is recommended for those who are responsible for choosing repertoire for opera productions. College libraries will also find it a valuable addition to their holdings.
Journal of Singing

Griffel’s useful and detailed work. . . should make all scholars, performers, and other opera lovers happy and more than willing to own a copy. (Previous Edition Praise)
The Opera Journal

• Winner, Library Journal Best Reference (2012)
• Winner, Booklist Editor’s Choice Award (2013)