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Reviewed by:
  • Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky
  • Philip Gossett (bio)
David J. Levin, Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 272 pp.

Germans can’t get enough of it; Italians turn their back on it; Americans call it “Euro-trash.” How should one stage canonic operas today? No one who attends operatic performance is indifferent to the question. And no one has made as lucid a case for “radical” stagings as David Levin. Picking up from Tom Sutcliffe’s Believing in Opera (Princeton University Press, 1996), Levin firmly believes in allowing stage directors to interpret canonic operas, even if they reimagine works in contexts far removed from any conceived by their authors or allow modern productions to create parallel worlds to that of the music and libretto. In his cogent analyses of productions signed by Peter Sellars, Calixto Bieto, and Hans Neuenfels, Levin helps us understand different kinds of radical stagings. And in examining the music and libretto of works as diverse as Fidelio, Don Carlos, and Der König Kandaules (by Zemlinsky), Levin exposes cruxes in those works that radical stagings help to illuminate.

Philip Gossett

Philip Gossett is Reneker Distinguished Service Professor of Music at the University of Chicago and general editor of both The Works of Giuseppe Verdi and The Works of Gioachino Rossini. Awarded the Italian government’s highest civilian honor, the Cavaliere di Gran Croce, he has also received the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award and book prizes from the American Musicological Society and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. His books include Divas and Scholars, Anna Bolena and the Artistic Maturity of Gaetano Donizetti, The Tragic Finale of Rossini’s “Tancredi, and The Operas of Rossini: Problems of Textual Criticism in Nineteenth-Century Opera.



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