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154 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 aspect which is arguably of greater interest to many musicians and scholars . Yet there are several such studies at the master's and doctoral levels, at least some of which merit inclusion in a representative bibliographic reference to this composer. Omissions aside, this book represents a significant advancement in Canadian music research. The author's commanding knowledge of the subject and consistently explanatory approach make for an indispensable reference tool to anyone interested in exploring aspects ofmusic in Canada. (GLENN COLTON) M. Owen Lee. A Season ofOpera:From Orpheus to Ariadne UniverSity of Toronto Press. xii, 242. $30.00 To listeners of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, Father Owen Lee is a household name. No, he does not have the voice of a Heppner or a Margison. His fame comes from pauses when the singers are resting, through his many·appearances on the broadcast intermissions for the past fifteen years. Whether as a panelist on the Opera Quiz or as a presenter of an in-depth analYSiS, his erudite comments and immense knowledge never cease to amaze and bring pleasure. In recent years, he has turned to publishing his many lectures and articles on opera in collections ofessays, ofwhich the present volume is the latest instalment. It comprises detailed analyses of twenty-two operas, roughly resembling a complete season's repertoire, the breadth and depth of which only a handful of opera houses today would have the resources to mount. Only two operas (Aida, Les Troyens) appearing here were in an earlier volume, First Intermissions (Oxford, 1995), but the two essays here are substantially different to avoid duplication. The operas are arranged more or less chronologically, from Monteverdi's Or/eo to Richard Rodgers's Oklahoma! Lee brings rare insight into each opera by providing important social, historical, and philosophical backgrounds relating to its genesis, all told in an inimitable way that reflects his personal beliefs and his world view. Dispensing with the academic practice of footnotes and citation within the body of the text, his writing is nevertheless scholarly but never stuffy, provocative but solidly grounded in reason. Each chapter is enlivened with a personal anecdote or two that serves not simply to amuse the reader but to underscore a point or to gently persuade. His stories are often intensely personal, drawing from a lifetime of experience as an opera lover and as a Catholic priest and educator. The chapter on Dialogues des Cannelites is a case in pOint. One marvels at the exhaustive research, replete with details rarely found elsewhere and correcting mistakes made by other writers on the subject. His references to his early years as a novitiate and his first encounter with this opera are personal and deeply moving. One also HUMANITIES 155 admires his unflinching willingness to state his opinions, even when his ideas may be in the minority. His defence of Pfitzner's Palestrina, for example , a work many scholars finds problematic politically if not musically, is grounded in an interesting analysis of the relationship between art and faith. He even offers a valiant attempt to defend the libretto of II Trovatore, a work that musicologists love to hate. Perhaps what stands out most for this reader is how Lee's personal faith informs his analyses and interpretations of many of the works. Besides the more obvious ones such as Carmelites and Palestrina, Fidelio and Tristan und Isolde, even an essentially secular opera such as La Forza del Destino, with its jumbled, much-maligned libretto, reveals new meaning in the hands of Father Lee. If one were to quibble, the omission of Slavic and Russian operas is regrettable - indeed there were only fleeting mentions ofJanacek and Mussorgsky; and the rather abbreviated list of recordings and videos at the end of the volume appears to be almost an afterthought. One could argue thatsuch practicalities are irrelevantsince this is a collection ofessays about the ideas behind the music. Nothing illustrates this better than the last chapter, the heart of the book, amusingly titled 'Hurry Up Please It's Time.' In the space of nineteen pages, Lee gives us his grand synthesis of the history of Western art, from Virgil to Philip Glass...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 154-155
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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