A Mad Love

An Introduction to Opera


By Vivien Schweitzer

Formats and Prices




$21.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 18, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A lively introduction to opera, from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century

There are few art forms as visceral and emotional as opera — and few that are as daunting for newcomers. A Mad Love offers a spirited and indispensable tour of opera’s eclectic past and present, beginning with Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in 1607, generally considered the first successful opera, through classics like Carmen and La Boheme, and spanning to Brokeback Mountain and The Death of Klinghoffer in recent years. Musician and critic Vivien Schweitzer acquaints readers with the genre’s most important composers and some of its most influential performers, recounts its long-standing debates, and explains its essential terminology.

Today, opera is everywhere, from the historic houses of major opera companies to movie theaters and public parks to offbeat performance spaces and our earbuds. A Mad Love is an essential book for anyone who wants to appreciate this living, evolving art form in all its richness.



AS I SCANNED THE OPERA NEWS ALERTS IN MY INBOX recently an unusual headline caught my eye: “Chamber Pot Opera’s Queen Victoria Building Venue an Inconvenience for Some.” The article, from the June 4, 2017, Sydney Morning Herald, discussed the “unusual challenges” of staging opera in a public restroom. Opera in the bathroom? This site-specific venture perhaps took the idea of singing in the shower a bit too far, but it demonstrated how the art form is evolving in the twenty-first century: opera today is both surprising and thriving. In recent years, in New York alone, I’ve attended performances staged in a former bus depot in an industrial part of Brooklyn, listened to members of an opera collective perform in subway stations, attended live broadcasts in movie theaters, and watched an outdoor screening of Verdi’s La traviata at Lincoln Center Plaza, a performance that held a huge and diverse crowd spellbound. And, of course, I’ve attended performances in traditional theaters to enjoy the unamplified voices of world-class singers—the most visceral thrill of opera. It seems there have never been more ways to experience opera, whether under the stars, under the chandeliers, or possibly, even, in a powder room near you.

Throughout history people have sung to express joy and sadness, and in opera, those emotions are magnified: live opera is a shared event that can be profoundly cathartic. It’s often noted that opera, with its fantastical stories, requires a suspension of disbelief. The audience must accept that a heroine can sing passionately while dying of tuberculosis, or that people can fall in love a millisecond after meeting. As demonstrated by the success of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Wonder Woman, however, contemporary audiences seem to have a healthy capacity to enjoy the unreal. In opera, no matter how unlikely a situation or fantastical a character, he or she represents very human frailties, desires, and emotions. The sorceress Alcina in Handel’s opera of the same name may perform impossible feats of magic, but this does not negate the truth of her emotions. Perhaps the only truly surreal aspect of opera is that an unamplified human voice can fill a large theater with an intensity that seems to have been conjured by a magician’s wand. I’ve been deeply moved while listening to Joyce DiDonato convey the despair of one of Handel’s heroines, and thrilled by Nina Stemme’s hair-raising portrayal of the insane Elektra. I’ve been awestruck by the virtuosity of the tenors Lawrence Brownlee and Javier Camarena, and by the way Vittorio Grigolo’s radiant voice so easily fills the cavernous space of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Opera buffs have long been a nostalgic bunch, although a character in a play by the British polymath Noël Coward observes that “people are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.” Or perhaps that’s what’s right with it. It’s a golden age for opera, and whatever the indisputable glories of the past, there are many fantastic artists who are both superb singers and much better actors than their predecessors. The abundance of talent doesn’t diminish the significant financial difficulties facing opera institutions of all sizes. Glass-half-empty observers have also noted the paucity of new works receiving premieres compared to past eras. But from a more optimistic perspective, it’s an exciting time, not only because of the gifted singing actors working today, but also because of the sheer diversity of repertory being presented. By the late twentieth century, the beauty of long-neglected operas by composers such as Monteverdi and Handel had been revealed by insightful scholars and musicians, and invariably there’s an energetic artist or musicologist dusting off another obscure corner of the repertory for our enjoyment. In recent years there has also been a proliferation of small, adventurous opera companies offering high-quality productions and first-rate young singers. And although most composers aren’t churning out dozens of operas like some of their predecessors, despite the enormous creative and financial challenges of creating opera in the twenty-first century there have been some terrific recent works on topical subjects such as gay rights, terrorism, and the death penalty.

In order to fully appreciate operas by living composers, it’s essential to understand the four-hundred-year tradition behind them. Opera has been the entertainment of both the one percent and the masses, and the pendulum has swung both ways. Composers, musicians, academics, and moralists have debated whether opera should instruct, entertain, or move listeners, and just how it should go about doing so. Generations of composers have been criticized, censored, and feted—and sometimes all of the above—for their musical depictions of love, madness, and death. Though no experience is necessary to admire the operatic voice or enjoy a popular opera like Carmen, to engage with opera on a deeper level and fully appreciate what you’re seeing and hearing, it’s vital to understand opera’s history, styles, and performance traditions.

I wrote my first (unpublished) opera review at age fifteen, after seeing a performance of Strauss’s Arabella at the Royal Opera House in London, with the soprano Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role. I recently rediscovered this youthful assessment, in which I described Te Kanawa as “magnificent” and the orchestra “excellent,” albeit “occasionally a tad loud because I couldn’t hear the singers.” I was also impressed with the singer performing the role of Arabella’s brother, who, I noted in the review, “is really a girl.” I wasn’t then familiar with the gender-bending elements inherent to much opera, or with the concept of a “trouser role,” in which women sing the roles of young men.

If you simply want to know the definitions of opera terminology—such as trouser role, or opera seria, or coloratura—the answers are of course only a Google search away. Instead of offering a comprehensive survey of operas or complete, detailed synopses, I have aimed to embed the fundamentals of the Western operatic tradition in a narrative context to show how composers have used different techniques and voices to create sung drama. To understand why it’s a strange directorial choice in the twenty-first century to cast a baritone as Handel’s Giulio Cesare, for example, you need to know about the evolution and categorization of voice types. To appreciate how a director’s staging of Carmen deviates from tradition, it helps to be aware of how the opera has typically been staged. To comprehend why the pianist and composer Clara Schumann called Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde “disgusting,” and why the opera was so shocking to listeners, you need to explore Wagner’s radical musical ideas. And to see why some detractors claimed that the composer John Adams “humanized” terrorists in his controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer, it’s useful to examine how he used music to tell this particular story.

I reviewed opera and classical music for the New York Times between 2006 and 2016 and interviewed some of the genre’s finest practitioners: the singers, composers, conductors, and directors who make it happen. That experience of listening to and critiquing opera on a regular basis informs this book, as does my own experience as a classical pianist. Pianists often try to emulate singers: to breathe at the right time so that a phrase unfolds naturally, to convey the music’s emotions and narrative structure, and to make our instrument “sing.” Conveying feeling is an integral part of almost all music, with or without words.

Although opera is certainly no longer the popular art form it has been in past centuries, it’s also far from its elitist origins in the early seventeenth century, when it was created and performed for royalty. Antonio Pappano, music director of the Royal Opera, told The Guardian in 2014 that he finds the elitist label often (and unfairly) applied to opera to be “tiresome.” Opera “is so visceral, so emotional—and so incredibly thrilling when it’s good,” he said. He’s absolutely right: opera done right is an experience that has moved listeners throughout the centuries—in theaters, in parks, in bus depots, and in the royal courts where it all began.

I’ve created an extensive public Spotify Playlist (called A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera) to accompany this book: it mirrors the chapter content and features much of the music discussed, beginning with Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, the first successful opera, and concluding with operas that premiered in 2017, some four hundred years later. I hope you enjoy the journey.




ORPHEUS, THE MUSICIAN AND POET OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY, could tame wild animals, calm turbulent seas, and placate gods with his beautiful voice. After his bride, Eurydice, was killed by a snake, he used his talents to rescue her from the underworld. Its rulers were so touched by Orpheus’s singing that they allowed the grief-stricken musician to take Eurydice back home, on one condition: he was instructed to walk in front of her on the journey from the abyss and not glance back, or he would lose her forever. Despite this ominous warning, he was unable to give her the cold shoulder and turned to face her, with tragic consequences. The myth is about human frailty—how passion can so easily override reason. But it is also about the power of a glorious voice to provoke an emotional reaction in the listener. If Orpheus had merely arrived in the underworld and said: “Hello, may I please have my wife back?” the stony-hearted gods would presumably have been much less sympathetic: it was by singing his plea that he won his case.

The opera L’Orfeo (Orpheus) by the composer Claudio Monteverdi received its premiere in 1607 at the Ducal Palace of Mantua in northern Italy. It was performed for a small aristocratic audience that would have been familiar with the Orpheus myth, which had already recently been told in other works of musical theater. According to a court theologian, “both poet and musician have depicted the inclinations of the heart so skillfully that it could not have been done better.” A repeat performance was scheduled just a few days later. Music had been prominent in both secular and religious traditions in Europe long before 1600, but composers, including Monteverdi—an employee of the Court of Mantua who wrote music for religious, secular, and festive occasions, as well as music for the theater—had begun to experiment with a different way of combining music and poetry to tell a story. They were creating works in which the actors would sing their lines instead of speaking them, as was then customary in the theater. By the end of Monteverdi’s lifetime, this form of sung drama had become known as opera. L’Orfeo wasn’t the first opera, but it is widely acknowledged as the first successful one—a pivotal moment when music, poetry, and song were combined to tell a story in a compelling way. L’Orfeo certainly set a precedent for passion eclipsing reason in opera, a genre whose extravagance prompted the British statesman and writer Lord Chesterfield to write to his son, in 1752, “Whenever I go to an opera, I leave my sense and reason at the door with my half-guinea, and deliver myself up to my eyes and my ears.” As opera developed in the ensuing centuries, it often continued to be neither sensible nor reasonable, although there have been innumerable cerebral attempts to rein in its excesses. Orpheus may have subdued the beasts, but it’s fortunate that no one has ever succeeded in taming opera—an exuberant, passionate, and all-encompassing art form.

Monteverdi’s opera didn’t emerge out of the blue, like a mythical creature rearing its head. It was the product of centuries of musical tradition in Western Europe. In the Middle Ages, secular entertainment included troubadours who sang ballads about love, and in Renaissance Italy pastoral plays (inspired by bucolic natural scenes) featured dance and song. The use of music in theater was further developed in the intermedio, an entertainment performed between acts of lavish, elaborately staged spectacles honoring the royal weddings of important families, such as the Medicis. On the religious front, liturgical dramas were used to spread the gospel, and singing was an important element of Roman Catholic church services. In the Middle Ages, the Mass included an unaccompanied type of singing called plainchant, which is monophonic—that is, having one melodic line sung in unison. The twelfth-century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen, whose 1098 birth was celebrated in 1998 with a spate of recordings and performances, wrote chants with soaring, melodic lines that sound both pure and rapturous. Much medieval music is anonymous: Von Bingen, who was canonized in 2012, is one of the first known composers, a notable fact, given the struggles women composers have faced gaining recognition over the centuries. She experienced visions—possibly migraine-induced hallucinations—and became a remarkable polymath, writing a morality play as well as scholarly texts about botany, theology, and medicine; she also founded a monastery and corresponded with heads of state and religious authorities.

When church singing was monophonic, the text could be easily understood by parishioners, but by the Renaissance music had become polyphonic, meaning that different melodies were sung simultaneously. Although polyphonic music can sound glorious, the overlapping melodic lines often render the text unintelligible to the listener, just as the images in a stained-glass window can become blurred when sunlight pours through the panes of glass. Renaissance church officials fretted that the music was becoming so elaborate that congregants couldn’t understand the words. In their minds, this was problematic: they wanted their parishioners to imbibe the gospel through music, not swoon in the pews over the beauty of the harmonies. The difficulty of deciphering text submerged by complex polyphonic lines also irked those in secular communities, albeit for more earthbound reasons. Whereas church officials wanted easily decipherable song texts to inspire parishioners to greater devotion, intellectuals like Vincenzo Galilei (father of the astronomer Galileo) wanted words to propel the drama.

Galilei was a member of the Florentine Camerata, a group of intellectuals and musicians who met regularly at the end of the sixteenth century in the palace of Count Bardi, a Florentine patron of the arts. Members of the Camerata, who shared the fascination of many Renaissance artists with the ancient Romans and Greeks, studied the classics intensively. Music was important for the Greeks, who sang epic poetry, sometimes accompanied by the lyre. The Camerata’s members examined the role of the Greek chorus (a collective moral voice commenting on the action) and the way music might have propelled the drama. Since there were no surviving documents of ancient music, they read primary sources, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he wrote that the audience watching a tragic drama would feel such empathy for the characters that the experience would be cathartic. The Camerata deemed such catharsis impossible to have been attained by merely listening to spoken text and thought that the words must have been sung. Galilei disapproved of the fact that the polyphonic music of his own era served mainly “to delight the ear, while that of ancient music is to induce in another the same passion that one feels oneself”: “No person of judgment,” he wrote, referring to the polyphonic style, “can understand the expression of sense and meaning through words set in this absurd manner.” In 1581, Galilei collaborated with another scholar of the classics to write a treatise about creating a new genre of music that would be inspired by the Greek theatrical model—and in which the words must be intelligible.

The Renaissance composers and librettists who adopted the Camerata’s ideas wrote monophonic, sparsely accompanied vocal lines and set the texts in a way that emphasized the natural rhythms of speaking. Dafne (Daphne), which has a score by Jacopo Peri and Jacopo Corsi, and was performed around 1598 in a private salon, is considered by most scholars to be the first opera, although only fragments survive. After Dafne, Peri wrote Euridice (Eurydice), the first complete surviving opera. It was inspired by the same myth as Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, but the music is far less memorable and doesn’t add much emotional nuance to the story. Monteverdi’s version of the legend, which premiered the same year he lost his own beloved wife, is widely considered the first successful opera because of the ingenuity of the orchestral and vocal music and the way he conveys the emotional plight of the characters.

L’Orfeo has a libretto by Alessandro Striggio, inspired by the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In his version of the Orpheus myth, Ovid wrote that after hearing Orpheus sing, “for the first time, the faces of the furies were wet with tears, won over by his song: the king of the deep, and his royal bride, could not bear to refuse his prayer and called for Eurydice.” Monteverdi illustrates the story and brings different emotions to the fore with various instruments, including the bright sound of trumpets and strings in the joyous fanfare that opens the opera. He uses strings, harpsichord, and recorders to convey the blissful mood of pastoral scenes; a harp to depict Orfeo’s lyre; and the darker hues of trombones and cornetti to evoke Hades. (A cornetto is a Renaissance instrument that looks like a curved recorder with a trumpet mouthpiece.) The choir has the role of a Greek chorus and comments on the action, its upbeat, buoyant music a stark contrast to the mournful tone of the solo songs. The music of the chorus of nymphs and shepherds, who in Act I express their happiness about Orfeo’s newfound wedded bliss, contrasts with his emotive ode to his beloved Eurydice, which is infused with a gentle melancholy that foreshadows the upcoming disaster.

One of Monteverdi’s many contributions to opera was the development of the aria—a solo song whose function in opera is to convey emotion and give characters a chance to express their feelings about a particular situation or person. Just as hearing a powerfully delivered soliloquy in a Shakespeare play might be the dramatic and emotional highlight, listening to your favorite singer perform a gorgeous aria is invariably a highlight of the opera experience. Orfeo’s Act III centerpiece, “Possente spirto, e formidabil nume” (Mighty spirit and formidable God), is one of the first important arias in opera. Preceded by a mournful chorus of trombones, Orfeo’s potent lament is also a plea to Charon, ferryman of the dead, to let him enter the underworld so he can rescue Eurydice. Monteverdi, as was common at the time, encouraged the singer to ornament the vocal line and provided embellished versions of such arias. The vocal lines are melismatic—which means that multiple pitches are sung on one syllable—a style you’ll hear in music from Hildegard von Bingen to R&B. Melismas can increase the expressive impact of a particular word, as Whitney Houston did with her rendering of the word “I” in the song “I Will Always Love You.” The melismatic vocal lines of “Possente spirto” convey Orfeo’s emotional plight. Just as Orfeo tamed wild beasts with his voice, he lulled the boatman Charon to sleep so he could cross into Hades. In the version performed at the premiere, Orfeo (who has lost Eurydice) is eventually devoured by Bacchus’s angry maenads, who want to punish the grief-stricken musician for renouncing women and telling the shepherds to follow his example. Orfeo’s rant is the first of many operatic tirades against women, but the version published a few years later ends on a less gory note: Apollo interrupts Orfeo’s misogynist rant and invites him up to heaven to contemplate Eurydice’s beauty.

The purpose of the aria—in which the characters reveal their emotional state—contrasts with that of the more prosaic recitative, which is to move the plot along. In a recitative, singers employ a more speech-like pattern; the first opera composers described it as recitar cantando, which translates from the Italian as “speaking in song.” Another important element of Renaissance and baroque music is the continuo, a continuous, accompanying bass line performed on a keyboard instrument such as a harpsichord or organ, or a plucked string instrument like the harp, lute, or guitar. Just as jazz pianists have a rudimentary outline to guide their playing, the continuo player improvises on a basic line, guided by indicators as to what harmonies should be played.

Judging by eyewitness accounts of the rapturous reception given his operas, Monteverdi seems to have accomplished the Camerata’s mission of providing a cathartic experience for listeners. In 1608, the audience at his second opera, L’Arianna, was moved to tears by the lament of the abandoned title heroine. The opera, inspired by the mythological story of Ariadne’s abandonment by Theseus on the island of Naxos and her ensuing marriage to Bacchus, has a libretto based on texts by Ovid and Virgil. It was commissioned to celebrate a royal wedding in Mantua. (Only the lament survives; the rest of the opera is lost.)

L’Arianna was unusual in Monteverdi’s era for the lengthy and substantive role written for a female performer (who died of smallpox during rehearsals). Women were not supposed to appear on stage with men, and in the Papal States they were legally prohibited from doing so. In this sense the nascent opera genre reflected traditions of the theater world: since women were not permitted to perform with professional theater troupes in Renaissance England, boys enacted Shakespearean roles, including Cleopatra, Juliet, and Lady Macbeth. It wasn’t until more than four decades after the playwright’s death in 1616 that a woman first performed one of his roles in public: Desdemona in Othello.

IN ITS EARLIEST GUISES IN ALL COUNTRIES, OPERA WAS A highly exclusive form of entertainment: it was performed in royal palaces and private salons and sponsored by and designed to flatter wealthy patrons. In Italy, rich nobles who had commissioned the intermedi for social functions, such as weddings, continued to subsidize early operas, using them as a means to flaunt their wealth, power, and taste. (In the United States, where public funding for the arts is minimal compared to Europe, wealthy patrons still subsidize opera.) By the mid-seventeenth century, opera in Venice had expanded from an elite art form to a popular one. Professionals and merchants flocked to the dozens of theaters that sprang up after the Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera house, opened in 1637. During performances at public venues, audience members ate, drank, and flirted; those in the boxes sometimes spat on their poorer counterparts in the pit below (and engaged in other naughty behavior behind the box curtains). It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century in Germany (and later in Italy) that audiences were expected to behave in a manner that contemporary listeners might consider “proper.” Going to the opera used to be a rowdy affair.

Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) reflects the riotous and libertine Venetian ambience in which it was created. Lust trumps reason in this tale of passion, adultery, and ambition, which received its premiere in a public theater during Venice’s Carnival season, which ends at the beginning of Lent, forty days before Easter. It was one of the first operas to feature historical instead of mythological characters as protagonists and was also among the first operas to be written for a general audience instead of the aristocracy. Whereas Orfeo, Eurydice, and Arianna are sympathetic characters, some of the protagonists of L’incoronazione di Poppea are decidedly unsavory: the power-hungry Poppea, above all. In some operas, villains are punished, but in Poppea, set in ancient Rome in AD 65, the faithful are humiliated and the morally bankrupt reign triumphant. But for all her distasteful attributes, Poppea is certainly a strong character, and, unlike many operatic heroines to come, she is not dead by curtain call. The real-life Poppea met a worse fate, however: she was kicked to death by the emperor Nero (Nerone) while pregnant.

Act I opens with a poignant aria by Ottone, Poppea’s lover, who has returned after an extended absence and discovered that she is having an affair with Nerone. (Nerone has promised to make Poppea queen as soon as he can dispose of his wife, the empress Ottavia.) As in L’Orfeo, the way Monteverdi sets the texts to music greatly increases the potency of the words. One of the great moments of baroque opera is the aria “Disprezzata Regina” (Despised queen), in which Ottavia, distressed about her abandonment by Nerone, laments her fate. The different ways Monteverdi sets the words “disprezzata regina” illustrates Ottavia’s mood as the aria progresses: at first somber, then anguished, and finally angry. The words “afflitta moglie” (tormented wife) unfold in a descending, sob-like cadence; the phrase “Destin, se stai lassù” (Fate, if you are there), in an anguished outburst. Another example of the brilliant way Monteverdi set text to music is “Addio Roma” (Farewell Rome), which Ottavia—banished from the kingdom—sings before her exile. After a heart-wrenching interlude of strings and organ, she repeats the first syllable of “Addio” with increasing desperation, a cry of anguish echoed by a lone, insistent chord. The opera ends on a sensual note when Poppea is eventually crowned empress. In a ravishing love duet called “Pur ti miro” (I adore you), the voices of Poppea and Nerone intertwine in slow, rapturous bliss.

The word opera came into use just before the first performance of Poppea, before which operas had been described as “musical tragedy” or “musical drama.” Renaissance theater had often included music, but the Oxford Dictionary of Music states that music must be integral to an opera in a way that it’s not in a play with incidental music. Opera is sung drama, and while there are works (such as Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Magic Flute) that include spoken dialogue, you won’t hear much straight talking in opera. That means everything is sung, whether “please pass me the margarine” or “I can’t live without you, my darling.”

Some musicals (like Les Misérables


  • “A sparkling cultural history of opera’s greatest composers and their obsessive brains.”—New Yorker, "The Best Books We Read in 2021"
  • "Vivien Schweitzer is also under opera's spell, and in her delicious history, A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera, she regales us with all you need to know..."—New York Times
  • "A Mad Love provides such a breezy yet thorough introduction to opera that die-hard fans may want to read it first before gifting it to nieces or nephews. An experienced critic, Schweitzer has a knack for concision, and she covers plenty of ground here, hitting major points about repertoire while tucking in musical terminology, historical developments, cultural movements, and the social aspects of operagoing."—Opera News
  • "Schweitzer brings both expertise and passion to her guide to the essential elements of opera. For readers ready to engage with opera more deeply and more enthusiastically, this book will be a delight and an eye-opener."—Christian Science Monitor
  • "What emerges clearly is Schweitzer's profound passion for opera, her determination to explain the elements of the art so that others might embrace it, and her deep belief that opera is both flourishing now and certain to continue doing so. Affection is the subterranean river that frequently bursts through the surface to splash readers and, perhaps, convince them to put down the money for tickets."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Dynamic. Passionate. Searing. ALIVE! Vivien Schweitzer's A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera captures everything I love about this often misunderstood art form. She connects the stories and musical treasures from across the centuries of opera to go straight to the heart of why opera is addictive and life-affirming. This is the perfect starting point if you're a beginner, and an ideal landing point if you need to be reminded of why you fell in love with opera in the first place!"—Joyce DiDonato
  • "A lively and engaging introduction to an art form that belongs to us all, whether or not we know it yet. Welcome in."—Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and professor of music and journalism, University of Southern California
  • "A wonderful and welcoming introduction to an art form that can seem elusive and forbidding. A Mad Love is engaging and entertaining for anyone from the opera newbie to the cognoscenti. I was drawn in by Schweitzer's intimate conversational style, and you will be as well."—Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival and artistic director of the Washington National Opera
  • "Opera composers often spin out just a thought or two into expansive arias. Vivien Schweitzer does the opposite, deftly packing centuries of music and a profusion of astute observations into this lean delight of a book. If you think you might like opera, but have no idea where to start, the answer is: right here."—Justin Davidson, Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music critic for New York Magazine
  • "A delightfully informative ticket to the world of opera."—Anthony Gottlieb, All Souls College, Oxford
  • "Finally, a book that shines a spotlight on opera, making it accessible and relevant without dumbing it down. A Mad Love shows why opera is an art form for everyone."—Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

On Sale
Sep 18, 2018
Page Count
288 pages
Basic Books

Vivien Schweitzer

About the Author

Vivien Schweitzer is a writer and pianist based in New York. She worked for ten years as a classical music and opera critic for the New York Times. She has also written for the BBC, the Moscow Times, and The Economist.

Learn more about this author