Publisher description for Opera and the morbidity of music / by Joseph Kerman.

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Is classical music dying, or does the recent upsurge of interest in opera–writing new ones, performing long-forgotten old ones–prove that the death of classical music is highly exaggerated?

In this collection of essays and reviews from the past thirty years, most of them first published in The New York Review of Books, the distinguished critic and musicologist Joseph Kerman examines the ongoing vitality of the classical music tradition, from the days of John Taverner and William Byrd to recent contemporary operas by composers such as Philip Glass and John Adams. There are a variety of essays on Mozart: on The Magic Flute, on different performances of the piano concertos, on some of the recent biographies. He discusses the lives of Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, and Verdi, as well as the nuances in performances of operas by Monteverdi in Brooklyn and Wagner in San Francisco and Bayreuth. He also includes remembrances of such famous musicians as Maria Callas and Carlos Kleiber that make clear why they were such extraordinary artists.

Kerman argues that rumors of the impending death of classical music are not a new development but a story that has long been with us, and while he is alert to historical changes in listening, he suggests that one place to look for renewal of the classical music tradition today is at the opera–in a flood of new works and rediscovered works from the past–and an expanded interest in innovative stagings by companies large and small across America.

As a critic, Kerman writes that he tries to do “what critics of painting, dance, poetry, and prose have always done . . . not to duplicate or describe immediate experience, but to cozy up to it, suggest it, create an aura about it that heightens sensitivity and feeling.” Written for a general audience rather than for experts, these essays invite readers to expand their appreciation of how music works.

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