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  You are in: Home > Musicology > The Drama of Opera  

The Drama of Opera
Exotic and Irrational Entertainment

Myer Fredman

Myer Fredman studied at Dartington Hall and in London with Peter Gellhorn, Vilem Tausky, Sir Adrian Boult, and was Assistant conductor to Otto Klemperer, Sir John Pritchard and Sir Charles Mackerras. Among his many international musical engagements he was: Conductor at the Glyndebourne Festival, 1963–74; Initial Musical Director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera, 1968–74; Musical Director, State Opera of South Australia, 1974–80; Conductor and Artistic Associate with The Australian Opera, 1983–98. The Italian Government awarded Maestro Fredman a medal “Per Servizio della Musica e Cultura Italiana”. He has conducted premiere recordings of symphonies by Arnold Bax and Havergal Brian with the LPO as well as CDs of music by Britten and Delius.


This book is about the drama that takes place within the world of opera and provides an insight into how opera has evolved and functions. The Creators describes some of the ways that composers use the language of music, and liaise with their librettists. The Re-Creators explains the functions of conductors, producers, designers, repetiteurs, the chorus and orchestra, singers, the Fach system (by which voice types are categorized), understudies, and the prompter.

Information is provided on Training, the Audition Process, Competitions, the Rehearsal Schedule, Opera Adminstration and the Audience (including its effect on the performers), as well as on the claque system, types of applause, and music critics (and their effect on the artist). Opera companies (festival, seasonal and touring), television opera and video performances are all fully explored.

A final Overview explains how opera has adapted to changing social conditions from Monteverdi to the present day, and points to what the future might hold. An Interlude includes a number of humourous incidents and cautionary tales, and a comprehensive Glossary unravels the jargon of the most frequently used operatic terms.

More info at

Foreword by Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge
Preface and Acknowledgements

‘An exotic and irrational entertainment’
Opera – Exotic . . . Irrational . . . Entertainment . . .
The Creators
Composers and the Language of Music
Church contra Theatre
Opera as Distinct from Symphonic Composition
The Re-Creators
Musical Director/Conductor
The Conductor–Producer Relationship
Opera Ballet/Dance/Movement
The Designer
Technical Departments
The Conducting Roster
Female Conductors
The Conductor in the Pit
Health, Hearing Loss and Physical Stamina
The Repetiteur–Coach
Chorus Master
The Fach system: Coloratura Soprano Lyric Soprano
Dramatic Soprano Soubrette Spinto Mezzo-
Soprano Contralto Lyric Tenor Tenor leggiero
Counter-Tenor Tenore robusto Helden Tenor
Comprimario Tenor High Baritone Baritone
Baritone Martin Basso Profundo Basso Cantante
Basso Buffo
Music Library
Study and Beyond
Conductor Training
Operatic Training for Singers
Singing Teachers
The Complete Rehearsal Period
Music Coaching
Ensemble Rehearsals
Production Rehearsals
Piano Dress Rehearsal(s)
Orchestra Rehearsals with the Stage
General (Dress) Rehearsal
The Administration
Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer/General Administrator/General Manager/General Director/Intendant/Schauspieldirector
Publicity and Promotion
Agents and Artist’s Managers
Government and/or State Funding
The Audience
The Music Critic
Interlude: Operatic Mishaps and
Other Cautionary Tales
Opera Companies
Festival Opera
Repertory and Stagione Companies
Seasonal and Semi-permanent Companies
Production Sharing
‘Peoples’ Opera
Television Opera
Opera on Video
Past, Present and Future?

Source of Quotations

“Fredman's book has an almost encyclopedic arrangement … The book includes an extensive glossary of terms and 12 pages of plates of performances by the Glyndebourne Touring Opera Company. An entertaining read.” Choice

“Fredman brings 40-plus years of experience as an international conductor to this text. Rather than focusing on individual operatic plots, Fredman describes the drama that has taken place in the world of opera itself over the past 400 years. His insights into the backstage, preparation, sets, costumes, producers, conductors, singers – and their foibles – are intended to give members of the opera-going public – from the novice to the seasoned aficionado – a greater sense of the complexity of staging an opera, and an enhanced appreciation of the art fom.” Book News

“This fascinating book is for those who love opera, those who know nothing about opera and especially for those who know what they like but don't know why. Every piece of information you could conceivably want to know about the ‘exotic and irrational entertainment’ is to be found between these covers.

Myer Fredman has passed a lifetime of experience in the opera house and writes with understanding and humour to produce a valuable insight into an extraordinary world. Whether you think you know it all or if you know nothing, read on to discover a myriad of fascinating insights into this curious genre of entertainment.” From the Foreword by Dame Joan Sutherland and Maestro Richard Bonynge


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
188 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
November 2003
  Illustrated:   Colour plate section
Hardback Price:
£37.50 / $55.00
Paperback Price:
£15.95 / $25.00

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