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For Mallach, the story of opera during this time is more than just a story of music and the few composers of this time whose music is regularly performed today. He begins by looking at the political situation of Italy as a whole and the role opera played in the country, especially during the period of unification. In most Italian states, opera was the one thing all shared in common, and when the country went from small states to a larger whole, opera became not only a unifying force but a major export as well. He then tells of the last years of the composer many would argue was Italy's master, Giuseppe Verdi and the role he played din the hearts of the people, and the rich variety of music that came to be in his later years and after his death. He looks not just at the composers, but the story of opera during this period deals more than with the composers. He also pays attention to the librettists, publishers, singers, conductors and opera houses booth national and local, and presents a complex and fascinating tale. While he could have focused on Puccini alone with a smattering of footnotes about other composers, he seems to look at the entire musical scene. Since the majority of works from this period are not frequently performed, readers are bound to discover a wealth of new information.
THE AUTUMN OF ITALIAN OPERA is well researched, and Mallach presents a great deal of information in the book. The danger of so munch information is a dense and dry work, however Mallach avoids this pitfall in a work that is well written, organized, and at times reads like a novel. It also provides a great service for anyone who loves the music of this period. There are a number of biographies available about the major players of this period, and liner notes from recordings often provide the information in this book, but we often read them in isolation. Mallach puts the information together and readers cannot help but come away from the book with a new appreciation of this rich and interesting period in musical history. He also includes a number of notes and a copious bibliography for anyone who wishes to read more about the subject.
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