Opera For Beginners by Ron David, illustrated by Paul Gordon

This is a review for one of my many “project” books.  Unlike most of them, I actually did read this one cover-to-cover a few times.  It’s long overdue for a proper review.

If you ever get the chance to talk to someone who understands Opera, watch them carefully when you ask them about it.  Their eyes light up and maybe glaze over a bit as they stare off into the middle distance.  It’s like they’re in love.  And the fact is, they are.  When someone has been bitten by the Opera bug, the effects are the same.

Thing is, if you’re an outsider and you don’t know where to start, it’s a world that’s so far beyond overwhelming that it’s ridiculous.  For this guy from rural Texas who only speaks one language, it was an alien world.  Many lovers of Opera may spend years before ever getting to the point of enjoying an entire performance from beginning to end, if they ever get to that point at all.  Some listen only to specific arias for their whole lives because the idea of Opera as the ultimate form of artistic expression is too difficult to comprehend.  But… I was bitten by the bug, and I have hypersensitive ears that were crafted specifically for the appreciation of musical beauty, so I looked for options for entry.  This book was my first “formal” dip of the toes into that world.  I couldn’t have asked for a better gateway into the unknown.

Think of this book as not quite a textbook, and not quite a comic book, but rather as a weird hybrid of both.  Using cartoon illustrations and heavy doses of whimsy and humor, this book gives you all of the basics.  It introduces you to the history of Opera, its composers, the styles and classifications of vocals, and highlights some of the most popular Operas and their performers.  The entirety of the book is aimed at a single goal: taking the fear out of it.  When it comes down to it, appreciation of Opera comes down to what you enjoy, and the more you’re familiar with it, the more likely you are to enjoy it.  Start small, figure out what you think you like, explore around, and open new doors as you feel comfortable doing so.  This book is an excellent little candle in the dark for the intrepid newcomer.

5 stars