State Aid

Denis Arnold

  • A History of English Opera by Eric Walter White
    Faber, 472 pp, £30.00, July 1983, ISBN 0 571 10788 5

Do not believe the title. This book is scarcely a history, in the meaningful sense of that word, because although it is a collection of facts arranged in chronological order, it makes little attempt to assess them. Nor does it really treat of English opera, although there is ample information about theatres, librettists and composers. It is an obvious example of Hamlet without the Prince: in this case, music. Mr White is clearly more at home with literary sources than with musical style, and on the few occasions when he does embark on comment about the music, he shows no great grasp (his comments about Handel’s operas on page 169 are crashingly beside the point).

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