Press Release (20-10-2015)
Plumbago Books and Arts is delighted to announce the launch of its new series of music books, Defining Opera, on 20 October 2015 at Queen’s College London. The first two titles are:
Arnold Whittall, The Wagner Style. Close Readings and Critical Perspectives, edited by Christopher Wintle, xii + 250 pp. with illustrations and music examples. ISBN: 978-0-9931983-0-4 (hardback) and 978-0-9931983-1-1 (softback).
John Cordingly, Disordered Heroes in Opera. A Psychiatric Report, edited by Claire Seymour, xii + 204 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9931983-2-8 (hardback) and 978-09931983-3-5 (softback)
The series is distributed by Boydell & Brewer PO Box 9 Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 3DF, from whom copies may be acquired (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The series is a new initiative that focuses on critical and analytic issues surrounding opera of any period but excludes histories of opera as well as biographies of composers, singers, conductors, producers and so forth. It may also include modern polemical writing. It is edited by Christopher Wintle, an Emeritus of King’s College London, who has written extensively on opera since Mozart, who for many years reviewed opera for the Times Literary Supplement and who has contributed regularly to the programmes of The Royal Opera; and it is typeset by Julian Littlewood, author of the monograph, The Variations of Johannes Brahms.
The book celebrates the 80th birthday of Arnold Whittall, Emeritus Professor of Music at King’s College London, with a collection of his key writings on Richard Wagner. The composer’s ambitious, innovative ways with words and music have never ceased to fascinate, never more so than now, two hundred years after his birth in 1813. The first ten chapters deal with the three Romantic operas, the four parts of The Ring and the three remaining music dramas. Their aim is to illuminate those aspects of Wagner’s style that are both personal and important for his successors. Whittall sets close readings of key passages in the context of a critical debate that has itself raged for over a century, and his comprehensive range of reference makes this volume essential reading for all those who want to enter the debate. The final chapter deals with Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream (2007), a modern operatic treatment of Wagner the man and his unrealised Buddhist project, Die Sieger. Whittall’s style is focussed and discriminating, yet also relaxed and accessible. The book, which presupposes some knowledge of Wagner’s oeuvre and a certain level of music competence, is rich in music examples.
Opera depicts extreme emotional states. Taking a novel and challenging approach that combines scientific diagnostic approaches with literary and musical analysis, the retired, musically-trained psychiatrist John Cordingly examines the disordered personalities of twelve male operatic protagonists. On the one hand, he gathers together varied historical opinions on the contentious concept of personality disorder. On the other hand, he assesses operatic protagonists through music, words and performance, as well as through source material and in some cases the biographies of the works’ creators. He does not view his protagonists as ‘mad’. But are they bad, or are they Byronic heroes, he asks? Should they be punished or are they in need of treatment? And what is their sexuality? From the hubristic Otello and Boris Godunov to the psychopathic Iago and John Claggart; from the schizoid Wozzeck and Peter Grimes to the borderline Werther and Herman; from the narcissistic Don Giovanni and Eugene Onegin to the repressed and melancholic Faust and Gustav von Aschenbach, Cordingly places human nature under the psychiatric spotlight. In their diversity and complexity, he shows how these men reflect timeless aspects of us all.