This study examines the place of politics in opera, uncovering the political dimension of an art form all too often considered as purely aesthetic. It takes readers on a tour of 200 years of great opera, from "The Marriage of Figaro" to "Nixon in China".
In this ambitious and wide-ranging book, Anthony Arblaster shows that attempts by many music critics to disregard or disparage opera’s politics are at best delusory, at worst a political ploy. Writing with passionate enthusiasm, both for opera and for th ideals of freedom it has so often represented, he uncovers the political dimensions of a vast range of works, from The Marriage of Figaro to Nixon in China. Beginning with an investigation of opera in revolutionary France, Anthony Arblaster goes on to analyse Mozart’s enigmatic politics, and to explore the work of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and, above all, Verdi, in the context of the Risorgimento. Further chapters examine Wagner’s early radicalism and notorious anti-semitism, nationalism in Russian, Czech and English opera, and the weaknesses of Puccini and Strauss. He also discusses the place of women in opera, and concludes with a fascinating survey of the treatment of everyday life in opera and musicals, from Dallapiccola to Sondheim.