ON SONDHEIM: AN OPINIONATED GUIDE by Ethan Mordden (Oxford) Mordden’s theatre stories have the appeal of insider gossip—and as soon as you put his survey of Stephen Sondheim’s work down, you’ll want to pick it up again.  Much of the life of the consummate theatre legend is known—from his own writings on his work to various appraisals, including Sondheim & Company by Craig Zadan, from decades ago. But Sondheim’s work is so important to students of the theatre that no one will mind a refresher with some zap. For those who do not understand or appreciate the importance of the legacy (West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company,  A Little Night Music—the list goes on and on), you have come to right place. http://www.amazon.com/Sondheim-Opinionated-Guide-Ethan-Mordden/dp/0199394814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450820076&sr=8-1&keywords=On+SOndheim

RAZZLE DAZZLE: THE BATTLE FOR BROADWAY Michael Riedel (Simon and Schuster) Hopelessly overstuffed with theatre names, theatre stories, Broadway title hits and misses, Razzle Dazzle also somehow incorporates the history of the Schubert Organization and urban planning. Included are characters out of Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Producers, finally demonstrating that most of what the Broadway musical is really about is itself. New York Post Theatre columnist, Michael Riedel, has written an epic about a coupla blocks around Times Square—and whether it discusses skimming money, hiring or firing talent, second act problems, or alchemical hit-making, you won't want to miss it:  A Battleship Potemkin for Ethel Merman. http://www.amazon.com/Razzle-Dazzle-Broadway-Michael-Riedel/dp/1451672160/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450820022&sr=8-1&keywords=Razzle+Dazzle

UNDERSTANDING ITALIAN OPERA by Tim Carter (Oxford) Carter, the David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, gives vigorous, close readings of the scores of 5 Italian Operas, composed by Monteverdi, Verdi, and Puccini—he also explains why works by Mozart (Austrian) and Handel (German) can be included in the grouping.  His interest in the libretti of the operas allows us to consider often forgotten collaborators, Busenello, Haym, da Ponte, Piave, Giacosa and Illica—who, confined to structure, rhyme, and meter, allowed their composers, in works such as The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto; and La Bohème, to dazzle.  With synopses, history, and musical breakdowns. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Italian-Opera-Tim-Carter/dp/0190247940/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450820129&sr=8-1&keywords=Understanding+Italian+Opera

THE YEAR OF LEAR: SHAKESPEARE IN 1606 by James Shapiro (Simon and Schuster) Shapiro’s iron-dark rendering of a year in the life of William Shakespeare demonstrates how much a part of the Jacobean social fabric the Bard's violence, paranoia, and interest in witchcraft actually were. Debatably the greatest single time for dramatic output ever—1606 brought us not only King Lear, but Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth, as well–what's interesting is how much Shakespeare depended on his sources for his plots and language. Shapiro can have trouble balancing academic writing and contemporary jargon (on the issue of the changing Presbyterian view of English and Scottish union, his summation of the allowance is: "That was then; this is now")—and his editor might have also kept a tighter reign.  For sheer prowess on this subject, however, Shapiro is essential–an exceptional read for students, generalists, and those who believe Shakespeare’s time is now. http://www.amazon.com/Year-Lear-Shakespeare-1606/dp/1416541640/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450820179&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Year+of+Lear

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