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The strangest art

A superb new history of opera argues that revivals of classic works are keeping the genre from flourishing today. Not so

By Wendy Lesser   January 2013

A caricature by Gustave Doré from the 1860s: “People who sing opera generate huge acoustic forces”

A History of Opera: The Last 400 Years by Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (Allen Lane, £30)

Opera must be one of the weirdest forms of entertainment on the planet. Its exaggerated characters bear little relation to living people, and its plots are often ludicrous. Yet it demands from its audiences real involvement, real sympathy, even real tears. Mothers constantly fail to recognise their sons, sisters their brothers, husbands their wives, but we,…

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