Giacomo Meyerbeer: The Deliberately Forgotten Composer

Gefen. Sept. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9789657023150. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
The subtitle says it all. Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864), born Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer, was, at the time of his death, one of the most popular and well-regarded opera composers in Europe. Yet in the years following his passing, his works were seldom heard because of the writings of a certain music critic and composer. Who was “the authoritative critic who destroyed Beer’s reputation, caused his music to be removed from our opera houses and concert halls, and who all but eliminated his name from the history of music...”? None other than Richard Wagner, who found fertile ground in “the latent anti-Semitism of nineteenth century European audiences,” in which to plant his hateful ideas. Today Meyerbeer’s operas, including Robert le Diable, Les Huguenots, Le Prophéte, and L’Africaine, are being “rediscovered,” and former physicist Faiman’s impassioned effort reintroduces the composer’s work to modern audiences. The author includes an annotated bibliography, a guide to early Meyerbeer recordings, and citations to YouTube recordings of Beverly Sills, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Marilyn Horne, and other opera greats performing excerpts from Meyerbeer’s works.
VERDICT Accessible and illuminating, this is required reading for anyone interested in opera and its complete history.
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