Song and Self: A Singer’s Reflections on Music and Performance

Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2023. 120p. ISBN 9780226809489. $22. MUSIC
In this short but powerful book (originally presented in April 2021 as three sessions of the Berlin Family Lectures at the University of Chicago called “Musical Identities”), acclaimed tenor Bostridge explores themes of gender roles, politicizing, decolonizing, and death within a range of operatic and song repertoire ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries. He specifically investigates the relationship of performer and text in vocal works by Claudio Monteverdi, Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel, and Benjamin Britten, devoting significant space to the poetic choices made by the composers to convey their intentions, while bringing a contemporary sociological sensibility to the narrative. Copious chapter notes and a smattering of both period photographs and reproductions of paintings round out the volume. Bostridge’s earlier training as a historian provides a solid grounding for his foray into this exploration of subjects of timely import to the artistic community.
VERDICT Although some acquaintance with musicology and world history is assumed, the author’s engaging style and the universality of the subject matter will likely have widespread appeal. This title is warmly recommended.
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