Look what just arrived from ThriftBooks on Amazon: a door-stopper! A 1996 edition of The Book of 101 Opera Librettos: Complete Original Texts with English Translations.
I certainly could have made good use of this tome over the past month and a half! One thing which has to be tackled when one is trying to see opera on the cheap—or simply just to see many operas which aren’t available on conventional DVD/Bluray with the option of subtitles (and more re: Premiere Opera later)—is how to get ahold of librettos (or “libretti”).
There are many options. The one I used for seeing the whole 2015 ROH [Royal Opera House, Covent Garden] Andrea Chénier (link to Act I of IV here) was via an online public domain source, and I had the local print shop print out a paper copy for me. That would be a bit cumbersome for each opera…hence this tome, which can be found used on Amazon.
The Book of 101 Opera Librettos isn’t exactly a book to sneak into one’s purse if you’re lucky enough to go to live opera…might as well haul around a few bowling balls. Better to read the libretto beforehand, if needed. But it certainly works in the comfort of your living room–
Mostly. Problems arise when one has to keep deciding whether to look down at the libretto to comprehend what is being said, versus staring at a certain tenor who shall remain nameless. Or when tears are streaming down one’s face, obscuring the too-small type.
I’ve read mixed things about this book. Apparently some of the choices in translation are a little eccentric, as are some of the choices of which operas to include, and which to exclude…
(Where is Don Carlo??)
As to the last question, perhaps it has to do with the several versions there are (in French and Italian) of this opera…but I still find it a puzzling omission. More on Don Carlo and its multiple versions later.
Nonetheless, I’m grateful to have this book…if nothing else, I can use it as a booster seat.