Master Singers: Advice from the Stage, written by Donald George and Lucy Mauro, provides ample food for thought for young singers and seasoned professionals alike. Resembling another noteworthy book, Great Singers on Great Singing, the authors interviewed a variety of well-renowned singers of this generation for their thoughts on topics ranging from breath, to preparing for a role, to social media for the singer. The singers interviewed include, but are not limited to, Thomas Hampson, Joyce diDonato, David Daniels, Eric Owens, and Kathleen Kim.
The wide range of fabulous performers interviewed alone could confirm the high quality of this book. Yet, the real strength of this work lies in its organization. In the preface, the authors explain that they intended for this to be a “go-to” reference book. Therefore, in order for Master Singers to really work as such, it needed to be incredibly easy to find the information you are looking for.
And is it ever. A table of contents outlining the general frame of questions is presented at the beginning, but the richness of the index is the real gift. The index itself is divided into four sections: artists and composers, operas and roles, topics of discussion, and specific responses from each artist interviewed. Never has a book been so easy to navigate, so much so that if one could not find a particular subject matter for any reason, it must not exist.
As for the various subjects and answers, it is as rich as to be expected from such wise talents. The authors curated their questions carefully, which allowed for excellent responses. Two chapters, “On Maintaining a Career” and “On Teaching and Studying,” are particularly valuable, as they discuss topics not often taught within conservatories.
The one drawback to this book is that it doesn’t allow for extreme depth in any one topic. In an effort to make it easily readable, the answers sometimes feel a bit incomplete. It is possible that this was a result of the limited time of the interviewees. More likely, however, this is merely a shortcoming of any book that prides itself in quick-reference.
Overall, Master Singers would make an excellent addition to any opera aficionado’s bookshelf. Especially for emerging artists, there is perhaps nothing more inspiring than words of encouragement from the greats that have come before them.
Buy a copy of Master Singers: Advice from the Stage here.
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