Arizona Opera Book Club
Opera is all about telling compelling stories through music. Most of the stories you see on stage are inspired by great literary works, historical events, legendary people, or better yet, current issues. Whether you are a Book Club regular or joining the group for the first time, we are excited join us this season.
In an exciting collaboration with Pima County Public Library, we will bring you book recommendations to enhance your opera experience for the Arizona Opera's 2023/24 Season.
How to Join:
All book club activities, announcements, meetings, and more will be announced via our new Facebook group. We invite you to participate, post, and discuss each book with us as we discover these new titles together.
Don’t know how to join our group? It’s easy! Follow the steps below:
If you do not have Facebook and do not wish to join, we will also be posting information and updates to this page so stay tuned!
Book Club Meetings:
All Book Club activities, announcements, meetings, and more will be announced via our Facebook group. If you are not part of Arizona Opera's Book Club Facebook Group and would still like to participate in our virtual book club meetings, please send an email to Madalyn Kiewiet, Education and Community Engagement Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023/24 Season Meeting Dates & Times:
Music and Libretto by Gregg Kallor
Reading: September 4, 2023 – October 5, 2023
Meeting: October 5, 2023 at 5:30 PM MST | Zoom Meeting Link
Arizona Opera’s eagerly-awaited third world premiere, based on Mary Shelley’s iconic novel by the same name, comes to the stage to open the 2023/24 Season in the McDougall RED Series. With a riveting, cinematic score and libretto by Gregg Kallor, the living, feeling Creature is brought to life only to be forsaken by its creator, Victor Frankenstein. Embracing Shelley’s original text, Frankenstein gives poignant voice to the Creature’s struggle and lays bare the horror of alienation and “otherness” with exquisite nuance. At the core of this heartbreaking tale lies an exquisitely wrought plea to look deeper within ourselves to find our commonality and to uphold our responsibility to one another.
Frankenstein was workshopped at Arizona Opera in Phoenix in December 2022 to great success. It follows Arizona Opera’s first two gripping world premieres, Riders of the Purple Sage and The Copper Queen Film, the latter of which was released in fall 2021 as a feature-length film. As stewards of the 400-plus year art form, Arizona Opera thrives on re-imagining its productions, commissioning new operas, and supporting up-and-coming artists.
Featured Book Selection:
FRANKENSTEIN by mARY sHELLEY
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, generally known as Frankenstein, is a novel written by the British author Mary Shelley. The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful. In popular culture, people have tended to refer to the Creature as "Frankenstein", despite this being the name of the scientist. Frankenstein is a novel infused with some elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. It was also a warning against the "over-reaching" of modern man and the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films. It is arguably considered the first fully realized science fiction novel.
The Barber of Seville
Music by Gioachino Rossini, Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Reading: December 11, 2023 – January 18, 2024
Meeting: January 18, 2024 at 7 PM MST | Zoom Meeting Link
Love, mistaken identity, and humor are woven throughout The Barber of Seville, Rossini’s comic opera masterpiece. The Barber of Seville is considered one of the greatest opera buffa of all time, maintaining its popularity for over two hundred years.
Count Almaviva falls hopelessly in love with the beautiful Rosina, the young ward of a grumpy and elderly Bartolo who intends to marry her and claim her dowry. Dressed in disguise, Almaviva tries to earn Rosina’s affection for who he really is, rather than for his money and status. Almaviva assumes multiple identities including a poor student, a drunken soldier, and a singing tutor and priest. With the help of his companion Figaro, Almaviva stops at nothing as he pursues Rosina through a series of comical hijinks and bait-and-switch facades. Eventually revealing his true identity, he manages to win Rosina’s heart and the pair evade the disgruntled Bartolo, with love and laughter triumphing in the end.
Featured Book Selection:
The marriage of figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799) was an exceptional French writer of prose comedy during the eighteenth century. He is best known for his theatrical works of the three Figaro plays. Beaumarchais had an action-filled career as a watchmaker, musician, secret agent, businessman, diplomat and a financer of revolutions. His literary career was as turbulent as his personal life. After a series of lawsuits in Paris, the accounts of his trials made his reputation as a sarcastic, effective, and recognized writer. The Marriage of Figaro is the second in the Figaro Trilogy, preceded by The Barber of Seville and followed by The Guilty Mother. It was originally a comic opera, or a mixture of spoken play with music. This play was considered a foreshadowing of the French Revolution in its offense of the rights of the aristocracy. It was first banned in Vienna due to its satire of the nobility, considered dangerous in the decade before the revolution. Thanks to the great success of its predecessor, it opened with enormous success, eventually becoming one of Mozart's most successful operatic works.
Roméo & Juliette
Music by Charles Gounod, Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
Reading: January 22, 2024 – February 22, 2024
Meeting: February 22, 2024 at 7 PM MST | Zoom Meeting Link
Gounod's romantic and rapturous music sets the stage for this tale of star-crossed lovers, based on Shakespeare’s play about the feuding Montague and Capulet families in Verona.
Roméo Montague and his friend Mercutio don masks to sneak into the Capulet’s ball, where Juliette Capulet has been presented to the party guests. Roméo falls instantly in love with Juliette, who fervently loves him back despite being pledged to marry Count Parîs. Juliette’s cousin Tybalt recognizes Roméo as he shares a tender moment with Juliette, but is prevented from attacking as Roméo and his friends flee.
Roméo and Juliette affirm their forever love in the iconic balcony scene. Outside the Capulet palace, Roméo breaks up a fight between Mercutio and Tybalt, asking him to forgive the feud between families. With nothing but scorn, Tybalt kills Mercutio and Roméo stabs Tybalt. Knowing their families will never get along, Roméo and Juliette plan to fake their deaths in a desperate attempt to be together, culminating in an ending for these lovers that is as tragic as it is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Featured Book Selection:
Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappellettis’ darkest secrets. Those secrets—and the nurse’s deep personal grief—erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family.
By turns sensual, tragic, and comic, Juliet’s Nurse gives voice to one of literature’s most memorable and distinctive characters, a woman who was both insider and outsider among Verona’s wealthy ruling class. Exploring the romance and intrigue of interwoven loyalties, rivalries, jealousies, and losses only hinted at in Shakespeare’s play, this is a never-before-heard tale of the deepest love in Verona—the love between a grieving woman and the precious child of her heart.
In the tradition of Sarah Dunant, Philippa Gregory, and Geraldine Brooks, Juliet’s Nurse is a rich prequel that reimagines the world’s most cherished tale of love and loss, suffering and survival.
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Reading: March 11, 2024 – April 11, 2024
Meeting: April 11, 2024 at 7 PM MST | Zoom Meeting Link
Mozart’s Don Giovanni, regarded by many as one of the greatest operas of all time, tells the centuries-old story of the libertine Don Juan.
Don Giovanni tries to seduce Donna Anna, which goes awry and he ends up killing her father, the Commendatore, unbeknownst to her. Donna Anna asks her fiancé, Don Ottavio, to avenge her father’s death. The opera follows Don Giovanni’s salacious escapades, aided and abetted by his servant Leporello. Giovanni makes his rounds seducing and duping numerous characters, bragging along the way and escaping accountability by obscuring his identity. In a cemetery, Giovanni meets the Commendatore’s statue, who forebodingly warns him that he will laugh no longer. When offered the chance to change his ways, will Don Giovanni repent?
Featured Book Selection:
Leporello on the lam by william stafford
Leporello on the Lam tells of the further adventures of characters from Mozart and Da Ponte’s famous comic opera, Don Giovanni. Hapless manservant, Leporello seeks a new master but, still traumatised by events, finds himself on the run from the law and falling in love. Can Leporello make peace with those Don Giovanni wronged, clear his own name and start a new life for himself? This fast-moving and funny story is brimming with adventure and innuendo, and is an entertaining read for opera fans and non-opera fans alike.
Suggested Resources from Book Club Members:
- Suggested Podcast: Aria Code. Listen now at https://apple.co/3mPa0LW