The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart


Product Details

$39.95  $36.75
Princeton University Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 1.5 X 9.4 inches | 1.85 pounds

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About the Author

Mitchell Cohen is professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and editor emeritus of Dissent magazine. His books include Zion and State and The Wager of Lucien Goldmann (Princeton). His writing has appeared in such publications as the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement. He lives in New York City.


"A tour de force. This is a lively and engaging account of the history of politics in opera, written with precision and grace. Vividly rendered, sweeping in scope, and a pleasure to read, Cohen's book is an astonishing achievement."--Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic
"In The Politics of Opera, Cohen brings a music lover's avidity and scholar's lucidity to the ever-changing relationship between the operatic stage and the political world. His invigorating book gives art and ideology their due--a rare achievement. Cohen zeroes in on the political and social pressures that shape an artist's choices, but he never denies the transformative power of the creative imagination. His easy command of the crossroads where art and politics meet bears comparison with Irving Howe's classic Politics and the Novel."--Jed Perl, author of Magicians and Charlatans: Essays on Art and Culture
"To say that The Politics of Opera is a remarkable achievement would be to give no sense of the magnitude of the undertaking, the challenge of writing a work that does justice not only to the political underpinnings of opera, but also to its music, drama, dramaturgy, and singers. This is an important cultural history and Cohen is a brilliant guide."--Richard Kramer, author of Cherubino's Leap and Unfinished Music
"In The Politics of Opera, Cohen offers a new reading of libretti and musical theory informed by his excellent knowledge of the history of political thought. To my knowledge there is no similar book covering these questions in such depth or wide geographical breadth. This was a pleasure to read."--Nicole Reinhardt, Durham University (UK)
"Extremely erudite, this book is beautifully crafted. Its powerful prose evokes wonderful images throughout and brings the early history of opera close to the reader. Almost every page shows the author's immense intellectual range."--Axel KΓΆrner, University College London
"The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart has boldly placed Machiavelli and early modern political theory at the center of the early history of opera, reflecting creatively on the ways in which the reverberations of the great Florentine realist reached even into the musical realm. . . . Cohen has demonstrated that the history of opera is connected to the history of political theory, but operatic masterpieces also acquire new layers of political meaning as they encounter new generations and newly fraught political circumstances."---Larry Wolff, New York Review of Books
"This subtly insightful book helps readers experience these timeless masterpieces anew."--Foreign Affairs
"Surprises await even the well-informed operaphile."--Opera News
"A fascinating study of opera's musicology, performance history, and the political operatives who were pulling the artistic strings."--New York Journal of Books
"Delving into the world of composers such as Monteverdi, Lully, Rameau and Mozart, the author reveals how operas, through story lines, symbols, harmonies and musical motifs, have spoken of politics--sometimes loudly, sometimes sotto voce."--Opera America
"[A] first-rate scholarly work . . . that is both instructive in itself and methodologically and conceptually valuable for other periods and, indeed, media."---Jeremy Black, Foreign Policy Research Institute
"Mitchell Cohen has written a very erudite book that takes us down the highways and, especially, the byways of European political thought in the early modern period. . . . The persevering reader will find much instruction and new insight into some old favourites."---Tim Blanning, Literary Review
"Operas, the author argues, change their political meanings according to their setting, and the deep research and clear prose here hit a high C."---Anne McElvoy, The Evening Standard
"Suffice it to say, when Mitchell Cohen sees and hears an opera, he sees and hears a lot. To you, it may seem primarily a piece of music or a piece of lyric theater. For him, it reveals layer upon layer, politically, socially, and historically. . . . Cohen is very good at getting under the skin of a piece and gauging the environment in which it was created. At the same time, he realizes that a really good work of art transcends time and space. . . . A book such as Cohen's may not be for everyone--whose is?--but it is certainly for some."---Jay Nordlinger, The Weekly Standard
"Winner of the 2018 PROSE Award in Music & the Performing Arts, Association of American Publishers"
"One of the Evening Standard Best Books of 2017 (chosen by Anne McElvoy)"
"Winner of the 2018 Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Scholarship, Baruch College, City University of New York"
"Shortlisted for the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies, Nanovic Institute, University of Notre Dame"