You can use our reading lists to find the best books on operas and classical music books ever written on a variety of subjects.
We also have a number of opera singers recommending the best opera books, and composers picking the best biographies of classical composers.
Handel: The Man and His Music
by Jonathan Keates
Handel and the English Chapel Royal
by Donald Burrows
Charles Jennens: The Man Behind Handel's Messiah
by Ruth Smith
A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period
by Charles Burney
The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany
by Mary Delany
George Frideric Handel was born near Leipzig, became established in Italy, and ended life as England’s national treasure. Andrew Gant—author of a new book on Handel’s most famous composition—selects the five best texts for gaining an understanding of Handel’s life and work, and explains why opera divas were the premiership footballers of the Baroque period.
Beethoven: Impressions by his Contemporaries
by Oscar Sonneck (Editor)
Beethoven Variations: Poems on a Life
by Ruth Padel
Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet
by Edward Dusinberre
Beethoven: The Man Revealed
by John Suchet
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph
by Jan Swafford
He was a much misunderstood man and one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Music critic and novelist Jessica Duchen talks us through the best books about the German composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven.
Nearly everyone knows the photo of Verdi’s funeral, the streets of Milan packed with people paying homage to the great composer. How did the son of an innkeeper from Le Roncole become not only one of the most famous opera composers of all time but also a prominent symbol of Italy’s Risorgimento? Verdi expert Francesco Izzo discusses the books to read to best understand the man, the myths, and the music.
Richard Wagner’s works are as immense as they are influential: the four-part, 15-hour saga Der Ring des Nibelungen is the most analysed opera of all time. And yet, Wagner was arrogant and virulently anti-semitic. Can we separate the musical genius from the man? Opera critic Michael Tanner recommends the best books on Wagner.
Think you’re not interested in church music? Think again. Read this interview and you’ll soon find yourself ordering some books about it too. And a Happy Christmas from your editors at Five Books.
The Scandinavian tenor argues Verdi is the greatest. Also, “the opera house in itself is an instrument. You play on the space between the audience and the stage”
‘They don’t actually want to know anything, other than that this is a holy great art form beyond any other, that creates these über-geniuses who have no flaws and can do no wrong.’
From Bach to Stravinsky, British composer Giles Swayne discusses the most insightful books for getting to know the real lives of classical composers. “You can have people who are really extremely mediocre with huge careers, and people who are wonderfully good but don’t have wonderful careers. Bach was one of those.”
The opera singer says most people of his age feel that the quality of singing has given way to the providing of a dramatic spectacle. His book selection spans Italian opera and revelations of an opera manager