Michael Halliwell reviews 'Charles Mackerras' edited by Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell

Michael Halliwell reviews 'Charles Mackerras' edited by Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell

Charles Mackerras

edited by Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell

Boydell Press, £25 hb, 336 pp, 9781843839668

Ask any opera singer from the last fifty or more years who their favourite conductor is, and a substantial number would plumb for Charles Mackerras if they had enjoyed the privilege of working with him. There were always more flamboyant conductors – Karajan, Bernstein, Abbado, and others spring to mind – and certainly many enjoyed more immediate name recognition from the general public than Mackerras did. But there is no doubt that Mackerras was one of the greatest of all opera conductors, with an enormous repertoire aided by his longevity and unlimited capacity for hard work. While the range of Mackerras's musical activities was wide, ranging through oratorio and the great symphonic repertoire, it is fair to say that the bulk of his music-making was in opera, with his favourite work – if someone of his protean energy and lengthy career could have only one – Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

Editors Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell have brought together a wide range of material, including interviews with many of the most important musicians of the last sixty years, in this very welcome and comprehensive book. They provide a detailed account of Mackerras's life and career, complemented by contributions from performers and scholars who had a close association with Mackerras, creating a multi-hued portrait of this great musician. The book is richly endowed with photographs and documents from the life and career, as well as a discography and a detailed list of performances.

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Published in December 2015, no. 377
Michael Halliwell

Michael Halliwell

Michael Halliwell studied literature and music at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, at the London Opera Centre, and with Tito Gobbi in Florence. He has sung in Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia and was principal baritone for many years with the Netherlands Opera, the Nürnberg Municipal Opera, and the Hamburg State Opera singing over fifty major operatic roles, including several world premiere productions. He has served as Chair of Vocal Studies and Opera, Pro-Dean and Head of School, and Associate Dean (Research) at the Sydney Conservatorium. He is Vice President of the International Association for Word and Music Studies. His publications include the monographs, Opera and the Novel (Rodopi: 2005); and National Identity on Contemporary Australian Opera: myths reconsidered (Routledge, 2018), as well as many chapters and articles. He still performs regularly and recent CDs include When the Empire Calls (ABC Classics, 2005); O for a Muse of Fire: Australian Shakespeare Settings (Vox Australis, 2013); Amy Woodforde-Finden: The Oriental Song-Cycles (Toccata Classics, 2014); That Bloody Game; Australian WWI Songs (Wirripang, 2015).

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