Michael Steen

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Arts (10)

Biography & autobiography (1)



English (18)

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The Lives and Times of the Great Composers

by Michael Steen

Explore the life of Bach, the respectable burgher much of whose vast output was composed amidst petty turf disputes in Lutheran Leipzig; the ugly, argumentative Beethoven in French-occupied Vienna, obsessed...

Puccini's Madama Butterfly

by Michael Steen

Butterfly is a delicate andimpressionable geisha who thinks she has married Pinkerton, a US navalofficer briefly stationed in Japan. Naive and loving as she is, she does notrealise that for him the marriage...

Puccini's Tosca

by Michael Steen

Tosca’s première in Rome in January 1900 was nearly disrupted by a terrorist threat to blow up Italy’s King Umberto. Victorien Sardou had written the melodrama for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt. Giacomo...

Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte

by Michael Steen

A couple of smooth army officers in metropolitan Naples become increasingly horrified as they find that they are losing their bet with a misogynist philosopher. The wager? That their fiancées will be faithful....

Great Operas

by Michael Steen

With four famous operas each from Mozart, Verdi and Puccini, and two each from Rossini and Donizetti, there is a feast of information. Here are short guides to The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni; to the...

Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor

by Michael Steen

Sir Walter Scott’s story of a Scottish girl forced by her family into an arranged marriage still resonates today, two centuries after it was published. Donizetti’s opera, which premièred in Naples in 1835,...

Mozart's Marriage of Figaro

by Michael Steen

Although the story of Figaro’s success in preventing the Count of Almaviva’s seduction of his fiancée Susannawas politically explosive, it was tolerated in the court of the relatively enlightened Habsburg...

Mozart's The Magic Flute

by Michael Steen

Even Salieri, the notorious villain of Peter Shaffer’s drama Amadeus, admired Mozart’s comic opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), which was premièred in Vienna a few weeks before Mozart’s death in...

Mozart's Don Giovanni

by Michael Steen

With a wealth of famous tunes and meticulous characterisation, Don Giovanni is an undisputed masterpiece created by Mozart out of a thread-barefairgroundgig. The Don - for whom both sexes have a sneaking admiration...

Bizet's Carmen

by Michael Steen

The Paris audience in 1875 was shocked by the sexually explicit realism of Bizet’s exotic operatic masterpiece, its ‘verismo’ depiction of low life and brutal passion. But since the disastrous première...

Britten's Peter Grimes

by Michael Steen

Britten’s opera Peter Grimes is based on George Crabbe’s horrifying poem The Borough about early 19th century Aldeburgh, a North Sea fishing town in East Anglia. Its premiere at Sadlers Wells in 1945, shortly...

Puccini's La Boheme

by Michael Steen

Puccini’s obsession with detail ensured the success of La Bohème, his operaabout the impoverished ‘artistes’ in Paris in the 1830s. Soon after itspremière, people started calling their baby daughters...

Rossini's The Barber of Seville

by Michael Steen

The première in 1816 in Rome of Gioachino Rossini’s famous opera was a fiasco comparable to those of Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Bizet’s Carmen. But Il barbiere di Siviglia was soon recognised as being among...

Wagner's Tristan und Isolde

by Michael Steen

With the ‘Tristan chord’ at the start of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, the composer launched modern music. The political refugee, a former revolutionary, was living in Zurich when the lovely Mathilde...

Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin

by Michael Steen

The great Russian poet Pushkin’s novel in verse tells the story of Tatyana, a love-struck country girl who unwisely wrote to the arrogant city-slicker Yevgeny Onegin professing her love. The tale resonated...

Verdi's Rigoletto

by Michael Steen

From the première of Rigoletto at Venice’s La Fenice in 1851, the Duke’s La donna è mobile caught on with the public and has done much to ensure the ongoing popularity of Verdi’s opera about the body...

Rossini's La Cenerentola

by Michael Steen

Rossini’s La Cenerentola (or Cinderella) is one of the most popular comic operas in the classical repertoire - the timeless fairy tale about the triumph of virtue over snobbery. Its first performance at Rome’s...

Verdi's La Traviata

by Michael Steen

Verdi’s now-popular opera was a fiasco in Venice in 1853, attributable perhaps to the prima donna being noticeably obese, despite apparently wasting with tuberculosis. Soon, however, Verdi’s scandalous love...