Like its successor, Operatic Italian (2009), Italian for the Opera (1991) is an overall guide to the language of opera. The framework consists of the eight parts of speech and the author guides the reader through them all, starting with nouns and ending with the imperfect subjunctive. Dozens of interesting extracts from operas show how parts of speech are used. The author analyzes many of these extracts, commenting on such things as connotation, innuendo, character, theme, plot and the ‘hidden opera’ (found in some operas) which is really a reflection of the often traumatic events in the composer’s own life. There are sections on pronunciation, the limitations of translations and suggested criteria for judging libretti. Regular quizzes throughout enable readers to monitor their progress. This book sold out in 2003 but was reprinted in 2015 and is now again available. Operatic Italian (Book A) is more than an abridged version of Italian for the Opera, it is a vast expansion of it and for this reason was given a new title.


What a marvellously useful book! I wish I’d had this guide when the opera bug first bit me years ago. (Walter Lippincott Jr., former director of Princeton University Press)

(…) aids students of modern Italian in understanding the intricacies of operatic Italian and introduces the non-speaker to the basics of the language while providing shortcuts to understanding key words and forms likely to be encountered in opera. (Opera America Newsline, Feb. 1997)

Your book is written in a charming, breezy style that makes grasping, say, reflexive pronouns, easy and fun. (…) It is well-suited to self-instruction; there are periodic quizzes, with answers at the back of the book. I also liked your humorous sidebars, like the one about George Bernard Shaw: [Asked whether he could speak Italian, Shaw replied “Well, I can order a bowl of poison and a dagger but I can’t order a glass of milk. I know about twenty words of operatic Italian. ed.] (Dave Daniels)


Chapter 1 of “Italian for the Opera” (pdf)