Fred Plotkin’s Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera

Jorie’s Store – Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera


Title and Author(s): Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera by Fred Plotkin
Release Date: Nov 09, 2004
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
ISBN: 9781455100132       
Duration: 18 hours, 15 minutes
Source: Harris County Public Library’s Digital Media Collection | Overdrive

Reasons for Reading: Originally, I learned of Fred Plotkin’s Opera 101… when I read Ann Patchett’s notes about Bel Canto. I enjoyed some live opera performances in college and thought this book might elucidate what compels people to subscribe to opera. This happened many years ago and something distracted me. Fast forward to 2013, I rediscovered this book among the many choices for eAudio nonfiction. I thought, “Wow, I can listen to a book about opera!” Thus, I checked it out and downloaded it to my Nook.

Summary: Opera 101… is an exhaustive look into a centuries-old art form. Author Fred Plotkin shares with the reader the history of opera, its many people (composers, performers, conductors, audience, etc), etiquette, and much more. After covering these aspects, Plotkin selects certain operas to describe in much more detail: Rigoletto, Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Eugene Onegin, Don Carlo, Tannhäuser, Die Walküre, and Elektra.

One Thing I Learned from reading Fred Plotkin’s Opera 101…: In irs early days, the second biggest center for Italian opera was Naples.

What I Liked: The title of this book is most apt. It’s really a course in opera appreciation. I liked how Plotkin described the ins and outs of attending an opera. He explained why the doors close during the acts and what to wear. Also, Plotkin explained what your pre-opera meal size should be. When I finished this book, I felt I knew something about opera.

What I Disliked: I wished the reader could’ve heard the pieces Plotkin talked about in the eAudio. Also, it’s difficult to read libretto while driving.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Luciano Pavarotti – La Donna È Mobile (Rigoletto)

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For more on Fred Plotkin’s Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, check out the following sites:

Happy President’s Day – A Memory

Jorie’s Store – Ask Me Anything About the Presidents (Avon Camelot Books)

My first memory of President’s Day reaches back to when I was a first grader. A couple of the Social Studies teachers at my elementary school told us about two great U.S. Presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We had cake, too. Since I don’t like cherries all that much, I got in the Lincoln line.

I can tell you why we celebrate President’s Day (with sales on mattresses, no less). We even have a President’s Day Challenge going on a library branch where I work. (By the way, we’re actually open on President’s Day.)

So, why am I blogging about President’s Day? Well, a few years after that Social Studies class, I purchased Ask Me Anything About the Presidents at our school’s book fair. I believe I drove my entire family nuts by reading aloud the questions from this book. Nonetheless, I’m guessing Social Studies and the book inspired me to read biographies of various POTUS’. The book set me on a journey which I believe brought me to book blogging. It stirred my curiosity and made me want to share my opinions on books.

So, this President’s Day, I celebrate an impetus. What book(s) inspired you to blog? To discuss? To share with your friends?

Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle | eBranch Harris County Public Library

(Written 31 January 2013)

Title and Author(s): Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle & Grace Conlin (Narrator)

Release Date: May 9, 2006
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
ISBN:  9781455100132

Duration: 13 hours, 39 minutes

Reasons for Reading: I wanted another eAudio. Also, I wanted something very different from Black Like Me. When I saw a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, I felt I’d achieved that. All I remembered about her was that she was an artist that one of my sixth grade teachers said painted whatever she saw around her. While I found this simplistic, I felt there must be more to Georgia O’Keeffe. So, I checked it out via HCPL Overdrive and ultimately listened to it on my Nook Tablet.

Summary: This book takes on the true story of the American iconoclast – Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe marched to the beat of her own drummer perhaps from the beginning. Her larger than life story, bigger than some of her canvasses, draws interest.This artist lived nearly a century, one marked in change and evolution. Just the roles she played throughout her life – woman, artist, muse, lover, wife, friend, etc don’t begin to define her.

One Thing I Learned from reading Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe: O’Keeffe was the namesake of her maternal grandfather – George Victor Totto, a Hungarian count who came to the US in 1848.

What I Liked:  I liked that the author expressed herself in an objective way. Lisle portrayed O’Keeffe, warts and all, as the saying goes. She also described O’Keeffe’s mercurial ways very well.

What I Disliked: I blame myself for this. When I read about a visual artist in the future, I must skip an audiobook. I truly must see the pictures. While this encouraged me to browse online for O’Keeffe’s art, it was rather inconvenient listening to this on my work commute.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Georgia on my Mind- Ray Charles – YouTube

Setting: Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii, Chicago

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For more on Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, check out the following sites:

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea…

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson | LibraryThing

Mortenson, G., Relin, D. O., Lawlor, P. G., & Tantor Media. (2006). Three cups of tea: One man’s mission to fight terrorism and build nations … one school at a time. Old Saybrook: Tantor Media. 9781400122516

Reasons for Reading:  Three Cups of Tea took up residence on local summer reading lists a couple of years ago. What Greg Mortenson did fascinated me and I wanted more details. Initially, I checked out the audiobook but I finished with the HCPL Digital Media – eAudio.

Summary: Larger than life Greg Mortenson attempted to reach the summit of K2. Along the way, Mortenson became lost along the way, stumbling into a Pakistani village. The villagers took in Mortenson. Mortenson promised to thank the village by returning and building a school. Thus, Mortenson embarked on establishing a charitable institute for poor, local children.

What I Liked : I liked Mortenson’s devotion to his family and that he kept his word. I admired his wife, Tara, too. Also, this was a very noble act and many have reaped what Mortenson has sown.

What I Disliked : Somehow, this book seemed slow. Perhaps if the CDs I began with hadn’t been damaged, I would’ve felt differently. This story is related in the third person narrative and that seemed an odd choice.  Another issue I had were the accusations of fraud against Mortenson.  

Two and a Half Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪Imagine – The Beatles – John Lennon – YouTube

Setting: Pakistan, Tanzania, Minnesota, San Francisco, Montana

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For more on Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea…, please check out the following links:

Mike Tolson, J.R. Gonzales, Steve Gonzales, and The Houston Chronicle’s Houston 175…

Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history by Mike Tolson | LibraryThing

Tolson, M., Gonzales, J. R., & Gonzales, S. (2011). Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history. Battle Ground, WA: Pediment Pub. 9781597253505

Reasons for Reading:  March 2, 2011 marked the 175th birthday of Texas. Also, my hometown celebrated its septaquintaquinquecentennial in 2011. Amid the big birthday fever, The Houston Chronicle published Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history. The newspaper advertised this book and I requested a copy from HCPL.

Summary: Mostly through pictures, Houston 175 relates the history of our fair city. This book boasts over 300 images from archives as well as the newspaper’s photographers and readership.

What I Liked : Houston 175 offers great images and some context to what life in H-Town is like today. When I can, I look forward to buying this book and letting my copy reside on my coffee table 🙂 . I especially liked the details on Hurricane Ike, the great storm overshadowed by stock market woes in 2008. Of course, I’m a bit biased since I’m a Houstonian.

What I Disliked : I wished for some more text. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words but just a little more explanation would’ve been awesome.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Archie Bell & The Drells – Tighten Up

Setting: Houston!

You might also like:

  •  Houston Heights (Images of America) by Anne Sloane
  • Historic Houston Streets by Mark Hinton
  • After Ike: Aerial Views from the No-Fly Zone (Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi) by Bryan Carlile
  • Houston Then and Now (Then & Now) by William Dylan Powell
For more on The Houston Chronicle’s Houston 175…, please check out the following links:

Joseph J. Ellis’ Founding Brothers

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis | LibraryThing

Ellis, J. J., & Runger, N. (2001). Founding brothers: The revolutionary generation. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books. 9781402505393

Reasons for Reading:  I found the book on the shelf at the HCPL branch where I work. Partially inspired by my girlhood crush on Thomas Jefferson (or was it Ken Howard playing Jefferson in 1776?), I checked out this audiobook. The first copy I borrowed had a scratch so I had to request another copy. The bottom line, though, I eventually got to read this book!

Summary: In shades of Paul Harvey “The Rest of the Story,” Ellis tells of the relationships between those the United States often refers to as the Founding Fathers – John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. Ellis pinpoints six different moments which exhibit these relationships in their truest form. These include:

Burr and Hamilton’s deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison’s secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton’s financial plan; Franklin’s petition to end the “peculiar institution” of slavery–his last public act–and Madison’s efforts to quash it; Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams’s difficult term as Washington’s successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson’s renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.   

– Joseph J. Ellis

Using these events, Ellis supports his claim that these men squabbled as though they were siblings.

What I Liked : Ellis excelled at filling in the blanks as he could. He rendered great portraits of these greats. I knew very little about Aaron Burr other than the “Got Milk?” commercial.

What I Disliked : I wasn’t crazy about the hopping around with the book. I wished Ellis had stayed closer to the original sequence of events.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪But Mr. Adams – 1776 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – YouTube

Setting: Thirteen Colonies, The USA

You might also like:

  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned by Kenneth C. Davis
  • Wolf By the Ears by Ann Rinaldi
For more on Joseph J. Ellis’ Founding brothers…, please check out the following links: