Great Opera Reads

Hoping to squeeze in one more great read before the summer is over? The staff of OTSL are here to help! In honor of National Book Lover's Day, we decided to share some of our favorite books about opera. Whether you're looking for a page-turning thriller, a moving memoir, or something in between, we've got you covered!



Bel Canto by Ann Patchett | Amazon | Library

One of my favorite opera-related books is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It tells the story of a fictional hostage situation (very loosely based on events from 1996 in Peru), during which one of those captured is a world renowned soprano. Not only is it a thrilling, fast read, but it speaks to the power music has to communicate, even when languages and other communication fail. The book was actually turned into an opera, which premiered at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2015.

– Michelle Myers, Associate Director for Strategy & Organizational Development



The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer by Renée Fleming | Amazon | Library

This honest and touching account of her journey to stardom is inspiring and a must-read for any aspiring singer. For any reader, it's a compelling insight into the lives of artists who face a myriad of pressures and challenges on and off the stage.

– Andrew Jorgensen, General Director



Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music and Family by Daniel Bergner | Amazon | Library

A New York Times bestseller, this book is about renowned opera singer Ryan Speedo Green, who experienced music as a way out of a troubled life in southeast Virginia. Not only is it a well-written book with a compelling and inspiring true story — it has a happy ending! It's my dream to have Ryan Speedo Green come to OTSL as a visiting artist for our Monsanto Artists-in-Training students.

– Allison Felter, Director of Education & Community Engagement



Amadeus by Peter Shaffer | Amazon

My favorite opera book isn’t exactly a book, but rather the script of the play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. I became an avid reader of plays in high school and first read Amadeus freshman year. I knew very little about opera at the time, but I was captivated by how richly Shaffer drew his characters (relying only on dialogue), by the profound questions the play asked about our relationship to faith and good works, and by the beauty with which it described the power of music. I would learn quickly how much of the play was entirely fictionalized (much like another of my favorite plays, also by Shaffer, The Royal Hunt of the Sun), but I was hooked — and Salieri’s powerful monologue that ends the first act of the play helped me win a few high school forensics competitions along the way. Thanks to the limited knowledge of Mozart I gained from Amadeus, I got involved with my first opera in college, a production of Don Giovanni. And the rest, I guess you could say, is history. Even if you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, I heartily recommend reading the play. The language of film and the language of theatre are wildly different, and while each stands on their own, the play itself is a masterpiece – and an extremely fast read. It won’t take you more than two hours to read it cover to cover.

– Joe Gfaller, Director of Marketing & Public Relations



5,000 Nights at the Opera by Sir Rudolf Bing | Amazon

My favorite opera book of all time is Sir Rudolf Bing's memoir. Sir Rudolf, the famous general manager of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, guided the Met through extraordinary challenges and led the way to many beautiful triumphs.

– Andrew Jorgensen, General Director



The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee | Amazon | Library

This opera-inspired novel is the perfect summer read! A young American girl loses her entire family to illness and sails across the ocean to make a new life for herself in Paris. Over the course of the next few years, she works as a circus rider, a courtesan, and the Empress’s maid; ultimately, she becomes one of Paris’s most famous and desired sopranos. However, she rarely speaks…and she has an ominous premonition about a world premiere that is being created for her. Set against the lush backdrop of the Second Empire, this book is surreal, magical, romantic, and haunting by turns.

– Anh Le, Assistant Director of Marketing



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