Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (ML 100-109)

Opera Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (ML 102)

Anderson, James. Dictionary of Opera, 3d ed.

Dahlhaus, Carl, ed. Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters,

Griffel, Margaret Ross. Operas in German: A Dictionary.

Holden, Amanda, ed., Nicholas Kenyon, and Stephen Walsh. The Penguin Opera Guide.

Martin, Nicholas Ivor. The Da Capo Opera Manual.

Parsons, Charles H. The Mellen Opera Reference Index. 21 Vols. To date.

Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters: Oper, Operette, Musical, Ballet.

Sadie, Stanley ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera.

Seeger, Horst. Opernlexikon.

Steiert, Thomas, comp. Knaurs Großer Opernführer.

Warrack, John and Ewan West, eds. Oxford Dictionary of Opera.

Anderson, James. Dictionary of Opera, 3d ed. Revised by Nick Kimberly. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 A6 1998

Use: Concise definitions and descriptions of opera related terms.

Coverage: Covers early baroque opera through contemporary opera. It includes information on details such as opera composers, characters, plot summaries, opera theaters, librettists and premiere dates.

Organization: The Dictionary of Opera is organized alphabetically. Includes two appendixes and a bibliography.

Pros: Information is easy to access. The information is current up to 1998 and is fairly extensive.


Dahlhaus, Carl, ed. Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters, 7 vols. Münich and Zürich: Piper, 1986-97. Mus Ref ML 102 .06 P5 1986

Uses: An Encyclopedia of Music Theater, includes Operas, Operettas, Musicals, and Ballets. Useful for general overviews and historical research.

Coverage: 1573-1986, extensive coverage of Operas, Operettas, Musicals and Ballets from European, American, Russian and Asian composers.

Organization: Main body consists of concise articles about each work including premiere location and date, background information, a synopsis, and commentary as well as naming the composer, choreographer and/or librettist. If a work is listed multiple times throughout the volumes (under composer or choreographer), a cross reference is included. Each volume contains a short listing of all works included, the articles, and a brief title index. Volume seven contains a comprehensive index for all titles, composers, choreographers, librettists, authors, critics, etc.

Pros: A major encyclopedia of Music Theater. Contains some illustrations, many of historical interest.

Cons: Information on composers and other artists is limited to birth and death dates and locations.


Griffel, Margaret Ross. Operas in German: A Dictionary. Advisory editor, Adrienne Fried Block. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. Mus Ref ML 102. 06 G75 1990

Use: Selective guide to operas either translated or originally in German. Gives summaries of the operas dating from 1627 – 1989. Useful to producers and performers of German opera.

Coverage: Mostly works of composers born in German-speaking countries (Some composers from other countries, but only their German works are included). Composition dates from 1627–1989.

Organization: Arranged alphabetically by opera title. Preface includes a brief history of German opera. Entries include brief summaries, first performance information, available scores, libretti, recordings, and bibliographies. Appendices include other operas not mentioned in the main part of the text; list of composers and librettists integrated alphabetically followed by their German works which the author included; authors of works adapted to or inspiring these operas and a list of the librettists’ sources. Bibliography included at the end of the volume.

Pros: Includes premier dates of the operas.

Cons: Entries do not list composer’s dates. 10 years outdated. Other works of the composers are not listed.

Reviews: Kirsch, Winfred. Fontes artis musicae XXXIX/3-4 (July-December 1992): 368; Lockhart, Koraljka. American Reference Books Annual XXIII (1992): 526-27; Morgan, Paula. Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association XLIX/1 (September 1992): 168-69; Ossenkop, David. Choice XXIX (April 1991): 1289.


Holden, Amanda, ed., Nicholas Kenyon, and Stephen Walsh. The Penguin Opera Guide. With preface by Sir Colin Davis. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc.,1996. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 V55 1996

Use: Concise information about opera composers, plots, dates, as well as information on opera related genres such as singspiels, musicals, semi-operas, and musical theater. Helpful from ingénue to intellectual professor.

Coverage: No criteria set for the operas chosen, other than according to their significance and prominence in the opera world.

Organization: Includes information on 150 articles about opera composers including biographical information, entries on important operatic works in order of their composition, as well as works without separate entries are listed with the premiere dates. Alphabetically organized by composer into sections designated by the letters of the alphabet. Each opera entry includes the title (in the original language and the English translation), the genre and duration, the librettist and source of libretto, as well as composition and premiere dates. The introduction to each work is followed by a synopsis of the opera, background of the opera, and a musical discussion. Operas are given space as merited. Includes an abbreviations guide, a glossary defining the technical terms used in the dictionary, a full biographical index of the contributors as well as an index of titles.

Pros: Index of titles gives original language as well as English translation. Musical discussions provide performance guidelines.

Cons: Not an extensive biography of composers. Opera synopsis are general; not a lot of detail.


Martin, Nicholas Ivor. The Da Capo Opera Manual. New York: Da Capo Press. 1997. Mus Ref ML102. p66 H38 1998

Use: Intended for the aid of opera professional or academics selecting works to produce and prepare for an actual production. Also intended for the opera-goer finding information about operas.

Coverage: This book is manual of all operas that the author thought were likely to be performed.

Organization: Each opera entry includes an introductory paragraph containing: Composer, date of birth and death, librettist, original language, source for the story, setting, type, structure, the premiere date and location, and any additional notes. The remainder of each entry describes the sets, acts, length, arias, hazards, scenes, roles, chorus parts, chorus roles, dance/movement, orchestra, stage band, publisher, and rights. The table of contents is organized alphabetically by title, and alphabetically by composer. There is a librettist index at the end of the book followed by a list of arias categorized by voice type, which is followed by a one-act opera index.

Pros: Extensive list of operas. Coverage of each opera is thorough but concise. Valuable and helpful indexes.


Parsons, Charles H. The Mellen Opera Reference Index. 21 Vols. To date. Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1986-95. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 P25 1986

Use: For study of specific topics in opera (see organization). Subject matter so diversified, uses may vary. A hands-on experience with this reference is suggested, in order to determine usefulness. A resource for progressive research of a given topic.

Coverage: Premieres, composers, compositions, performers with additional topics added regularly. Current topics to date:

Opera Composers and Their Works
Opera Librettists and Their Works
Premieres (Geographical)
Opera Subject (a general reference)
Discography: Composers
Discography: Performers
Premieres by Cast
Opera Bibliography (a general reference)
Opera Reviews and Reassessment
Printed Opera Scores (in American libraries)

Organization: Volumes per subject, organized as needed per volume, which may include geographical organization, alphabetical or subject oriented listings. (see coverage)

Pros: Extensive treatment on each subject, provides great insight into the topic.

Cons: Volumized topic format difficult to navigate (requires a great deal of introduction to structure of book and topics before they become useful). Previous volumes not updated/supplemented with current information.


Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters: Oper, Operette, Musical, Ballet. Edited by von Carl Dahlhaus and the Forschungsinstitut für Musiktheater der Universität Bayreuth under the direction of von Sieghart Döhring. München: Piper GmbH and Company, 1986. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 P5 1986

Use: Encyclopedia on opera, operetta, musical theater, and ballet. Useful for general information such as orchestration, characters, plot duration, etc.

Coverage: International, Attempts to discuss all characters, orchestrations, and librettos of opera, musical theater and ballet to the present.

Organization: Standard encyclopedia format. Each entry includes composer and dates, subdivided by titles. For each work, the title, description, author of text, date of first performance, major characters, orchestral description, and duration are cited. The plot is discussed in depth, followed by a general commentary. The overall effect of the work is also considered. Final volume is an integrated, comprehensive index by title, composer, librettist, and author.

Pros: Extensive coverage (six volumes). Photographs both colored and black and white of original sketches, representative characters, etc. Final volume is a comprehensive index.


Sadie, Stanley ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London: Macmillian Press, 1992. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 N5 1991

Use: A source of definitions of operatic terms, performance practices, prominent composers of opera and other related topics. (see coverage)

Coverage: Opera in the world. Composers, performers, operatic compositions, terms, formal developments and prominent people. Entries may include; operatic themes, people, places, incipits, woodcuts, facsimiles, and etc.

Organization: Typical dictionary format (alphabetical, by author, subject or title). No subject/author cross reference given. Three volumes.

Pros: Although none of the topics are treated to any specific length, each entry is very thorough. Historically up to date and fairly recent (1992). For greater derail, reference to primary sources is given.

Cons: Some topics saturated with bias (superlatives used regularly).


Seeger, Horst. Opernlexikon. Wilhelmshaven: Florian Noetzel Verlag Heinrichshofen Bucher, 1987. Mus Ref ML 102 .O6 S4 1987.

Use: A quick reference for performers and listeners for topics, composers, and songs associated with opera.

Coverage: The complete history of opera—the last few centuries, several languages, including Italian, German, French, and English. Includes bibliographical information about composers and descriptions of opera characters. Also includes titles of arias accompanied by their themes from operas (score excerpts).

Organization: Standard dictionary format. Written in German.

Cons: Articles quite brief.


Steiert, Thomas, comp. Knaurs Großer Opernführer. München: Knaur, 1999. Mus Ref ML 102 . O6 K52 1999

Use: Encyclopedia of opera composers and their operas. Find opera summaries, analyses, first performance data, and brief composer biographies.

Coverage: Contains European and American operas from the eighteenth century through printing date, 1999. It attempts to be comprehensive including both famous and less known operas and composers.

Organization: The book is arranged alphabetically composer. Each composer has a two to three paragraph biography. Under this is a chronological listing of his/her operas. Each opera entry lists the librettist, opening date and place, length, characters, story, and interpretation. The appendix has a glossary of musical terms and four indexes—People, Operas, Arias, and Characters.

Pros: Quick and easy reference tool for information on a composer or opera. The four indexes make specific data easily accessible.


Warrack, John and Ewan West, eds. Oxford Dictionary of Opera. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Mus Ref ML 102.06 W37 1992

Use: Musicians, teachers seeking information on opera related terminology.

Coverage: Dictionary provides brief descriptions for opera related terms (composers, works, places, events, keywords). The scope is broad, spanning ancient opera beginnings through to European opera tradition.

Organization: Terms are organized alphabetically word by word. Opera titles are generally given in their original language. Cross-references are included as well as a short bibliography intended for those seeking additional information. A good resource for general opera information as it covers a broad historical spectrum and includes concise information on each term. Intended to be a large umbrella of information. Other references may be more specific and detailed in nature, perhaps covering a smaller range of time in more detail.

Pros: A good place to begin research or find information on a general idea or topic.