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This is the kind of book that most times out of ten will only be written by someone who isn’t dependent on a commissioning fee. Here we’re all the richer for the fact that retired academic lawyer Anthony Ogus was able to put to use his leisure-time opera-going during vacations and long weekends stretching back to the 1960s.

The academic acumen must have helped Ogus in the remarkable achievement of distilling those years into just 177 pages. The number of individual opera house visits described is mind-boggling (all told there have been 1,350- plus). The art and pleasure of operamania is examined from any number of angles – from logistics such as planning itineraries and acquiring unacquirable tickets to memories of particular performers and productions. Especially engaging is Ogus’s interest in opera in out-of-the-way places. And of course no such travelogue would be complete without tales of ‘calamities’ witnessed, from malfunctioning stage machinery to open-air opera cloudbursts.

Along the way we get a feel for how opera has changed during Ogus’s years of travel – whether seen via his early trips behind the iron curtain, accounts of the development of enthusiasm for period opera, or his consideration of the benefits of surtitling. I much enjoyed the grumpiness that comes across in the regular harrurmphs at cancelled performances, poor sightlines and the like. Ogus is evidently the kind to write to the management when displeased. (And, as we read, it often pays to complain.)

Having said all this, I found this ultimately more a ramble through Ogus’s operatic adventures than a sparkling and witty guided tour. Fellow operamaniacs with similar stories to tell will doubtless lap up Travels With My Opera Glasses – no qualms there. But the careworn critic in me begged for a shade more out-and-out entertainment and perhaps a thinning of the often dense undergrowth so that the best material really stood out.

ANDREW GREEN Read the full review on Agora Classica


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