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Opera cookbooks

I promise they do feed me at Cambridge! My current focus on food is not indicative of chronic hunger.

Now that I’ve made that disclaimer, I thought I’d continue the theme by rounding up opera-related cookbooks. I’ve already pointed out that food plays a rather large role in operas, and it also seems to play an important role in singers’ lives. As a result, there are quite a few opera cookbooks out there, some of which are collections of singers’ favorite recipes, and some of which collect recipes and suggest menus related to particular operas.

The Metropolitan Opera Cookbook (available here) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a collection of recipes by or in honor of stars at the Met. According to the product description, it is “a cookbook containing 150 recipes from the stars, chorus and orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera. It includes favourite recipes from such stars as Luciano Pavarotti and Brigit Nilsson, recipes handed down from greats of the past and dishes created in honour of people such as Nellie Melba. The recipes are accompanied by brief biographies of the stars and photographs of them cooking at home.”

The Bel Canto Cookbook for All Opera Lovers and Gourmets (available here) is a bit of a mystery. It’s obviously an opera-themed cookbook, but I’ve never seen a copy, and all the internet could tell me was that it is a collection of “favorite recipes and ‘intimate glimpses’ of the stars of Grand Opera” with an introduction by Francis Robinson, who was assistant manager of the Metropolitan Opera at the time of publication (1964). Do any readers own this cookbook? Can you possibly provide more information?

The Opera Lover’s Cookbook (available here) is a collection of opera-themed menus and recipes. Some focus on particular operas, while others are based more generally on composers or regions. “Each chapter of Opera Lover’s Cookbook presents a culinary performance—an elegant five-course dinner, a brunch, a dessert party—scored to a particular operatic motif or keyed to the work of a renowned composer. Operas set in Spain—Carmen, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni—are the exotic backdrop for a tapas fiesta. The far-flung locales of Puccini’s La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, and Turandot inspire an eclectic international buffet. A rustic Italian dinner is orchestrated to the strains of Verdi’s Traviata. And Gilbert and Sullivan, of course, provide the overture for an English-style pub supper. Sumptuously illustrated with photographs of featured dishes and lavish productions mounted by New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company, Opera Lover’s Cookbook also dispenses advice on home entertaining and on setting the scene with stunning table decor. Its more than 125 recipes include appetizers and hors d’oeuvres; soup, salad, fish, and pasta courses; main dishes; sweets; and thematic aperitif, cocktail, and after-dinner drinks.” This is the only book on the list that I own. While I can’t comment on the recipes (I received the book as a gift before hopping across an ocean for grad school—not the most conducive to transportation of books or to cooking), I can attest that the menus are very alluring, and that the photos of both food and the related operas are a visual feast!

Dining and the Opera in Manhattan (available here) differs from the other books on this list in that it is a combination book-and-CD set. The arias on the CD are older recordings by famous artists of the past (Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, and Placido Domingo, among others), which should make for pleasant, nostalgia-filled listening. However, as a a reviewer wryly notes, most “selections have little or nothing to do with food and beverages–or their consumption”. The theme of the collection seems to be location rather than the operas themselves: the recipes are from Manhattan restaurants, and the arias are from performances at the Met.

Die Oper Kocht (available here in German, with an English translation supposedly in the Met Opera Shop but currently out of stock) features recipes by “64 top opera stars from 24 countries”, including Joyce DiDonato, Luca Pisaroni,  Anna Netrebko, Elīna Garanča, and Thomas Hampson. The Amazon blurb brags about the book’s 600+ photos and “humorous cooking portraits”. Joyce’s signature cinnamon rolls (much-discussed online) are in this book.

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