“Most music lovers are apt to know Mr. Kerman’s work primarily from his incendiary first book, Opera as Drama, published in 1956. Drawing on essays he had written in the late 1940s for the Hudson Review, the book proposed a simple yet radical view of opera: that it is the composer whose vision above all shapes the dramatic essence of a work.
“Mr. Kerman elaborated this theory in a series of cogent and often brilliant analyses of individual operas, which prefigured some of the repertoire – especially the operas of Verdi – on which he would later turn a scholarly eye…
“He was impatient with Wagner, unaware of Handel, condescending to the young Britten, and sneeringly dismissive of Puccini and Richard Strauss. In what was surely the most frequently quoted phrase he ever penned, he waved away Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ as ‘that shabby little shocker,’ and he predicted – confidently and erroneously – that ‘works like Turandot and Salome will fade from the operatic scene.'”
Joseph Kerman, musicologist, critic, cultural shaper, dies (Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle)