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Comparisons of books of a similar subject


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#31 dirac

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 10:46 AM

I thought this would be a very fun topic. Nowadays it seems as if multiple biographies of the same people come out every year. Also, new translations of classics, etc. So I thought I'd start this off by comparing biographies of one of my favorite topics, the Tudors.

Just about the six wives of Henry, we have tomes by Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, and David Starkey. I think Starkey's book goes more in depth than the other two, reprinting in whole letters and documents. Cardinal Wolsey and Catherine's servants get much attention. It is also longer than the other two books. However, Starkey seems very full of himself (read the introduction), and his conclusions are IMO somewhat dubious. I think the best overall book is Antonia Fraser's. It's the most well-written and insightful, and has the right amount of scholarly research but isn't overloaded.
But the best book about Henry's wives is IMO Eric Ives' "Life and Death of Anne Boleyn."

Any others?


There are so many Tudor biographies out there! There's a good older bio of Mary I, H.M.F. Prescott's "Mary Tudor" aka "The Spanish Tudor," a very sympathetic account.

#32 bart

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 10:54 AM

Ray, thanks for those impressions of Sills.

So to me, it's interesting to read both books. Which is the "real" person??? I think BOTH of them are.

I'm sure you are correct.

I know plenty of people who are strivers and achievers, as Sills seems to be in the second book, but WITHOUT the generosity and warmth (in private as well as public) which you describe and which come across in the first book. I haven't read either book, but have the feeling that the second book would deepen her character rather than subvert her image.

#33 dirac

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 12:57 PM

Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.

#34 richard53dog

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 01:02 PM

Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.



No she didn't. It's really the kind of tell-all book written by someone OTHER than the subject.
It always surprised me a bit that Sills was willing to present such an unflattering side of herself for public consumption. But perhaps in her own mind it really wasn't unflattering... Denial is an amazing thing!


When I wrote of my positive memories of Sills as a personality and particularly her patience with sometimes unthinking fans, I forgot to mention an episode I shudder to remember. In this case, following a 1971 recital, the dense, thoughtless, obtuse fan was none other than myself. Sills had sung an impossibly difficult program; arias from Mignon, Rodelinda, Zaide, Louise, the mad scene from Thomas' Hamlet, Zerbinetta's aria from Ariadne as well as a song cycle by Milhaud and assorted Schumann songs. And that was before the encores. Backstage I asked her what the highest notes she had sung in some of the pieces were.

It went something like this: me ....."What was the top note in the Zerbinetta aria" Sills....."E-natural". Me..."Oh, you didn't sing a High F-sharp?".
Me...."what was the top note in Je Suis Titania?" . Sills "High e-flat" . Me "Oh, that's all???. I thought you would sing something higher"

She was basically polite and gracious through this exchange. I am so embarrassed to remember it!!!!!!!!!!! Teenagers can be hopeless!

#35 dirac

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:34 PM

That's a cute story, richard53dog, thanks. :clapping:

#36 canbelto

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 12:05 PM

Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.


I would recommend that fans of Beverly Sills NOT read the book. It really does show her as very bitter, not a kind word to say about anyone. You wonder why the editor never told her to tone it down a bit.

#37 Ed Waffle

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Posted 02 May 2010 - 08:29 PM

richard53dog wrote:

It went something like this: me ....."What was the top note in the Zerbinetta aria" Sills....."E-natural". Me..."Oh, you didn't sing a High F-sharp?".
Me...."what was the top note in Je Suis Titania?" . Sills "High e-flat" . Me "Oh, that's all???. I thought you would sing something higher"

She was basically polite and gracious through this exchange. I am so embarrassed to remember it!!!!!!!!!!! Teenagers can be hopeless!


Amazing what we will say under some circumstances--I have a had a few of those "don't want to remember it" encounters backstage. Looking back it is amazing that singers can be so gracious when dealing with some of their fans right after finishing a performance. Thanks goodness I learned the best thing to say (or at least to start with) is along the lines of

"We loved you in (the performance just completed) and with thought you were wonderful in (a relatively recent past performance) and hope to be able to see your (future performance).


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