Although the material in this useful new volume is culled from the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, there is no sense of dry, academic detachment. The "Interpreters" section, for example, concentrates on singers and conductors who created the canonical operas, and the juxtapositions of repertory are fascinating.
Arnold Whittal contributes a trenchant, clear, and concise discussion of leitmotif, yet he still manages to make an important connection to Stockhausen and Schoenberg. Many readers will first be drawn to the excellent synopses of the operas (including the early, unfamiliar works). In many cases, such as Barry Millington's nine-page guide to Tristan und Isolde, it is difficult to imagine how this could be better handled.
The book includes a glossary, an index to names of roles, and a few musical examples. Readers will want much more discussion of the performance histories of the works--a crucial issue with regard to Wagner--but will not otherwise be disappointed. The series also includes volumes on Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi. --William R. Braun