Among the many introductions to opera, this is perhaps the best. J. Merrill Knapp, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, divides his subject into two parts: In the first, he discusses the structure, production, theatrical conventions, and esthetics of opera; in the second, he features biographies of the major composers and cogent analyses of exemplary qualities in their works. “Opera should have a wide appeal,” says Knapp in his Preface. “In the past too many sensible people have associated it with diamond tiaras, exclusive theater boxes, opening night social snobbery, and haughty prima donnas. For more understanding and knowledge are needed to get rid of these past impressions and to prove that opera is both within the comprehension of the ordinary person and worthy of high aspiration and serious study.” This book will open ears and change minds. It is the ideal foundation for anyone curious about-or already in love with-the magical world of opera.