This book combines meticulous scholarship with a lightness of touch that will delight the opera-goer. The fascinating illustrations bring an amusing dimension showing how opera has been staged from its beginnings to modern 'deconstructed' productions. The operas are listed in alphabetical order. In addition to a full synopsis of every plot, there is a cast list and a note of the singers in the original production, as well as information about the origins of the work and its literary and social background. Each contribution concludes with a brief comment on its place in operatic history. There is also a listing by composer, a glossary and indexes of the names of operatic characters and the first lines of arias; so if you are not sure which opera Gilda or Agathe, sings in, or are apt to confuse Vespina with Despina, your problem is quickly solved.