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Through a deft compilation of primary sources-letters, memoirs, and personal accounts from composers, performers, and librettists-Michael Rose re-creates for his readers the circumstances that gave rise to fifteen operatic masterpieces. From Monteverdi and Mozart to Puccini and Berg, each chapter makes one opera its focus and tells the story of how it was written. What emerges is a tightly woven narrative that takes the reader vividly to the inception of these works. Rather than retreading familiar ground with historical analysis and musical commentary, Rose produces an engaging script in which the individuals most closely concerned with each opera are seen to comment, debate, and compromise. In this way Rose offers his readers the most direct link to events that are otherwise beyond their reach, and he captures the often bizarre interactions of chance, genius, practical necessity, and dogged determination that heralded the creation of opera's most enduring and compelling masterpieces.