This biography of Verdi covers the basic facts of the composer's life with a concern for his personality, close relationships, and magnificent gifts to the world. While it is easily readable, it is somewhat lacklustre in its sometimes sentimemtal simplicity. One does get a sense of the moody individual whose ""great laugh"" ripened with the years- who stuck to his artistic guns as he rehearsed his prima donnas or collaborated with Boito. There is a cast of characters important to Verdi -- from his helpful parents to the young wife and children he lost to the suitable and delightful Giuseppina Strepponi; from the La Scala manager Merelli to the librettist Boito and to all the people who revered his greatness. The history of his output is here too, from the not-so-successful beginnings through the final burst of greatness in Otello and Falstaff. Verdi's own admiration of such men as Manzoni, for whom he wrote the Requiem, for Shakespeare, as evidenced in his fascination with the plays, and others is a pleasant trait; his reactions to the French, to Russia, to politics all have a part in this picture of the giant of opera.