If I have a story to tell, it is above all because I began my musical life as a hearty despiser of opera."" Surprising words from Bogs Goldovsky--known as ""Mr. Opera"" for his lectures and his spearheading of the modern approach to opera staging. And, oddly enough, this ornately anecdotal memoir--perhaps because it only goes up to 1950--is less for opera fans than for music lovers in general. Son of Russian-Jewish violinist Lea Luboshutz (""Lubo""), Boris grew up before the Revolution in a musical mâ€šnage, tried the violin (""I was what one of my German teachers was later to term an 'antitalent'""), but soon found a niche as a lukewarm piano prodigy, mostly accompanying mother Lubo--a nervous type who'd go blank and just jump to another movement. When the Goldovskys Filtered into Berlin in 1921, however, Boris had poor luck with teachers--too lax or too dominating (the austere Artur Schnabel)--and in N.Y. his talent was dismissed by rude virtuoso Josef Hoffman (""Private Enemy Number One""). But a savior appeared there too: Hungarian composer Ernst Dohnnyi (""He was music incarnate""), who agreed to teach Boris if he came to Budapest; and soon Boris was steered into conducting--with advanced studies at the hated Hoffman's Curtis Institute, but under the great Fritz Reiner, who said: ""Until you've conducted opera, you don't know whit conducting really is."" Forced to master the opera repertoire, Boris overcame his prejudice, began coaching, and conducting, and--inspired by the innovations of Ernst Lert--was off on his crusade to present opera as ""living, uninterrupted theater"" free of ""statuesque idleness"" or ""mincing danciness."" And so from Cleveiand to do-it-yourself Tanglewood, where the New England Opera Theatre was born despite the skepticism of beloved, erratic Serge Koussevitzky. Some of his stories will be familiar to radio listeners, but fresh or not, Goldovsky's recollections make a bright scherzo movement--full of â€šmigrâ€š nostalgia, hilarious foul-ups, irate wisdom, family tensions (like his singer-wife's mother-in-law problems), and a handful of very great music men seen without halos.