One gets the feeling that Osborne, who has written so eloquently and lovingly about Verdi, never quite lost his heart to Richard Wagner--and that's a decided plus for this lively, compact biography in the "". . . and his World"" series. While he responds strongly to Wagner's music, Osborne's non-Wagnerite stance means that there are no whitewashings of Wagner's anti-Semitism, no excuses for Wagner's ""elephantiasis of the imagination,"" and no swoons over Wagner's ""literary (sic) style."" In swift, informal strokes, the labyrinthine peccadilloes and attachments (Liszt, Cosima, Ludwig), the shifts of philosophical ground (Schopenbauer, Nietzsche), and the creative march to Bayreuth--all are brought together and studded with Osborne's literate cross-referencings and accessible musical analyses. The illustrations--of people, operas, manuscripts, letters, designs, and more-are splendid and splendidly arranged to reinforce the text. (Chilling photos of Hitler with Wagner heirs point up Osborne's uncompromising attitude towards the author of ""Jewishness in Music."") But Osborne's precis, like the others in this series, is more than something to go with pictures: a distinctive voice successfully tackling a much-sung stack of scores.