As even the perfect Wagnerite knows, it's not easy to tell a compelling story while providing great music, and atmosphere prevails over mystery-mongering in most of these 15 stories (194793) chosen by Manson and Halligan (Murder Intercontinental, 1996). Six involve the opera, but except for James Yaffe's sprightly armchair matriarch (``Mom Sings an Aria''), the stories are more successful when they get down and dirty (Doug Allyn's ``The Sultans of Soul'' and John Lutz's ``The Right to Sing the Blues'') or hit the road (Lynne Barrett's droll trio of Elvis impersonators). For sheer ingenuity, Lillian de la Torre's ``The Viotti Stradivarius,'' a Dr. Sam Johnson adventure from 1950 (1783, says Boswell) wins in a walk. The supporting cast--Agatha Christie, Linda Haldeman, Seymour Shubin, Cornell Woolrich, L.A. Taylor, George Baxt, Michael Underwood, Edward D. Hoch, Charlotte Hinger, William Bankier--provides a whole spectrum of emotional highs and lows, but no other standouts. Unlike a recording of opera excerpts, this collection doesn't provide enough highlights from artists who've mostly done their far better work elsewhere.