As Verdi himself stands at the pinnacle of composers of Romance-language operas, so this biography -- fruit of 15 years of research -- must be regarded as a peak of scholarship. With scrupulous care the late Frank Walker leads us through the mountainous maze of material: letters to and from Verdi and everyone with whom it can be suspected that he was associated throughout his long lifetime; school records, legal documents, theatre programs, diaries, magazines, newspapers. The countless mistakes, confusions, and fabrications of previous scribes makes him testy at times (So-and-so ""never got anything right!""), but he patiently unravels them all and set the record straight. Margherita Barezzi, Verdi's first wife, comes to have some rightful character. The many impresarios, maestri, performers and librettists with whom Verdi worked and contended are sorted out,- friends, rivals, and enemies. Patrons, mentors, admirers, and supplicants are all put into perspective. The composer's political inclinations and activities, and his interest in his farm, are studied in relation to his total character. But the most delightful and exciting thing is the emergence of the personality of Giuseppina Strepponi, Verdi's second wife and kindred spirit. Her youth, the full story of her career, and the early phases of her relationship to the artist have never been so thoroughly explored. Simply to be read for pleasure, the book can hold its own exceeding well; as a reference it is unexcelled. Just as it has always been difficult to imagine an opera season without Aida, so in future it will be impossible to consider complete the library of any serious opera buff lacking a copy of Walker, once word is out.