Self-indulgent ramblings that reveal more about the author than about her putative subject. Relentless pop-psych memoirist Chernin (A Different Kind of Listening, 1995, etc.) opens, fittingly enough, with a blow-by-blow account of her state of mind on Feb. 24, 1991, when she attended a concert at Berkeley given by a then-unknown 25-year-old Italian mezzo soprano. Chernin's devotees may be impressed with her vapid meandering (``I have taught myself not to expect too much from life, except where music is concerned''); those who picked up the book under the impression it was about Bartoli may feel some impatience. Breathless descriptions of Chernin's rapturous response to that and subsequent performances add nothing to our understanding of the singer best known for championing the neglected 18th-century repertoire and for zesty comic turns in Mozart and Rossini operas. An unintentionally hilarious chapter about a 1993 Chernin/Bartoli interview shows the artist politely answering questions on the order of ``Do you have a sense of carrying a sacred message?,'' while the author favors us with such portentous comments as ``With these words Cecilia Bartoli has taken on a strangely ageless quality.'' Coauthor Stendhal, identified only as Chernin's ``usual companion,'' provides some relief with a 70-page performance guide free from the bloated adjectives and trite theorizing of the previous 138 pages; her detailed, often shrewd analyses concentrate on what Bartoli actually did rather than her own reactions to it. But the book's overall tone is Chernin's. Anyone who believes with her that divas are intermediaries between the gods and the rest of us, or that opera inducts us into ``the secret emotional life of women'' (never mind that most of it was written by men) had better hope that these ideas find a more persuasive proponent next time around.