Verdi has recently been the deserving object of fresh critical attention--but the ten essays here are a strange, unfocused, motley lot that offer neither cumulative balance and breadth nor individual brilliance. The editors offer only a three-page preface, and then we're plunged into sharply angled, idiosyncratic pieces that never allow a straightforward, full-bodied Verdi to surface. Best are Isaiah Berlin on Verdi as ""the last of the great naive masters""--a highly allusive, cross-cultural thesis--and Julian Budden's ""Verdi and the Contemporary Italian Operatic Scene,"" which pretty much duplicates material also available in Budden's own brilliant Verdi volumes. And George Martin's ""Verdi and the Risorgimento"" is solid historical background, while co-editor Weaver does an engaging dip into ""Aspects of Verdi's Dramaturgy."" But the rest! Pallid closeups on trivia (Verdi in Milan, Verdi's business deals), Weaver's shamefully perfunctory glance at Verdi's librettists (program filler), co-editor Chusid's stitchings of Verdi's own words. . . and some imported close-textual-analysis that's either hilariously bad or hilariously badly translated--or both: ""I will not hesitate to speak of macrostructures and microstrnctures without fear of being dubbed 'sophisticated.' "" A bibliography (by Andrew Porter) and some appendices may be useful to all Verdi lovers, but only buffs will know how to appreciate the oblique charms here and ignore the rest. Verdi deserves better--and he's gotten it, from Budden and from Porter, whose Music of Three Seasons (1978) contains far more vital writing on Verdi than you'll find in this weak hodgepodge.