Do you wanna dance, under the moonlight, kiss me kiss me, all through the night, oh baby, do you wanna dance? Le Nozze de Figaro, Act IV
David Cairns was music critic of the London Daily Telegraph and founded the Chelsea Opera in 1950 with the sole purpose of giving himself the opportunity to sing Leporello in an amateur production of Don Giovanni
Those two factlets tell you everything you need to know about this book - it combines a British urbanity and considerable erudition and insight with a tireless commitment to self-indulgence and a rarefied hedonism. This is not as maladroit a recipe for an engaging read as you might suppose.
Does the world need another book about Mozart? Cairns asks in his introduction. Probably not, he cheerfully admits, but he plans to write one anyway. He loves these operas so much, he tells us, he feels compelled to share the love. Well, if you have an obliging publisher, why not?
So he takes us lovingly through a detailed analysis of the historical context and musical structure of Mozart's legendary works - Idomeneo, the three Da Ponte operas, Zauberflote and La Clemenza di Tito. This harmonious sextet is topped and tailed by a preliminary recitative covering Mozart's early life and operas and a coda that briefly charts the well-known story of his final days.
If you love the operas, as Cairns does, you'll enjoy the book, and the love. Unnecessary books are sometimes just a delicious treat. Not unlike dancing in the moonlight...