SKELETONS FROM THE OPERA CLOSET: AN IRREVERANT APPRECIATION by David Groover and C. C. Conner (A Thomas Dunne Book/St. Martin's: $15.95; 243 pp., illustrated). The hard-core opera enthusiasts should always be encouraged. They are the Keepers of the Flame, those who by knowledge, experience and instinct can lead the Civilians in an audience to an understanding of what they are hearing or seeing. David Groover and C. C. Conner, the authors of this book, would seem to be among the former.
Unfortunately, they have put together a nondescript grab bag of thrice told anecdotes, overly familiar quotations from critics and composers, a dreary recap of Geraldine Farrar's movie career, a tasteless bit about Berlioz in drag, even a meaningless chapter on astrology.
Little thought seems to have been given to organization. In a potentially fun section on operatic disasters, composers such as Cilea are cheek-to-jowl with Kirchner, Verdi with Sessions. The best chapter in the book is one on operas worthy of revival, which is both witty and, always depending on one's individual tastes, generally wise.
Even the typos reflect the general sloppiness of this endeavor. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Helga Dernesch and the conductor Eve Queler have their names misspelled. The operatic characters Eleazar ("La Juive") and Giorgetta ("Il Tabarro") endure the same fate, although the latter also is spelled correctly in the same paragraph. Verb tenses suffer--"build" for "built," "choose" for "chose." Where was the proofreader, if not the editor?