Verdi and/or Wagner, By Peter Conrad

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The Ring or Rigoletto? Tristan or Traviata? In their joint bicentenary year, can one - asks Peter Conrad - truly love both operatic birthday boys?

His book on their chalk-and-cheese qualities feels more like a coloratura aria - full of virtuoso runs - than a solid recitative for pure beginners.

Still, all his readers will enjoy this antiphonal account of Wagner and Verdi's parallel evolution as rival standard-bearers for Romantic musical nationalism. Conrad does a fine job of sharing his love, but hints that we must choose.