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The many muses of Amadeus

Is the key to Mozart's splendidly drawn female characters to be found in his life story?

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The year 2006, the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of Mozart's birth, has unsurprisingly yielded a plethora of new Mozart biographies. Yet as far as I know, no one besides the British conductor Jane Glover has devoted an entire book to the women, "who inspired, fascinated, supported, amused, aroused and sometimes hurt Mozart throughout his life."

In Mozart's Women, Glover argues that since Mozart created some of the most "vividly drawn and brilliantly understood" women ever to grace the opera stage, all of his female family members and acquaintances bear closer scrutiny. Glover is a tremendously enthused author, whose love of Mozart's music - especially opera - makes her writing quite pleasurable, if often a bit gushy.

A well-respected conductor of 18th-century music, Ms. Glover writes perceptively and knowledgeably about the theatrical genius of Mozart's operas ("The Magic Flute," "The Marriage of Figaro," "Don Giovanni," "The Abduction from the Seraglio," "Così Fan Tutte," etc.) and her expertise contributes significantly to the pleasures afforded by this volume. Those who know and love these glorious works will delight in Glover's long and excellent essay, the eponymous "Mozart's Women," placed at the heart of the book.

And then there's the story of Mozart's life. Surrounded by a stellar array of famous musicians, royalty, friends, and a devoted wife, Mozart spent his childhood as a prodigy in a rather enclosed sibling world of games, secrets, and shared musicmaking with his older sister and best friend, Nannerl.

The two were schooled entirely at home and on tour by their irascible, bullying father Leopold. Throughout their prodigious childhood, they were very close both as friends and as chamber musicians, playing Wolfgang's piano duets on one keyboard.

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