by Ethan Mordden
Oxford; 267 pages; $16.95
Every opera fan knows how high Tosca bounced, when the next swan left and what Maria Callas thought of Renata Tebaldi; disasters, bons mots and bitchy remarks seem integral to the art. Ethan Mordden, who knows his way around backstage (Demented: The World of the Opera Diva; The Splendid Art of Opera), has gleefully amassed hundreds of such anecdotes, exchanges and choice bits of opera lore, along with some less celebrated stories. "Yet there is history here," he says, "for if many of the tales are silly, many others are telling."