Leoncavallo: Life and Works.
Scarecrow Press, 384 pages, $75
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857–1919) led a life so picaresque—some would come right out and say “self-destructive”—that his failure to attract previous biographers in any language seems well-nigh incredible. It can be explained solely, and tentatively, by the dreadful inferiority complex under which Italian musicology labored until very recent times, compared with its Austro-German or British equivalents. That complex, in turn, doubtless derives from the fact that Italian musicology originated during Mussolini’s government, which, as every self-respecting liberal knows, was among the most satanic non-German regimes that has ever arisen. (Quite unlike the splendid chaps now prevailing in Hanoi, Havana, and Pyongyang.) Yet much in Leoncavallo’s existence would challenge historians from even the most intellectually...