Elke Heidenreich writes about music – opera, the figures on the stage and their passionate entanglements – but this book is not just about music. Most of all it is about what it is to be a passionate listener. "Opera, like literature, deals almost exclusively with love and death. Opera is also concerned with nature, youth and age, political conflict, travelling, and mythological subjects – but the enduring motifs, the themes that have outlived all the others over the centuries are these two: love and death," said Elke Heidenreich in her opening address at the 2008 Salzburg Festival. And it is with this in mind that the passionate listener discusses this art form: music is something that concerns us all, touching us at our deepest emotional core. Heidenreich has often written about music in her familiar, easy-going manner, combining lucidity and fervour in equal measure; far from expressing dry theory, her sole aim is to communicate her enthusiasm to the readers, to win them over, attracting future listeners and audiences to the great works, the great operas. "We need to fully comprehend, once again, the gift of art, of music, in all its incalculable value, for it is the one thing that remains when all comfort is gone and the last door has opened, whether it be in the case of Don Giovanni, Jedermann, or in our own lives. It will provide comfort, solace and support whatever life has in store for us." Rarely has this truth been expressed more forcefully and entertainingly than by Elke Heidenreich.