David Cairns weaves a brilliantly engaging narrative which puts Mozart's operas in the context of his life, showing how they illuminate his creativity as a whole. Mozart's unusual childhood as a musical prodigy touring Europe as a performer from an early age is well known. But even more remarkable is that the genius grew up, surviving his unnatural early years and producing works of increasing maturity and originality. Using the operas as his guide, Cairns traces the steady deepening of Mozart's musical style from his beginnings as a child prodigy, through his coming of age with what Cairns sees as the most Romantic and forward-looking of all Mozart's operas, Idomeneo, the later genius displayed in the three comic operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, and in The Magic Flute, the final and greatest triumph of his career.
David Cairns has been chief music critic of the Sunday Times and music critic and arts editor of the Spectator. He has also written for the Evening Standard, the Financial Times and the New Statesman. He has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, a visiting scholar at the Getty Center in Santa Monica, and a visiting fellow of Merton College, Oxford. His two-volume biography of Berlioz won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year and the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize.