This can be approached as a picture book about an art whose appeal is primarily to the ear, an effort to preserve some part of the visual impact of great opera productions as phonograph records preserve the sounds. But that aspect, though relevant, is only a part of what it undertakes to do; the pictures are outweighed by the text, which attempts to outline for laymen the varied challenges that opera presents to the people responsible for staging it: producers, set and costume designers, lighting techniccians. The artistic and technical roles of these participants in the operatic process have under-gone transformations in our time for more striking than those of the people responsible for the music, and this volume's effort to convey, in words and pictures, how they have approach their assignments, is praiseworthy. It is not, howere, entirely successful. Some of Europe's leaders in the field have contributed, but their articles are largely subjective, not very well coordinated with one another and often clearly produced by people whose primary orientation is not verbal. In the effort to produce a volume that will have both technical interest and an appeal to the general reader, the text seems to fall somewhere between. The pictures are often striking any may justify the cost of the book for affluent opera-lovers, btu their scope is limited - necessarily, considering the vast field to be covered. Only 11 operas are discussed in any detail, and the discussion is centered primarily on European productions of these operas during the last ten years. These limitations exclude from consideration the notable foreign productions that have been seen in Washington in recent years (for example, the La Scala La Boheme, the Berlian Cosi fan Tuttle, the Bolshoi Boris) and, except for passing references,no AMerican productions are mentioned. (Morrow, $52.95).