FRED PLOTKIN is one of America’s foremost experts on opera and has distinguished himself in many fields as a writer, speaker, consultant and as a compelling teacher. He is an expert on everything Italian, the person other so-called Italy experts turn to for definitive information. Fred discovered the concept of "The Renaissance Man" as a small child and has devoted himself to pursuing that ideal as the central role of his life. In a “Public Lives” profile in The New York Times on August 30, 2002, Plotkin was described as "one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy." In the same publication, on May 11, 2006, it was written that "Fred is a New Yorker, but has the soul of an Italian."
He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he had a double major in Italian Renaissance history and theater and opera production (as a student of Gilbert Helmsley). Fred studied at the DAMS conservatory (Italy’s Juilliard) of the University of Bologna and later, as a Fulbright Scholar, at the University of Pavia, which included work at La Scala. Fred has worked in opera since 1972, doing everything but singing. This includes management, production, design, coaching, consulting and broadcasting. He directed opera at La Scala and later was the performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera for five years. He has worked for some of the great opera companies of the world and collaborated with many top stars. He was a site inspector for the National Endowment for the Arts, bringing his managerial expertise to more than 20 US opera companies.
Fred is a popular presence on the intermission features of the Metropolitan Opera international radio broadcasts. He teaches a series at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò of NYU called “Adventures in Italian Opera” which has a big following. Many great singers and conductors have been his guests for those evenings. His seminars at the Metropolitan Opera Guild are always sold out and he has lectured about opera for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BAM, the Smithsonian, the Morgan Library, the Los Angeles Opera, the Wagner Society of Southern California, the Salzburg Festival and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He is a popular pre-concert lecturer for the New York Philharmonic and has also spoken for other important orchestras in the USA and Europe. Plotkin leads opera/food trips in Italy, Austria, France and New York. He has recorded audio books and done narration in concert programs, most recently Ogden Nash’s poems inspired by Saint-Saëns’s “Carnival of the Animals.”
His book, Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera is the best-selling standard text in America on the art form. Classical Music 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Classical Music is well-respected in the USA and has had important editions in the UK and China. Fred has written program notes and articles for the Metropolitan, Chicago Lyric, Los Angeles and Cincinnati opera companies, Carnegie Hall, The Atlantic, Playbill, Stagebill, Opera News, Das Opernglas, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph.
He has a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, where he specialized in broadcasting and arts reporting. He has appeared on many radio programs on RAI, Radio France, BBC, Radio Canada, and NPR. Fred was featured prominently on WNYC’s award-winning “The Ring and I” (a program he named) about those special people who often see every aspect of life filtered through the music and stories of Wagner’s great tetralogy.
Fred has written six renowned books on Italian cuisine (including the classics Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera; The Authentic Pasta Book; La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia). The fifth edition of his Italy for the Gourmet Traveler was published in June 2010 by Kyle Books. It is the most complete book for visitors to Italy who are interested in that country’s peerless food and wine heritage. He has written and been interviewed about wine and gastronomy in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Gastronomica, Gourmet, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading publications. He has been a finalist for the Julia Child, James Beard and IACP cookbook awards and is a judge for the Beard awards.
Fred Plotkin lives in airplanes, opera houses, Manhattan, and cyberspace (www.fredplotkin.com).
Fred Plotkin appears in the following:
Friday, February 27, 2015
There is a certain kind of “how did she do that?!” wow that voice cultists discuss when they hear sopranos hit a high F. Here are some other examples.
Monday, February 23, 2015
At a time in which there are so many stories of challenge for small opera companies, Palm Beach Opera appears to have successfully reinvented itself, writes Fred Plotkin.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Fred Plotkin reviews the 2015-16 season announcement from the Metropolitan Opera and finds a lot to like.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Mozart's "Orientalist" opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio" recently opened in Paris. As Fred Plotkin writes, it avoided an agit-prop juxtaposition of cultural clash.
Monday, February 09, 2015
As opera capitals, Paris and London had their ups and downs in the 1970s, but at their best they offered cheap tickets and top talent, writes Fred Plotkin.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
For a person with physical disabilities, getting to the opera can pose particular challenges. Blogger Fred Plotkin offers some tips for those who are less mobile.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Russian speakers from the former USSR are a very important part of New York’s audience for opera and classical music. Fred Plotkin considers the roots of their passion.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Reduced price tickets to live Met performances come in various forms. Blogger Fred Plotkin examines where the best deals are.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Merry Widow is about money and whether it can bring happiness and salvation, a theme that is all too relevant today, writes Fred Plotkin.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Sometimes we hear a singer and immediately think of future roles for which they'd be suited. Then memory of past singers comes into play. Blogger Fred Plotkin explains.
Friday, January 09, 2015
It is likely that Verdi was not religious and had a healthy skepticism for many institutions, including church and state, writes Fred Plotkin. But his Requiem makes a powerful impact.
Monday, January 05, 2015
Read a synopsis before attending an opera, arrive early and don't wear noisy bracelets on your arms. These are a few of Fred Plotkin's New Year's suggestions for operagoers.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
As a new exhibition of documents tied to St. Francis of Assisi comes to Brooklyn, blogger Fred Plotkin considers the ways in which he influenced classical music and opera.
Friday, December 19, 2014
In 2014, blogger Fred Plotkin heard 76 opera performances by 28 companies. "I am happy to report that there is a lot of wonderful, innovative work being done everywhere," he reports.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
A surprising number of opera singers take an interest in the music of 1960s Motown, Fred Plotkin writes. Which Motown song do you think could work in a recital repertoire?
Friday, December 12, 2014
New Yorkers is home to various annual Messiah performances but Dublin is where it all got started. Blogger Fred Plotkin visits the site of the premiere.
Monday, December 08, 2014
Surveying Ireland's opera scene, Fred Plotkin writes, "I have found many reasons to hope for an operatic revival and a couple of causes for concern."
Monday, December 01, 2014
Hotels must meet a few requirements for blogger Fred Plotkin, including a clean room and a comfortable bed. He recently discovered one hotel with dozens of classical radio stations.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
On November 21, soprano Jessye Norman was honored at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 80th luncheon in the grand ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Flyers often take refuge in inflight entertainment to pass the time when sleeping proves impossible. But blogger Fred Plotkin finds the classical music offerings variable.