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Fred Plotkin

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).

Blogs:

Fred Plotkin appears in the following:

Dressed to Kill: Are Opera Audiences Becoming Too Casual?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Which is more disrespectful: booing during a performance or dressing like you're there to mow the lawn? Blogger Fred Plotkin considers changing rules of etiquette.
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Comments [39]

Does Booing at La Scala Ruin the Show?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tenor Roberto Alagna has decided not to return to La Scala this November. The reason: he did not want to endure the catcalls of the loggionisti, Fred Plotkin weighs in.
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Comments [46]

Planet Opera: Performances Not to Miss in the 2014-2015 Season

Thursday, September 04, 2014

For the intrepid opera fan, there should be plenty to savor this season. Here are ten global cities (including one tour) featuring notable performances.
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Comments [6]

Planet Opera: Going to the Sources

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

One can learn a lot about operas by going to the cities where they are set. Blogger Fred Plotkin considers Tosca's Rome, Carmen's Seville and the natural world of Wagner.
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Comments [7]

Is There Anything Sound about Sound Design?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blogger Fred Plotkin writes, "There is a euphemism I don’t much care for: Sound Design." Here's why.
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Comments [16]

Patrice Chéreau’s Testament

Friday, August 22, 2014

Patrice Chéreau was one of the few directors equally adept with spoken theater, film and opera. Fred Plotkin considers his last opera production.
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Comments [5]

Has There Ever Been a Music of the Future?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

After Wagner espoused "The Music of the Future," the Italian Futurist movement glorified speed and industry. Do these qualities make good art?
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Comments [1]

In Search of Richard Strauss in Bavaria

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

With this being the Strauss anniversary year, blogger Fred Plotkin tracked down some of the composer's haunts in Munich, and got access to his villa in nearby Garmisch.

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Comments [3]

Planet Opera: Munich

Friday, August 08, 2014

Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin explains why he thinks the best opera festival in the world is at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

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Comments [3]

Labor Disputes Create New Drama At The Metropolitan Opera

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fred Plotkin, of WQXR's Operavore blog, helps make sense of what the New York Times has called the Met's most serious labor crisis in three decades.

Comment

Bon Jovi And The Buffalo Bills; David Gray Plays Live; Drama At The Metropolitan Opera

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

In this episode: The NFL team the Buffalo Bills recently went up for sale – and Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi is one of the prospective buyers. The problem? He might want to move the team to Toronto. Writer Reeves Wiedeman talks about his recent trip to western New York, which is currently under an unofficial yet strictly enforced Bon Jovi ban.

Then: Best known for his song “Babylon,” and his multi-platinum album White Ladder, David Gray is back with a new, lushly orchestrated and produced album. Hear the British singer-songwriter perform songs from Life In Slow Motion and an old favorite in the Soundcheck studio.

And: The contentious negotiations between the Metropolitan Opera and its unions played out in the newspapers this summer. Author and columnist for WQXR’s Operavore blog, Fred Plotkin gives us the story. 

In the Footsteps of Richard Wagner: Bayreuth

Monday, August 04, 2014

Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin writes about Wagner's influences on Bayreuth.

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Planet Opera: Bayreuth's Provocative Vision of Wagner

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

After a rocky opening, the Bayreuth Festival is proving its mettle as a place where thought-provoking stagings of Wagner take place. Fred Plotkin reports.

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Comments [9]

Stage Malfunction, Boos Greet Opening of Bayreuth Festival

Saturday, July 26, 2014

With German political leaders as well as regular opera fans watching nervously, the opening night of the Bayreuth Festival was disrupted by an hour-long technical breakdown.

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Comments [17]

Planet Opera: Japan

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin explores the world of Kabuki and modern Japanese operas.

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Comments [1]

What to Hear in NYC Opera and Vocal Music: A Guide for All Interests - Part Two

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blogger Fred Plotkin offers part two of his guide to opera in New York City, for listeners who are into great voices, rarities and edgy work.

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Comments [4]

What to Hear in Opera and Vocal Music in NYC: A Guide for All Interests

Monday, July 07, 2014

Operavore's Fred Plotkin considers the many categories of potential opera ticket buyers and suggests performances this coming season in New York that might pique their interest.

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Comments [4]

All-American African-American Divas

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The almost untranslatable Italian word estro means a sudden inspiration, touched with genius, to create something extraordinary where it was unimaginable before. Here's where it applies to musicians.

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Comments [12]

Leonardo da Vinci's Unsung Forays into Music

Monday, June 30, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci had many musical interests, as a theorist and a designer of instruments, writes Fred Plotkin. The Renaissance man is now the subject of an exhibition at the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

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Comments [2]

Sense and Sustainability in the Opera House

Friday, June 27, 2014

"The questions of sustainability, which is the central organizing concept of the way we must live now if we are to survive, should be examined in the context of the opera houses," writes Fred Plotkin.

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Comments [6]