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 (


Fred Plotkin appears in the following:

Should Vocal Recitalists Stop Providing Printed Translations of Songs?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stephanie Blythe began a recent recital with a startling announcement: there would be no printed texts or translations.
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Comments [26]

2015 Summer Preview: Opera and Song Picks

Friday, May 15, 2015

As the big opera houses conclude main seasons, smaller opera companies are rolling out their summer plans. Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin offers a selection of highlights.
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Met Opera Ends Its Season Licking Its Wounds and Looking Ahead

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Despite financial woes and the lingering effects of labor strife, there was a great deal to admire musically the past Met Opera season, writes Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [33]

La Scala and Milan Embrace the World

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A food-themed World's Fair is underway in Milan, Italy. Blogger Fred Plotkin considers the musical highs and lows, including new offerings at La Scala.
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Comments [4]

Dispatch from Florence: Opera Prevails Strikes, Political Turmoil

Friday, May 01, 2015

Despite Florence's history with opera, it is not widely popular with locals or visitors, writes Fred Plotkin. Recently, Italian politics brought new complications.
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Comments [2]

The Operatic Ibsen

Friday, April 24, 2015

Henrik Ibsen's high-octane dramas and occasional comedies are the stuff of opera, writes Fred Plotkin. So why aren't there more adaptations?
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Comments [5]

How the Stars Align Around Planet Opera

Monday, April 20, 2015

A recent, bittersweet birthday party of an important European singer leads Fred Plotkin to consider the ways in which opera stars create extended circles of friends.
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Comments [9]

A Makeover For 'Aïda?' Revisiting a Met Repertory Staple

Friday, April 17, 2015

When should an opera production be retired and when should it be revisited and improved? Fred Plotkin gives Verdi's "Aida" a checkup.
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Comments [16]

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream at the Opera

Friday, April 10, 2015

There is a fair amount of screaming in opera, most of it written or implied in the music. But lately Fred Plotkin has heard two very unwelcome screams at the Met.
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Comments [18]

Desert Island Opera: Verdi's 'Don Carlo'

Monday, April 06, 2015

"If it is to the desert island that I must sail (and Wagner's 'Ring' has been disqualified), I would take Verdi’s 'Don Carlo' with me," writes Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [16]

Sweden Uses Science to Create a Future Generation of Opera Singers

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Clones of Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Björling and other Swedish opera singers? You read it here first.
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Comments [19]

Is Stockholm Ready for a New Opera House?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sweden is the last Nordic country without a gleaming new opera house. Fred Plotkin considers whether this country renowned for its design can pull one off.
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Comments [10]

Scratch-and-Win to Support Opera Companies?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An interesting option to help nonprofit arts organizations with particular needs is through a state or federal lottery, writes Fred Plotkin. Here's why.
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Comments [12]

In Opera, If the Shoe Fits...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

There are reasons why opera singers need practical shoes, from daunting stage steps to sexy legs and short tenors. Fred Plotkin considers the role of footwear in opera.
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Comments [4]

Should New York City Opera Be Revived?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Is there a future for the New York City Opera or should it just be left to blessed memory? Blogger Fred Plotkin considers the current efforts to revive the company's name.
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Comments [22]

Call Waiting: Anna Caterina Antonacci

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Anna Caterina Antonacci has had a thriving career in Europe but remains under the radar in the U.S. Blogger Fred Plotkin considers roles that would help her break through.
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Comments [5]

Dining Democratically at the Opera

Thursday, March 05, 2015

How do restaurant offerings at opera houses stack up? Fred Plotkin has a taste, and says that "the goal should be to eat festively, comfortably and to prepare for a special night."
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Comments [14]

The Wow Factor

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.
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Comments [8]

Changes at Palm Beach Opera Bear Fruit

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.
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Comments [5]

New Season, New Hopes at the Metropolitan Opera

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fred Plotkin reviews the 2015-16 season announcement from the Metropolitan Opera and finds a lot to like.
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Comments [37]