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:
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Attending four sensational opera performances in less than a week should be satisfaction enough for any music lover. But this city offers so much more, writes Fred Plotkin.
Friday, June 26, 2015
When Fred Plotkin lost his voice recently, he turned to opera professionals, who offered recommendations for nostrums, elixirs and behavioral adaptation.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Two recent films explore how different generations interact and understand each other. As Fred Plotkin writes, opera harbors something that every generation recognizes.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
"Summertime opera in New York provides more unusual repertory and performance styles than any world city I can think of," writes Fred Plotkin.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Unlike most of Wagner's works, whose origins we find in his sketches, letters and readings, Tristan seems to have begun rather suddenly in the 1850s. Fred Plotkin asks why.
Friday, June 05, 2015
Carl Nielsen's opera "Maskarade" deserves wider recognition, writes Fred Plotkin. While the comedy often falls flat, "the music is appealing and original."
Friday, May 29, 2015
Projected titles, or surtitles, have been widely praised for making opera more accessible. But blogger Fred Plotkin questions whether they've improperly shifted the focus.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Should song recitalists stop providing printed translations? Blogger Fred Plotkin considers the vehemence of opinions over his recent article on the issue.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Stephanie Blythe began a recent recital with a startling announcement: there would be no printed texts or translations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Clones of Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Björling and other Swedish opera singers? You read it here first.
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.