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:

When Singers Switch Roles in the Same Opera

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fred Plotkin attends “The Little Foxes” at Manhattan Theatre Club and reflects on operas in which role switching is possible. 
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Comments [12]

Where to Find Opera in Greater New York During Spring and Summer 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

The spring and summer months provide plenty of opera options for those in and around New York City. We've got your warm months calendar for 2017.
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Comments [7]

Renée Fleming: An Artist of Her Time

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fred Plotkin writes about the next stage in Renée Fleming's career and all that she has given to the world of opera.
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The Met Gala Celebrates Its Opera House

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Met celebrated 50 years at its home in Lincoln Center. Fred Plotkin was there and shares the atmosphere.
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Comments [9]

Learning Musical German With Irene Spiegelman

Friday, May 05, 2017

Fred Plotkin remembers German vocal coach Irene Spiegelman who trained singers at The Met from 1977 onward.
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Comments [6]

Life Lessons From June LeBell

Monday, May 01, 2017

Fred Plotkin remembers June LeBell's remarkable career as a broadcaster at WQXR and what she meant to listeners.
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Comments [6]

Finding the 'Sweet Spot' at the Opera House

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fred Plotkin discusses the history of acoustics at the opera, and how divas always know how to find that sweet spot on stage. 
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Comments [5]

The Vanishing Vocal Recital (and Where to Find Some)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fred Plotkin discusses the art of the vocal recital, and why it’s still vital for performers and audiences.
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Comments [11]

Of Dress Codes and Social Codes at the Opera

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fred Plotkin discusses the issue of dress codes at the opera and how self-expression and respect for certain traditions are not mutually exclusive.
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Comments [33]

Can America Keep Pace With European Opera?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fred Plotkin attempts to answer a question that he is frequently asked by international opera-goers: Why there are so many more stars and opera productions in Europe?
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Comments [8]

Alberto Zedda: Rossini’s Best Friend

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Operavore's Fred Plotkin remembers conductor Alberto Zedda, who passed away March 6 and who boosted Gioachino Rossini as one of the great opera composers.
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Comments [3]

Catching Up With Tenor Fabio Armiliato

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fred Plotkin sits down with Fabio Armiliato as the tenor prepares for his New York return to City Opera in the role of Enrico in Ottorino Respighi’s "La Campana Sommersa."
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Comments [6]

Celebrating Arturo Toscanini at 150

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arturo Toscanini looms large over opera and classical music. Fred Plotkin writes of the exacting maestro on his 150th birth anniversary.
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Comments [4]

Composer and Conductor Anton Coppola at 100: Fortissimo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Composer and conductor Anton Coppola, uncle of film director Francis, turns one hundred years old today. Fred Plotkin visited Coppola in his Manhattan apartment recently.
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Comments [10]

6 Irish Opera Singers You Should Know

Friday, March 17, 2017

Deborah Kelleher, the director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, shares some of her picks for outstanding new Irish singers with Opravore's Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [3]

Writing an Opera About Writer Reinaldo Arenas

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

'Before Night Falls' is the autobiography of Cuban dissident writer Reinaldo Arenas. It was first adapted as a film and then as an opera in 2010, which sees a run this week in Miami.
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Comments [2]

Finding Truth at the Opera in Washington

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Plenty of epic drama in Washington, D.C., writes Fred Plotkin, who attended performances that riveted audiences at Washington National Opera and Washington Concert Opera.
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Singing in English With Tenor Paul Appleby

Friday, March 03, 2017

Fred Plotkin interviews the multi-lingual tenor Paul Appleby before his New York recital on March 5 featuring “On this Island,” a song cycle by Benjamin Britten. 
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How Vocal Health Can Make or Break a Singer

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fred Plotkin discusses how singers struggle to maintain vocal health and shares advice from Dr. Anthony F. Jahn, the Met Opera's volunteer medical director.
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In Opera, Artistry Matters More Than Size

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"For opera to be compelling on our stages, we should not care about thinking big or thinking small," writes Fred Plotkin. "We must think creatively."
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Comments [5]