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, August 31, 2016
As we get closer to the 2016 presidential election, Fred Plotkin investigates the candidates' stance — or lack thereof — on funding for the arts.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
'Everyone with any connection to music in New York encountered Bernstein,' writes Fred Plotkin, who shares his personal memories of the maestro in honor of his birthday.
Monday, August 22, 2016
The great soprano Daniela Dessi, who died on Saturday, Aug. 20, was a great example of a singer blessed with a rich 'vita interiore,' writes Fred Plotkin.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
With the Olympics bringing our attention to Brazil, Fred Plotkin looks at the history of opera in the country, including its Amazonian theaters, star singers and intangible emotions.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Fred Plotkin begins a series honoring unique voices from opera and the stage. First up: Barbra Streisand, who is making a pair of rare appearances at the Barclays Center.
Monday, August 08, 2016
A new production at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene leads Fred Plotkin to ruminate on the roots of Yiddish theater in New York City and its connections to opera.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Julia Child once said that the key to successful cooking is buying the right ingredients; likewise in opera, the key to a great performance starts with a great cast.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Thirty years after the Metropolitan Opera staged its last national tour, Fred Plotkin looks back at its influence on opera around the country and the world.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Carol Vaness, whose birthday is this week, was 'an always exciting and engaging artist whose work was not appreciated as fully as I think it should have been,' writes Fred Plotkin.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Fred Plotkin experiences theater on both London's cultural and political stages during his latest visit in which he saw the opera, a Shakespearean drama and a change of prime ministers.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Are fragrances and overactive cooling systems driving audiences into hacking fits? Fred Plotkin muses on the state of air quality in our theaters.
Monday, July 11, 2016
A trip to Cincinnati to see productions of Beethoven's 'Fidelio' and Gregory Spears's 'Fellow Travelers' spurs a meditation on opera's relevance to real life.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Before he becomes the general director of San Francisco Opera on Aug. 1, Matthew Shilvock spoke to Fred Plotkin about his vision for the company.
Friday, July 01, 2016
From artist contracts to work visas, Fred Plotkin looks at the implications of Britain's vote to leave the European Union in the opera world and beyond.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Fred Plotkin continues his investigation into the nature of unfinished works of arts, including a show at the Met Breuer and two musicals that open this question.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Are works left unfinished, such as Gaudí's Sagrada Familia or Schubert's Eighth Symphony, still complete in other ways? Fred Plotkin investigates this question.
Friday, June 17, 2016
A new book featuring drawings of opera singers and houses inspires Fred Plotkin to think about draughtsman, photographers and other artists who've depicted "our favorite art form."
Monday, June 13, 2016
Startup classical music and opera companies are attracting younger audiences with daring programs in unconventional spaces. Fred Plotkin explores the not-so-new keys to their success.
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Fred Plotkin visits Dresden, Germany, where he is impressed by a production of 'Lohengrin,' as well as museums, architecture and other musical offerings around the city.
Friday, June 03, 2016
As the Metropolitan Opera welcomes its future music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Fred Plotkin offers a few suggestions for both the maestro and the organization.