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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:

Planet Opera: Japan

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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

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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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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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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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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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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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Things Are Looking Up for Opera in Northern Italy

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Opera companies the world over face challenges nowadays and there are those in Italy (Florence, Genoa and elsewhere) that are troubled. But there is good news too," writes Fred Plotkin.

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40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers – Part Two

Monday, June 16, 2014

Following last week's survey of gifted male opera singers under the age of 40 comes this look at promising young divas.

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40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fred Plotkin has selected 40 singers under 40 who he feels merit your attention and support. This article is about male singers; the next will introduce you to some future divas.

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In Praise of Old Queens

Friday, June 06, 2014

66-year-old Italian soprano Mariella Devia made a rare return to New York Thursday night at Carnegie Hall. Blogger Fred Plotkin reports on the scene.

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The Bottom Line on Costs at the Metropolitan Opera

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin gives his take on how the Met can "stimulate ticket sales, rein in expenditures, build its endowment and get back on track."

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How Opera-Going at the Metropolitan Opera Has Changed

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Somewhere along the way, the Metropolitan Opera House went from being a temple of art to becoming a facility," writes Fred Plotkin, in the third of a four-part post-season series on the Met.

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The State of the Art at the Metropolitan Opera

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin rates the Met's recent new productions. The good: Madame Butterfly, Falstaff, Parsifal. Not so good: "Concept" productions.

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As Labor Talks Begin, Considering the Met's Essential Role

Friday, May 16, 2014

"What’s wrong with the Metropolitan Opera?" is a question blogger Fred Plotkin is asked with troubling frequency. He considers why it has come to this point.

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Giving Tough Advice to Aspiring or Established Opera Singers

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"There are times, throughout the career of an opera singer, when they need to be told that they are not ready for a role, not right for a role, or should consider retiring a role," writes Fred Plotkin.

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Eric Owens, In the Moment

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bass-baritone Eric Owens recently gave a masterclass at Juilliard, in which he worked with young singers on the nuances of the art. Blogger Fred Plotkin gives his account of the class.

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Singers and Swingers: Opera and Golf

Friday, May 02, 2014

Golf has a passionate following among many opera singers, from Matthew Polenzani and Bryn Terfel to Kiri Te Kanawa and Karita Mattila. Operavore's Fred Plotkin considers the links.

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Bertolt Brecht: Opera's Voice of Reason

Monday, April 28, 2014

German playwright Bertolt Brecht asked his audience to react more with reason than emotion. But as Fred Plotkin writes, his writings made for some stirring operas.

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Planet Opera: Opera in Chicago Avoids Troubles Seen Elsewhere

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chicago has historically been derided on the coasts as the Second City lacking in cultural heft. But Fred Plotkin finds there's much to enjoy here, including its singer-rich opera company.

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The Operatic Paolo Veronese

Friday, April 18, 2014

Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese is the subject of a current exhibition at London’s National Gallery. Fred Plotkin considers why he would be a model for scenic designers in opera.

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