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:

An Analysis of the Metropolitan Opera’s New Season

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Metropolitan Opera has just announced the repertory and casting for its 2018–19 season, and Fred Plotkin is looking forward to next year with great enthusiasm.
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Comments [28]

A World of New Operas

Monday, February 12, 2018

As opera companies stumble over one another announcing their 2018–19 seasons, Fred Plotkin is heartened by what’s new.
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Comments [2]

Best in Show: Operatic Dogs

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Many composers, singers, and musicians have dogs who love to listen to their master’s music. Fred Plotkin looks back at the long history of adorable dogs in opera.  
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Comments [9]

Nostalgia, Dedication, Gratitude and Master Musicians

Friday, February 02, 2018

For 24 years, Marilyn Horne taught the tradition of the art song to young singers and pianists — as well as to eager audiences at Carnegie Hall. Fred Plotkin remarks on her legacy.
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Comments [1]

‘The Opera House’: How the New Met Was Born

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fred Plotkin sees a new documentary that tells the story of the evolution and creation of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966. 
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Comments [11]

Regrets Only: Cancellations at the Opera

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Although they may seem god-like to their fans, opera singers are human and as fallible as the rest of us.
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Comments [23]

Remembering — and Understanding — Simonetta Puccini

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fred Plotkin remembers Simonetta Puccini, the last surviving direct descendant of Giacomo Puccini, who died on Dec. 16 at the age of 89.
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Comments [7]

The Fifth Annual Excellence in Opera (aka The Freddie) Awards

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fred Plotkin honors and acknowledges many of the outstanding and memorable achievements in opera in 2017.
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Comments [10]

3 Normas, 2 Adalgisas, 1 Pollione: The Evolution of an Opera Production

Friday, December 15, 2017

Fred Plotkin sees the new "Norma" at The Metropolitan Opera, and muses on why the gorgeous opera exerts such an immense power over audiences, still.
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Comments [5]

Finland, Musical Superpower, Marks Its Centennial

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Fred Plotkin looks back on Finland's 100-year-long history and muses on the country's great musical contributions.
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Comments [1]

How Music Soothes All Souls

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fred Plotkin speaks to British countertenor Iestyn Davies about performing on Broadway in Claire van Kampen's play, “Farinelli and the King.”
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The Holiday Gift Guide for Opera Lovers

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Opera lovers know what they like — and lucky for you, Fred Plotkin knows what opera lovers like. He'll help you pick out the perfect holiday gift for the opera fans in your life. 
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Comments [1]

Singular Voices: Billy Joel

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fred Plotkin continues his Singular Voices series with an examination of the art and music of pop singer and songwriter Billy Joel.
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Comments [2]

Lombardy Keeps Standards High for Opera and Culture

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Fred Plotkin tours the opera treasures of the Lombardy region in Italy.
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Comments [3]

Lessons From Cultural ‘Butterflys’

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Fred Plotkin looks at how Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” and the musical “Miss Saigon” resonate today.
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Comments [3]

A Revelatory Opera Exhibition in London

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fred Plotkin reports from London on the exhibit “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics” now at the Sainsbury Gallery of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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Comments [3]

Applause, American-Style, in London

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fred Plotkin reports from London on the state of applause at performances and how audiences still differ across the pond.
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Comments [17]

Opera Philadelphia Thinks Big

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Fred Plotkin takes in the O17 Festival in the City of Brotherly Love and finds excitement.
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Good, Better, Best in Opera?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fred Plotkin writes of the subjectivity of opera, which like a taste in food, is developed over time after varied experiences.
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Comments [14]

When Plays Are Inspiration for Opera

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fred Plotkin reflects on how theater is adapted for the opera house.
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Comments [7]