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 Opera Singers Groove to the Motown Sound

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A surprising number of opera singers take an interest in the music of 1960s Motown, Fred Plotkin writes. Which Motown song do you think could work in a recital repertoire?
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Comments [2]

Searching for Messiah, in Dublin and New York

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Yorkers is home to various annual Messiah performances but Dublin is where it all got started. Blogger Fred Plotkin visits the site of the premiere.
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Comments [2]

For Irish Opera, Funding Troubles and Signs of Revival

Monday, December 08, 2014

Surveying Ireland's opera scene, Fred Plotkin writes, "I have found many reasons to hope for an operatic revival and a couple of causes for concern."
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'Sleeping' with Classical Musicians: Around the World in 69 Clicks

Monday, December 01, 2014

Hotels must meet a few requirements for blogger Fred Plotkin, including a clean room and a comfortable bed. He recently discovered one hotel with dozens of classical radio stations.
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The Message of Jessye Norman

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On November 21, soprano Jessye Norman was honored at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s 80th luncheon in the grand ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
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Comments [7]

Arias at 34,000 feet

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Flyers often take refuge in inflight entertainment to pass the time when sleeping proves impossible. But blogger Fred Plotkin finds the classical music offerings variable.
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Comments [2]

The Spirit of Martin Waldron

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blogger Fred Plotkin looks at the legacy of Martin Waldron, an only-in-New York character whose stately Brooklyn townhouse was a haven for opera stars and noble actors.
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Comments [2]

Putting a Lid on Over-the-Top Rossini Productions

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rossini productions have suffered—especially the comedies—because the performance style, has become overemphatic, writes Fred Plotkin. Here's how to fix them.
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Comments [6]

Berlin in Mind

Friday, November 07, 2014

"When I think of Berlin, it is often as a place from which New York can learn a lot," writes Fred Plotkin. "Its better traits stand as models for things we might try to emulate."
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Comments [4]

Weaving South African Magic into Mozart

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A production of Mozart's Magic Flute is being staged in New York by the South African theater troupe Isango Ensemble. Operavore's Fred Plotkin gives his reaction.
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Comments [4]

Operatic Fish Tales (for Operavores Who Are Pescavores)

Saturday, November 01, 2014

That the hearty men and women who live with water, waves, briny air and the wondrous fauna that live beneath the surface make for vivid material for opera is no fluke.
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Comments [8]

Is Opera Supposed to Teach Us History?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The staging of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met raises the inevitable question: Should we expect to learn history from the stories of certain operas?
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Comments [10]

Succumbing to the Eboli Virus

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The immediacy and excitement of the music and character of Princess Eboli in Don Carlo are irresistible even to people who insist that they hate opera, writes Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [9]

The Depth of Klinghoffer: What Does the Controversy Say About Freedom of Expression?

Friday, October 17, 2014

With the Met Opera's controversial production of "The Death of Klinghoffer" opening on Monday, Fred Plotkin asks whether its detractors approach it with a full understanding.
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Comments [48]

Youth Gets Its Day in Opera. Now Where Are the Honors for Veteran Artists?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

As young singing talent is recognized at a gala awards evening, Fred Plotkin asks why the Kennedy Center Honors have overlooked opera this year, and who deserves the awards.
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Comments [14]

Planet Opera: Toronto Beckons Singers and Their Fans

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Canada has produced many magnificent opera singers but, in its customary self-effacing way, the country does not brag about them, writes Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [8]

Giulio Gatti Casazza: The General Manager Who Changed the Met

Friday, October 03, 2014

A new biography of Giulio Gatti Casazza, the Metropolitan Opera's manager from 1908 to 1935, reminds us of the value of strong arts administrators, writes Fred Plotkin.
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Comments [19]

Migrating Maestros: Why Are So Many European Conductors Quitting?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Operavore's Fred Plotkin says it's because of the paucity of able managers who can fundraise, maintain good labor relations and forge a creative vision with a music director.
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Comments [9]

Doing It By Rota: Discovering the Underappreciated Italian Composer

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nina Rota wrote amazingly infectious and memorable music for films by many of Italy's top directors, writes Fred Plotkin. So why don't orchestras play it more often?
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Comments [8]

Going Live: Curtain Up at the Metropolitan Opera

Friday, September 19, 2014

That sudden blast of warm air felt in New York in early September was not climate change. It was the collective exhalation of hundreds of thousands of relieved opera lovers.
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Comments [22]