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:

Voices of Experience: How Singers Protect Their Most Important Asset

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In observance of World Voice Day (April 16), blogger Fred Plotkin asks several physicians, writers and singers about maintaining vocal health during periods of travel or vocal use.

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Paris's Opéra Bastille at 25

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Parisians often like to hate on their charmless, 1980's opera house, the Opéra Bastille. But Fred Plotkin believes the house has been a boon to the surrounding area and has served many productions well.

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In London, Opera Stays in the Conversation

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Visits to London are bracing because it is a place where ideas ferment and people seem engaged with culture as a means of understanding who they are, writes Fred Plotkin.

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A Wintry Journey of Discontent

Friday, March 28, 2014

Now that brutal hibernal storms may finally be a thing of the past, Fred Plotkin says he can venture into a subject he has deferred for a long while: Schubert’s extraordinary song cycle, Die Winterreise.

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Comments [2]

Rameau Redux: Why the French Composer Deserves Our Attention

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jean-Philippe Rameau, who died 250 years ago this September 12, composed more than 30 works for the stage. A few are coming to New York, and it's about time, writes Fred Plotkin.

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Throwback Thursday: Tito Gobbi (#tbt)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

As the Operavore stream devotes its Throwback Thursdays focus on the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi (1913-1984), Fred Plotkin offers this appreciation of the singer's career.

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The Most Beautiful Tenor Aria? Hear Plácido Domingo Sing Them All

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What is it the most beautiful tenor aria of all? Operavore's Fred Plotkin ventures a list of candidates, and supplies clips of the arias all sung by Placido Domingo.

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Maestros I Would Like to See (and Hear) at the Met

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Claudio Abbado’s passing set Fred Plotkin to thinking about conductors whom he would love to hear leading performances at the Met. Here are a dozen standouts.

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What Does It Mean To Be Heroic?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Heroes in opera, theater and literature are characters created by insightful writers or composers. The real heroes are people in everyday life whose heroism too often goes unnoticed and unremarked upon, writes Fred Plotkin.

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Coffee with Dominique Meyer

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Dominique Meyer, the director of the Vienna State Opera, talks with Fred Plotkin about the company's foray into on-demand video streaming.

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The Pleasures of Soft Singing

Monday, February 24, 2014

There are many singers, especially young ones, who have big healthy voices and sing loud all the time. This is a problem, writes Fred Plotkin. Here's why.

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Vienna, You Alone

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Vienna is contradictory to be sure," writes Fred Plotkin. "It is a city of amazing art, creativity and innovation, but also of a provincialism that is, most of the time, naively inward-looking."

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Goethe's Legacy in Art and Opera

Monday, February 17, 2014

From Werther to Faust, the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe have impacted literature and opera for more than 200 years. Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin dives into Goethe's influences in light of a new Werther production.

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Analysis: The Metropolitan Opera’s 2014-2015 Season

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"The season is an engaging mix of standard repertory and unusual offerings to please regulars, newcomers and those with more experimental inclinations," writes Fred Plotkin.

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Opinion: Tosca, Seen Through Different Eyes

Thursday, February 06, 2014

This season, blogger Fred Plotkin went to three performances of the Met's production of Tosca, each with a different soprano in the lead role. It stimulated new insights on this controversial production.

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Comments [7]

Franco Corelli, Tutto Tenore

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On January 29, two days after a moving ceremony in memory of Claudio Abbado, Teatro alla Scala in Milan honors another artist, Franco Corelli. Fred Plotkin gives an appraisal of the late tenor.

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Comments [13]

Christa Ludwig, Superstar

Friday, January 24, 2014

If you are a younger reader whose operagoing has been based mostly on seeing physically attractive, even-tempered singers, check out the classic recordings of Christa Ludwig, writes Fred Plotkin.

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Remembering Claudio Abbado

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Claudio Abbado was a person of strong political and social beliefs, and sought to democratize the audience experience at La Scala during his 18 years there, writes Fred Plotkin in this reflection. 

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Comments [14]

Marilyn Horne: The Lioness in Winter

Thursday, January 16, 2014

After a glorious career of singing operas and songs in all styles and from four centuries, Marilyn Horne set up a foundation to keep song recitals alive. Fred Plotkin shares his admiration for Horne at 80.

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Comments [7]

Was It Worth Observing the Wagner/Verdi/Britten Anniversaries?

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Wagner and Verdi bicentennials in 2013 reinforced certain negative attitudes about the two composers, writes Fred Plotkin. But the Britten centenary was filled with many revelations.

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Comments [19]