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:

Remembering the Old Metropolitan Opera House

Monday, September 26, 2016

The last Monday in September is, customarily, the opening night of the season at the Metropolitan Opera house.
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Comments [7]

How Critics Can Help Us Love Opera Even More

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fred Plotkin discusses the changing roles of opera and art critics over the years and how they can enhance the experience of going to performances or listening.
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Comments [4]

The Operatic Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, September 15, 2016

WPSU
Fred Plotkin travels to Ketchum, Idaho, where Ernest Hemingway lived and is buried, and considers which of the great author's works would translate well in opera.
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Comments [9]

Remembering Opera Singer Johan Botha

Friday, September 09, 2016

Fred Plotkin remembers Johan Botha, a favorite heldentenor of many, who died on Sept. 8 in Vienna at the age of 51.
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Comments [4]

Fall Preview: Voices of Autumn

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

This fall, the New York area is brimming with enticements for people who love to hear the human voice in opera and recital. Fred Plotkin highlights what to look for.
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Comments [3]

The Presidential Candidates’ Silence About the Arts

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. 
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Comments [16]

Lenny's Legacy: An Appreciation of Bernstein on His 98th Birthday

Thursday, August 25, 2016

WQXR
'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.
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Comments [16]

Remembering Italian Soprano Daniela Dessì

Monday, August 22, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [10]

From Sayão to Saudade: Brazil's Contributions to Opera

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comment

Singular Voices: Barbra Streisand

Friday, August 12, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [4]

Everything Sounds Better in Yiddish

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.
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Comments [8]

A Recipe for Success on the Opera Stage

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [4]

Before HD, the Met Tour Brought Opera to the US and World

Friday, July 29, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [9]

We Love Carol Vaness

Monday, July 25, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [3]

Notes on a Week of High Drama in London

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [3]

A Coughing Matter

Friday, July 15, 2016

WQXR
Are fragrances and overactive cooling systems driving audiences into hacking fits? Fred Plotkin muses on the state of air quality in our theaters.
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Comments [7]

Finding Opera and Freedom in Cincinnati

Monday, July 11, 2016

WQXR
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. 
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Comments [4]

Entrance Interview: Matthew Shilvock, SF Opera's Next General Director

Thursday, July 07, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comment

How 'Brexit' Affects Opera and the Arts

Friday, July 01, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [14]

When Is an Unfinished Work of Art Incomplete? Part 2

Monday, June 27, 2016

WQXR
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.
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Comments [1]