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:

Singular Voices: Aretha Franklin

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A celebration of the legendary Aretha Franklin.
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Comments [7]

Great Opera and Vocal Music This Fall in North America

Monday, August 13, 2018

The upcoming fall season is full of opera and vocal performances—here's what to see.
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Comments [3]

Antonin Scalia and Opera

Friday, August 03, 2018

What were the late Justice Antonin Scalia's thoughts on opera?
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Comments [5]

A Loving Remembrance of Brian Kellow (March 1, 1959 – July 22, 2018)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Remembering Brian Kellow (March 1, 1959 – July 22, 2018)
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Comments [21]

Ring-nuts Rule!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Why Wagner's Ring inspires such devoted fans.
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Comments [5]

Exit Interview: Juilliard President Joseph Polisi

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fred Plotkin sits down with retiring Julliard President Joseph Polisi to talk about his life and career.
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Comments [2]

Should the Tony Awards Honor Achievements in Opera?

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Tony Awards are happening this Sunday. How should we honor great American productions of opera?
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Comments [9]

Subscriptions and the Secrets of Selling Opera Tickets

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A decline in attendance comes at a time when there is a lot to admire at the Met.
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Comments [5]

Of Curtains and Curtain Calls

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Fred Plotkin argues for the return of the curtain call after each act.
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Comments [21]

What Makes a Great Opera Orchestra Great?

Monday, April 30, 2018

The International Opera Awards didn't name a winner for best opera orchestra from 2014 to 2017. But in 2018, the prize went to Teatro alla Scala. Why has the category made a comeback?
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Comments [4]

Warm Weather Opera Worth Traveling For

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Nowadays, the warm months are filled with a lot of compelling and original opera. This year, the music of Leonard Bernstein (1918–90) is omnipresent, to celebrate his centennial. 
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Comments [4]

Lost Verdi Opera Score Discovered in Berlin Basement

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The mostly complete score of an opera that Verdi specialists had long ago given up hope of finding was recently discovered in a basement.
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Comments [42]

Advantage Munich: Why the Bavarian Capital Is a World Opera Capital

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Opera in Munich dates back to 1653, giving it one of the longest traditions of this art form in the world.
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Comments [6]

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 [37]

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 [4]

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 [12]

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]