Sunday, May 25, 2008

5000 Nights at the Opera

What a fun book! Sir Rudolf Bing's memoirs. (General manager of the Met during the 1970s.)
Bing was autocratic, clever, catty (actually, venomous), witty (and damned proud of it), out to settle scores. Angry if someone didn't answer his letter! A bit nuts. Occasionally shocking. But he certainly helped the Met by making it more financially efficient, bringing in star singers. Best of all, he brought in the first black singers, starting with Marian Anderson in Ballo in Maschera.

He has been criticized for being pro-foreign singers and anti-American singers. Apparently he confessed--that, he said, was his biggest mistake, favoring Italian singers because, he thought, Americans preferred them. Beverly Sills called him an ass--I assume because he never invited her to sing a major role at the Met. Well, Beverly was a wonderful person but her singing voice was not first-rate. As Puccini complained about Ferrar, Beverly strained. And her voice was not naturally attractive or distinctive. I've been listening (by coincidence) to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and her voice can be THRILLING. (What Bing wrote about Schwarzkopf was shocking.)

I'll post some delicious excerpts from the book shortly.

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