One couldn’t ask for a more knowledgeable guide to the inner workings of the Met.

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MOLTO AGITATO

THE MAYHEM BEHIND THE MUSIC AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA

A thoroughgoing, eyeball-rolling institutional history of the Metropolitan Opera that concentrates on the personalities to pretty much the exclusion of the art, from Fiedler (Arthur Fiedler, 1994), for 15 years the press representative of the Met.

It might not be quite the treacherous world that the author would like to think, but the Metropolitan Opera, from its inception as a breakaway from the Academy of Music, has had its share of turmoil and emotional strife, if no more than is exercised in familial and corporate settings. While it’s fun to read about the richly deserved axing of Maria Callas and Kathleen Battle, appalling to be reminded of the murder of Helen Hagnes, and dreadful to learn that the tenor Richard Versalle’s last words were “You can only live so long,” sung immediately before a heart attack killed him and he plummeted to the stage from a perch atop a towering ladder, the meat-and-potatoes of Fiedler’s work is the functioning of the Met. Strong personalities have ruled both the Met’s artistic and management offices, from Rudolph Bing’s treating the opera as though it were his personal monarchy, to the more tactically politic (while no less power-hungry) role assumed by Joseph Volpe, who rose from the position of master carpenter to become the current general manager. While Fiedler spends less time on the artistic sensibilities at work, she does a fine job explaining the character of the artistic directors, beginning with Toscanini and his snits and appetite for women, through the unrivaled years with James Levine, who reinvigorated the standards, built the repertory, and explored lesser-known operas. And it is gratifying to follow Fiedler as she charts the democratization of opera, transitioning from the turf of boxholders looking for “the ultimate symbol of social triumph,” to the pure joy of opera lovers.

One couldn’t ask for a more knowledgeable guide to the inner workings of the Met.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-48187-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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