AMERICAN ARIA by Sherrill Milnes

AMERICAN ARIA

From Farm Boy to Opera Star
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Autobiographical fluff for opera aficionados interested in knowing a bit—but not too much—about the life of one of America’s popular baritones. Just as baritones never win the woman in operas, they rarely get the attention afforded tenors. Who has ever heard of a Three Baritones concert? Milnes’s autobiography attempts to right that wrong regarding his own life. He begins with his experiences as a farm boy outside Chicago. Milnes was a relative latecomer to serious vocal music study. He began in high school, although he—d been studying violin and singing in his mother’s church choir since elementary school. By his college years, it was clear that music also lay in Milnes’s future. He auditioned for parts in regional opera groups, such as Boris Goldovsky’s Opera Theatre, and gradually made his way to the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang regularly for just over 30 years. During that period, which included appearances in operas around the world and an extensive recital schedule, Milnes sang with many of the best, including Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Placido Domingo, and Beverly Sills. Unfortunately, though, this meandering book is rather short on details. Meandering how? A page about the teenage Milnes heading off to a brothel is followed by several paragraphs on the trials of having a “girl’s” first name. As for the absent details, his two failed marriages are dismissed in a we-grew-apart sentence or two. Comments on colleagues are fairly superficial and do little to shed light on the world behind the opera curtain. The author has included a performance chronology of his debuts and key performances, as well as a discography. What could have been Wagnerian in scope ends up instead as the literary equivalent of a Top 40 tune. (50 illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-02-864739-4
Page count: 300pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998