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Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Muisc at the Metropolitan Opera


Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Muisc at the Metropolitan Opera Cover

ISBN13: 9781400032310
ISBN10: 1400032318
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

If the opera world is full of “intrigue, double meanings, and devious dramatics,” then no place exemplifies this more than the world-famous Metropolitan Opera, where politics, ambition, and oversized egos have traditionally taken center stage along with some of the worlds richest music. Drawing on her fifteen years as its press representative, Johanna Fiedler explodes the traditional secrecy that surrounds the Met in this wonderfully entertaining account of its tumuluous history.

Fiedler chronicles the Mets early days as a home for legends like Toscanini, Mahler, and Caruso, and gives a fascinating account of the middle years when haughty blue-bloods battled stubborn adminstrators for control of a company that would emerge as Americas premiere opera house. She takes us behind the grand gold-curtain stage in more recent years as well, showing how musical superstars like Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and Kathleen Battle have electrified performances and scandalized the public. But most revelatory are Fiedlers portrayals of James Levine and Joseph Volpe and their practically parallel ascendancies—Levine rising from prodigy to artistic director, Volpe advancing from stagehand to general manager—and their once strained relationship. Weaving together the personal, economic, and artistic struggles that characterize the Mets long and vibrant history, Molto Agitato is a must-read saga of power, wealth, and, above all, great music.


With a new Afterword, this book relates the Metropolitan Opera Company's rich and turbulent history, from the early days to more recent times, when musical superstars have electrified the grand gold-curtained stage and scandalized the public.

About the Author

Johanna Fiedler is the daughter of Arthur Fiedler, the long-time conductor of the Boston Pops, and has worked in the field of classical music for many years. She is the author of Arthur Fiedler: Papa, the Pops, and Me. She lives in New York City.

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FloatingOpera7, March 26, 2007 (view all comments by FloatingOpera7)
Johanna Fiedler knows opera inside and out and she provides us with the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes at the Met, or that is, what went on throughout most of the administration of Rudolf Bing, Anthony Bliss and Joseph Volpe. She's the press representative for the Metropolitan Opera and the daughter of Arhtur Fiedler, the long time conductor of the Boston Pops, now deceased. Yes, this book has been attacked as trashy tabloid yellow journalism material, but at least it's true and raw, not pretending to be something it's not. It's full of juicy gossip but it's written in an insightful, intelligent, human and mannered way so that it is not vulgar or meaingless. In fact, my eyes were open to the myths I had about opera and the artists of the field. She gives proper credit to all her sources. This extensive book should delight the most hardcore of opera fanatics but beware to discover truths behind any illusions you might have. Opera is a dirty business.

Here's an inside look at life at the Met, the power struggles, the artists and their issues and every single high and low that happened through the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. Opera is the Hollywood of the arts and never is this more true than in this book that captures the temperament of everyone involved in the world of opera- from agents, to conductors, to singers to producers and artistic directors. I was very surprised to discover that my favorite tenor Placido Domingo genuinely envied Luciano Pavoratti and were actually rivals at one point, long before they made it as The Three Tenors when Jose Carreras came into the picture. Carrerras, too, like Domingo and Pavoratti cheated on his wife at one time with his co-artist Katia Ricciarelli (what is it with the Three Tenors and sex ?) While I still love Domingo, it is a bit shattering to discover the fallible nature of tenors! Domingo was and always will be the more intelligent and consummate artist but it was a bit sad to hear that he was unfaithful to his wife and that he was nearly crazy with jealous of the Pavoratti phenomenon. It's like Salieri being jealous of Mozart. Pavoratti has the big voice and the presence but Domingo was the better actor. Pavoratti, too, had issues, also cheating on his own wife and being very lazy, selfish, spotlight hogging and hypocritical. Sopranos too have their issues and this book lavishes us with all the diva antics. Kathleen Battle, unlike the more exemplary African American singers- Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett and Jessye Norman, behaved unprofessionally, showing up late to rehearsals, being rude to costumers and co-artists. She was fired from the Met in 1994, after an incident in which she even lashed out at esteemed and experienced mezzo soprano Rosalind Elias. The incident with Carol Vanness is also noteworthy. Another diva was Renata Scotto, who didn't always have the perfect voice and ruined herself trying to emulate Maria Callas. Conductors/directors and their clashes with singers who have their own ideas is also a big part of this book. Rudolf Bing dared to fire Maria Callas and did not allow Beverly Sills to debut at the Met until late in her career because he had considered her singing beneath the standard of the Met. In 1980, violinist Helen Hagnes was brutally murdered and raped during an intermission and the investigation of the crime revealed that some folks were using the back wings and hidden rooms of the Opera for sex and drug use. Performances of Verdi's Macbeth are never staged at the Met because it is "cursed". In two seperate incidents, tragedy and horror erupted, at one time even a man committed suicide.

While there is too much to dish out in a summary, let me say that Miss Fiedler is very accurate, suffusing her work with integrity and vivid, life-like narrative. Plus, there are a number of black and white photos of the forces behind the Met like Rudolf Bing, James Levine, Franco Zefferelli and James Levine. The Met opened its doors for the first time in 1883 with a production of Faust. Since then the Met has been an opera within itself, full of colorful, dramatic characters. They're all here, more human than operatic- Maria Callas (she's a character) Beverly Sills (who struggled hard to get where she is now, as Chairman and other big positions at the Met though now she is really retired) Joan Sutherland and her husband conductor Richard Bonynge, Roberto Alagan and Angela Gheorghiu who are opera's sexiest couple and look like Bonnie and Clyde to some. Birgit Nilsson had a sense of humor and was once a simple farm girl and all the other forces that brought opera to the Met for a long time. Things are probably less scandalous now though now and then something comes up- recently, mezzo Debora Voight was denied a role because she was "too fat" for the Twiggy-super model version of Ariadne of Naxos. Go figure. We love soap operas and opera is one.
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Product Details

Fiedler, Johanna
Anchor Books
New York
Business Aspects
History & Criticism - General
Genres & Styles - Opera
New york (state)
Opera -- New York (State) -- New York.
Metropolitan opera (new york, n.y.)
Music | Opera
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
no. 17
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.95 x 5.1 x 1.25 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Opera
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Opera » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Music Business and Songwriting
History and Social Science » World History » General

Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Muisc at the Metropolitan Opera Used Trade Paper
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Product details 448 pages Anchor Books/Doubleday - English 9781400032310 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , With a new Afterword, this book relates the Metropolitan Opera Company's rich and turbulent history, from the early days to more recent times, when musical superstars have electrified the grand gold-curtained stage and scandalized the public.
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