Written with Charles Michener, the book has been released in conjunction with Volpe's retirement this summer as general manager of the Met, a post he has held for 16 years. As you follow his improbable story you find yourself rooting for this scrappy guy with his blue-collar demeanor as he takes on the Met's trustees.
The New York Times
In this brash, captivating memoir, Volpe, the Metropolitan Opera's outgoing general manager, writes, "[T]o be a successful leader in an opera house, you sometimes have to behave operatically." The son of a men's clothing maker, Volpe rose from being a carpenter's apprentice making scenery in 1963 to preside over the Met a few decades later. He describes a learning curve powered by ambition, shaped by mentors such as Rudolph Bing and bent by infamous conflicts, most notably with diva Kathleen Battle, whom Volpe fired. Along the way, Volpe impresses readers with numbers (the main stage of the Met is 100 feet wide, for instance), and he portrays himself as a problem-solving David overcoming various Goliaths of snobbery, budgets and ego, aiming only to keep the Met successful-and solvent. It's a cagey, entertaining strategy that allows him to sound off on topics ranging from Lincoln Center politics and the particular difficulties of staging a production to the current state of the arts in America. Volpe focuses on his achievements and his relationships with artists like Pavarotti and gives short shrift to his home life, marriages (two failed) and family, while concluding that "making opera is a job for the human spirit." Photos. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
With this candid, fast-paced, and entertaining biography, Volpe, general manager of New York's Metropolitan Opera since 1990, follows in the illustrious footsteps of Sir Rudolf Bing (5000 Nights at the Opera, 1972) and Giulio Gatti-Casazza (Memories of the Opera, 1941). Intrigues over union contracts; temperamental artistes of both sexes in vocal, conducting, and directing professions; self-important architects and wealthy patrons; and intransigent boards of trustees fill the pages, along with interesting historical and contemporary photographs. A chapter on Volpe's notorious travails with soprano Kathleen Battle includes digressions of positive remarks about other female singers that interrupt the narrative's flow, while his assessment of the current crop of vocalists show marked insight. The author's family life and marriages are cursorily mentioned. This enthralling book provides an insider's view of a complex and fascinating institution and beautifully complements Johanna Fiedler's Molto Agitato. Recommended for all libraries collecting in the areas of opera or arts management. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From carpenter to general manager-the story of a 42-year climb up the ladder of the Met hierarchy by a man whose schooling ended early but whose education never ceased. Volpe begins his tale with some family background and with Tom Sawyerish stories about playing hooky. He always preferred work to school and at 17 was already running his own Amoco station. By age 20, he was married (two other marriages would follow). In 1961, he began as a stagehand at the Morosco Theater (schlepping for shows by Kopit and Shaffer). On his first day at the Met (where he learned to build sets) he refused to fetch coffee for the veterans. And thus began the ascension. By 1966, he was the Met's master carpenter. Volpe's ad hoc account contains many stories about the personalities populating the Met's stage and offices that will delight opera-lovers who like gossip and debate. Volpe loves James Levine but says the conductor eschews confrontation. The author fired Kathleen Battle when her vagaries and vicissitudes became impossible to endure. Rudolf Bing did not spend 5,000 nights at the opera, but he did have an "eye for a pretty dancer." Volpe greatly admires director Franco Zeffirelli, though his sets sometimes needed some Volpean adjustment to work properly. One of Volpe's predecessors, Hugh Southern, who lasted only seven months, was clueless, and head electrician Rudy Kuntner was "more of a diva than most divas." Volpe chronicles his spats with colleagues and directors (especially Piero Faggioni) but has words of great praise and affection for Pavarotti and Domingo. Near the end, he offers his take on the controversial plans to renovate Lincoln Center. Anecdotal and rarely modest, but denizens ofOperaland will surely enjoy these tales of backstage pyrotechnics and intrigue. First printing of 75,000
“Engaging . . . delightful . . . A classic American success story.”
—The New York Times
“This engaging volume will delight readers for whom opera is not only an art but also an endless fount of good gossip. . . . A rarity–one of those much-ballyhooed ‘insider books’ that actually delivers the goods.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Fascinating. . . . [Volpe’s story] has the golden glow of the American dream.”
—The New York Sun
“A gripping journey of personal and professional discovery.”