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American Aria: From Farm Boy to Opera Star…

American Aria: From Farm Boy to Opera Star

by Sherrill Milnes

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Milnes was, for decades a leading baritone at the Metropolitan Opera and someone I watched dozens of times as he helped define many, many of the great roles in opera.
As a huge opera fan, I was eager for lots of behind the scenes stories. He does recount many and there are some genuinely “laugh out loud” moments (which is particularly awkward on a bus or subway!). The most personal and moving chapter is the “Decade of Panic” in which he describes the chronic throat ailment that ultimately derailed his Met career.
That said, the book was disappointing. In many ways it’s just a catalog of events in his life and career with no real analysis. He glosses over the major events (both personal and professional), not so much describing them, but listing them. Several of the stories he recounts are done so in a fairly blatantly self-serving way. For example, he clearly has an ax to grind with some of the folks at the Met and those stories and people are presented with a very obvious bias. I also would have liked to read a bit more of his thoughts on music, opera and his roles. Still, it was a fun read.
P.S. If anyone was an "Odd Couple" fan, you might be interested to know that, gleaning from the book, I'm guessing that Milnes was the baritone originally cast for the "Rigoletto" episode - the one in which Richard Fredricks starred. ( )
  plt | Feb 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0028647394, Hardcover)

A funny thing happened to Sherrill Milnes along his way to becoming one of the best American Verdi baritones of the 1960s and '70s. In fact, dozens of funny things happened; he took careful note of them and poured them into an autobiography that will appeal to his many fans and anyone who relishes backstage opera gossip. The anecdotes are the best part of this book: they are abundant, sometimes mildly malicious, and often very funny--at least to those readers who are familiar with operatic plots, personalities, and music. For casual readers, Milnes explains why the story is funny--for example, why a tenor should have been executed after making a mistake in Puccini's Turandot. Milnes must be read skeptically when he calls himself shy--his ego is healthier than his voice--but he writes well of the anxieties of an opera star's life, particularly in discussing the vocal problems that hit him in the 1980s and that (whatever he may think) were never entirely cured. He is indignant about the Metropolitan Opera's failure to renew his contract in 1997. They could have been more sensitive, but he should have known that he had stopped singing reliably at the Metropolitan Opera level years before. The book has a useful discography and a list of his most notable performances. --Joe McLellan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:52 -0400)

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