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Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera Paperback – September 9, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fiedler is the author of an affectionately critical memoir of her father Arthur Fiedler of Boston Pops fame, and since she spent 15 years at the Met as its press representative, she is well placed to offer a lively history of an institution often involved in controversy and personality clashes. She is particularly good on its early history the Met began when the newly wealthy Mrs. Vanderbilt was turned down for a box at the old Academy of Music, then New York's opera house, and decided, in 1883, to start her own and gives a delicious picture of an era when opera in the city was essentially a social rather than a musical milieu, and the music (not that anybody listened very hard) was largely Wagner. Then came decades of expansion, the legendary rule of Rudolf Bing, the move to Lincoln Center and the long tenure of Anthony Bliss. The story comes up to the present with the dual regime of Joseph Volpe, who rose through the stagehand ranks to become a tough and admired general manager, and conductor James Levine, who has covered himself and the Met orchestra with musical glory for 30 years but seems unknowable behind his mask of warm geniality. Along the way, of course, are innumerable tempestuous scenes: with Callas, with the increasingly weird Kathleen Battle and with the often insecure Luciano Pavarotti. An orchestra member is raped and murdered behind the scenes. And always, there are union problems, and agonies about how to pay the bills. Fiedler's book is workmanlike, but to any opera buff who has read the New York Times carefully over the years, nothing much here is new. A book on London's Covent Garden that, by a strange coincidence, appears the same week, is infinitely more revealing and dramatic (see review above).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For the uninitiated, molto agitato is Italian for "very agitated," and it's a fitting title. This is not a book about music or opera but the business of New York City's Metropolitan Opera and the personalities who have shaped it from its beginnings in the late 19th century to the present day. Daughter of famed Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, the author worked as the Met's general press representative for 15 years. Drawing from that gold mine of experience, she spins a fascinating account of strong egos, clashing personalities, power plays, and frequent major disasters. There are enough heroes, villains, and side plots to fill a dozen adventure novels. The reader is left to wonder how the Met has been able to survive this long, given the quantity of incompetence in its management over many decades. Fans of "insider" opera accounts may be reminded of Rudolph Bing's 5000 Nights at the Opera (1972. o.p.), which shares similar stories. For those interested in the dirt behind the golden curtain, this will be a feast. Suitable for public and academic libraries. Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By MOVIE MAVEN on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Back when I used to spend more summer days on the beach than at work, this book would have been considered a perfect "beach book." Anyone interested in opera in general or the Metropolitan Opera specifically, will want to read what goes into the day-to-day workings of this city within a city.
MOLTO AGITATO's subtitle says it all: "The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera." Fiedler is a witty, clever writer who keeps the pace going and although she has some obvious likes and dislikes among the stars and the office and backstage workers, she seemingly keeps her opinions on the back burner and tries, often successfully, to tell the facts. But, let's face it: the Met is a performing arts organization and, therefore every civilian who watches or listens to even one opera from the Met, becomes a financial and artistic critic.
Conductor James Levine, one of the Met's treasures, and, in fact, one of the world's musical treasures, gets the lion's share of attention and adoration, but Fielder is "relatively fair" to more famous names like Marian Anderson and Placido Domingo, Cecilia Bartoli and Beverly Sills, Maria Callas and Enrico Caruso, et al. For snide laughs, start with the gossip surrounding the firing of Kathleen Battle; for grim adventure, there is the real murder of violinist Helen Hagnes; if you believe that the Met, to survive, has got to hire more experimental directors, read about John Dexter and his defeat at Lincoln Center; if you believe that the Met, to survive, must continue to hire more lavish directors, read about Franco Zeffirelli and his opera-as-spectacle policy; if you, like most, get your only opera experience from The Three Tenors, there are pieces on all three of them and an extra long chapter on the, arguably, most famous singer of all time, Luciano Pavarotti.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
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 ?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By sonia golden on April 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My girlfriend and I discussed this book and she sent me this interesting review of hers. The book is filled with ancedotes and gossip, but I wished the author, would depict the "characters" objectively, instead there is a strong judgmental undertone, and this is very unprofessional. At least for the large part, this book seems to be intended as a documental account on the Met History and developments, but Ms. Fiedler does not treat it so. She describes people strictly as "good" or "bad" girls and boys. Pavarotti, for example is a "good boy" all the way, he just could not do anything wrong, and if there was a negative feature mentioned, it was always followed by "but"...while Domingo is made really bad, and if something good was said about him, it was also followed by "but". Among many other things, he is said to be not as graceful as Corelli, he cannot act(!?) and he is a "King of just a B flat" as opposed to Pavarotti. It seems Ms. Fiedler just could not help herself to mention this-how small!To be fair, she could have said that Pavarotti, on the other hand, cannot do justice in singing Otello, Parcifal, or even Idomeneo-Where Domingo excells. Pavarotti voice is more lyrical and that is why it is more natural for him to have a better high C. Putting down Domingo consistently is simply peculiar.
Renata Tebaldi, a legendary star in our opera world is not even discussed, although she was an important part of our Met culture. The author felt very secure
, however, in coming down in full force on Kathleen Battle. Perhaps Ms. Fiedler felt that such juciest gossip would make her book more valuable.
There is merit to this book. The historical facts are valuable and the author can write well so this could be a good book for opera buffs to own, however,it would serve the author to be more objective in reporting facts rather than being so subjective. Kay Birula of Kernersville, N.C.
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