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The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 2, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From December 1963, when Volpe joined the Metropolitan Opera as a 23-year-old carpenter, until he became general manager in 1990, he learned on the job what is needed to make an opera company run like clockwork: teamwork. But an opera company's operation resembles a battlefield, for it is fraught with constant skirmishes among the staff. Volpe was in the middle of most such skirmishes as a hands-on leader, yet success depended on each person doing his job well and everyone working together harmoniously. Still, he took definite charge to maintain harmony, as when he dismissed Kathleen Battle for disrupting rehearsals. An affable man, he notes many of his friends among singers, instrumentalists, scenic designers, benefactors, and stage staff in a memoir filled with stories, mostly uplifting, but that also attests to his paramount concern for the smoothly operating team of board, performers, production designers, stage personnel, and administrators. A penetrating and honest behind-the-scenes look at the world's most successful opera company and the battles fought to keep it on top. Alan Hirsch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Volpe is a nuts-and-bolts, man-on-the-street type who has more common sense and business sense and even artistic sense than 90% of people who have ever darkened the Met's doorstep. I very much enjoyed the entire book, including his complete history of the Met, and the behind-the-scenes look at it through all of his 42 years there. He even addresses the dreaded Kathleen Battle debacle, in a way that makes it seem logical and inevitable. A great man, it's doubtful that the Met will ever see his like again.
operas but actually standing there is another thing. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is not great literature, it is s written without pretensions and easily lets
the reader be a part of what the opera house was like during Mr. Volpes time there which, afterall, was a very long time.
Met he has arisen from carpenter to the general manager position.
After 16 years at the company GM this talented on hands leader will officially "retire" at the end of 2005-2006 season.
Volpe's book charts his rise to the top of the Metropolitan opera as this tough, sometimes abrasive but always honest impressario opens the doors of the Met at Lincoln Center to give
us a seat at the world's greatest opera house!
I devoured this book in two days as I learned of the way the Met functions; union negotiations and the quirks and perks of the operatic figures whom Volpe has worked with over the years.
The chapter on Pavarotti and Domingo was outstanding. Volpe's
firing of Kathleen Battle is discussed and the reasons for her
dismissal were warranted!
I turned to this book after listening to Volpe's review of his career on the Met broadcast during this past year. Even if
someone was unfamiliar with the arcane and forbidding world of
opera for the neophyte this book is a winner!
Bravo Senor Volpe! Thank you from an opera fan in Knoxville for your years of outstanding service to our beloved Met!