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Classical 101

Rudolf Bing Knew How to Produce Epic Opera

The retirement of the autocratic Rudolf Bing as General Manager of Metropolitan Opera in 1972 was the occasion of a huge gala concert at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was one of those nights where if you dropped a bomb, the opera business in Europe and America would have stopped short. Bing (1902-1997) was an Austrian who came to the Met in 1950 after years as an impresario in his native Vienna. He later helped promote the Glyndebourne Festival in England and was the founder of the Edinburgh Festival, both still thriving today. He was thought cold, aloof, distant and somewhat mechanical. He did not inspire love fests. Cyril Richard commented, "Make no mistake. Beneath that glacial facade beats a heart of stone." Say what you want, the man knew how to produce opera. He remained on the job for 22 years. His later years were sad, but that's another story. For now, clips of the April 22, 1972 mega-concert from the Met are turning up on YouTube (Courtesy of Japanese TV, apparently). It's old TV quality, amidst Marc Chagall's sets for Mozart's Die Zauberfloete. Want a thrill? Here, on April 22, 1972, are Richard Tucker (1913-1975) and Robert Merrill (1917-2004) in the duet from Verdi's La forza del destino http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzWMJch4DS4 Like I said, Bing knew how to produce opera. To be fair, Tucker and Merrill, two nice guys from Brooklyn, were well-established by the time Bing arrived in New York in 1950, and their careers continued after Bing retired. Still, this is a thrilling performance from two old timers who knew how to get it done!

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.