Tales Of A Tenacious Tenor
Why aren’t you singing at the Met?
You’ll walk in Bob’s shoes through it all – onstage and off. His story is unique in the annuals of opera. You don’t want to miss it. More
Why aren’t you singing at the Met?
…a question frequently asked of the author after a performance. Bob liked to say to people, “I could never come up with a snappy come-back, so I sat down and wrote the whole story…” from when the great movie tenor, Mario Lanza, in the movie Student Prince (1954), inspired him to sing, to his last performance in 1991 as Don José in Carmen. Bob sang more than forty leading roles for more than thirty years with fifteen opera companies in New York City not many people know about.
His story reads like a nail-biting novel, and it’s all true.
Tenor David Britton, Teacher and Artist in Residence at Arizona State University, said of Bob, … I found myself admiring his determined, dogged tenacity and impressive resume … it was this accolade that inspired the book’s title.
Tales of a Tenacious Tenor begins in a small town in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania and takes you to the New York opera stage, chronicling what few people dare even attempt: to sing opera. With the odds stacked against him all the way, he achieved a serendipitous success his long-time friend and devoted opera aficionado, David Schechter, put this way in a recent message:
Bob, an opera that makes me think of you is Les Contes d'Hoffmann. The title role seems to have evoked the best of your singing and acting abilities. Yet this must be a devilishly difficult role. You projected both the idealism and naïveté as well as the heartiness of the character. My favorite aria is: "O dieu de quelle ivresse," which you sang so well. I single out your Hoffmann because you didn't merely perform the role, you inhabited it.
Bob’s first lesson in opera was enough to make most young wannabes pack it in. But Bob’s grit drives his story through high school and on to studying music at Mansfield State Teachers College in northern Pennsylvania. Then, during a once-in-a-lifetime summer on the Jersey shore in 1960, Bob met a young baritone who talked him into going to New York City to study at the Mannes College of Music. With $3.00 in his pocket he took on the Big Apple. There was no turning back.
Right after his Mannes graduation Bob carried a spear at New York City Opera for a season, where he met notable singers like Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, and Norman Treigle. Soon after that Bob auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, the Chicago Lyric Opera Apprentice Program, followed by an audition tour of Germany. From there he studied at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. Armed with all that experience and training, Bob began his long career, performing the four dozen plus roles he mastered with amateur and semi-professional companies in the New York metro area.
During the day Bob wore a business suit, white shirt and tie, pursuing a career in marketing systems with Scholastic, Inc., the New York-based educational publisher. At night and on weekends he became Rodolfo or Alfredo or Tamino or Canio, and a slew of other colorful opera-world characters.
Tales also provides a glimpse into the workings of the “minor leagues” of opera, where singing hopefuls work their tails off, hoping to be noticed by major opera houses in cities all across the land—and sea. Each company has its own stories, tales no one has ever told before. You get up close to the strong smell of stage makeup—mostly self-applied; crowded, sweltering, unisex dressing-rooms; dusty stages; shared sweaty costumes; missing props; missed entrances; loving your fabulous leading ladies more than you should; and yes, the thrill of an appreciative audience.
You’ll walk in Bob’s shoes through it all – onstage and off. His story is unique in the annuals of opera. You don’t want to miss it.
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