• Re: Julius Rudel, 93

    From gggg gggg@21:1/5 to JohnA on Sun Oct 30 17:40:23 2022
    On Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 12:27:23 PM UTC-7, JohnA wrote:

    Julius Rudel, the Austrian-born conductor who raised the New York City Opera to a venturous golden age with highbrow music for the masses and a repertory that, like him, bridged the Old and New Worlds, died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was

    His death, announced by his son, Anthony, came eight months after his beloved and financially struggling City Opera filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors.

    "I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would outlive the company," he told The New York Times shortly afterward.

    Mr. Rudel was the maestro and the impresario, the principal conductor and the director of City Opera for 22 years (1957-79), working in the orchestra pit while running the company on shoestring budgets, signing contracts, casting productions and
    nurturing young singers like José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Beverly Sills.

    A Jewish Viennese refugee from Hitler who fled to New York with his family in 1938, he joined the company in 1944, soon after its inception. He went on to preside over sweeping changes, reflecting his belief that the company should emphasize
    contemporary and American operas and musicals alongside the traditional European repertory -- that it should entertain the wider public and not just opera lovers.

    In this he advanced the spirit with which the company was founded, as "the people's opera," in Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia's words -- one that would be more accessible, affordable and adventurous than the august Metropolitan Opera.

    Mr. Rudel (pronounced roo-DELL) not only diversified repertory but also took the company on tours, became a zealous fund-raiser, kept ticket prices low, negotiated with musicians and stagehands and stabilized finances. In 1966 he presided over the
    company's move from its drafty old music hall on West 55th Street in Manhattan to what was then the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. (It is now the David H. Koch Theater.)

    While best known for developing City Opera to theatrical maturity, Mr. Rudel conducted operas and orchestras in scores of cities in the United States and around the world, freelancing during and after his City Opera years. He was particularly proud of
    conducting more than 200 performances at the Met. Without interrupting his work in New York, he was the first music director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, from 1971 to 1975.

    His company never rivaled the proud Met, with its world-class stars and grand stage productions. Nor was it meant to. But Mr. Rudel won international acclaim with innovative programming. It included premieres of many American operas, high-quality
    Broadway musicals, Gilbert and Sullivan romps and contemporary European musical dramas, besides the classical repertory of Mozart, Puccini and Verdi, often remastered into English and given novel production twists.

    "Everything was different from opera as normally encountered," Harold C. Schonberg, the chief music critic of The New York Times, wrote of Mr. Rudel's 1966 milestone production of Handel's "Giulio Cesare," which lifted Ms. Sills to stardom. "Instead of
    plot, there was, in effect, a series of tableaus. Instead of acting, there was a curiously stylized type of balletic movement from each of the singers." He added, "What a stunning creative production the New York City Opera has come up with. It will be
    the talk of the town."

    And it was.

    Always shaky financially, the company paid its ensemble performers modestly and charged little for seats -- a maximum of $4.35 in 1962 (a little more than $34 today) and $7.95 as late as 1971 (about $47 today). Losses were limited with donations from
    music lovers, foundations and government agencies, and by the loyalties of a 200-member troupe proud of its work and patrons who reveled in new and unusual musical experiences.

    Nancy McAlhany, a first violinist who was with the company for more than 30 years, recalled that Mr. Rudel would begin the company's popular production of Arrigo Boito's "Mefistofele" with a flourish.

    "The house was completely black," she told The Times in 2013. "Julius was on the podium, and in the blackness he had a baton with a little light on the end -- very tiny. He would raise it for the upbeat, and we would play in the dark."

    Critics differed about Mr. Rudel's abilities as a conductor. Many praised his clarity, forcefulness and technical performance and applauded his adventurous range of musical offerings. Others said his whirlwind life as a guest and resident conductor,
    recording artist and champion of American music (commissioning a dozen American operas) left him too busy to be consistently effective. In his last years with the opera, its finances deteriorated, and critics detected an erosion of artistic standards. Ms.
    Sills succeeded him as general director.

    But in a profession notorious for flamboyant personalities, like Herbert von Karajan of the Berlin Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein of the New York Philharmonic, Mr. Rudel was as low-key as they come. Offstage, he never threw a tantrum and was hailed
    for collegiality by composers, singers, musicians, set designers and stage directors with whom he worked closely to prepare for performances.

    "As an executive, he has a personality that is fatherly rather than Napoleonic," The New Yorker said in a 1962 profile of Mr. Rudel. "He rules not by edict, but by persuasion, and he takes his singers fully into his confidence, explaining just why he
    chooses certain people for certain roles, soothing ruffled feelings and stressing the value of self-denying teamwork."

    Julius Rudel was born in Vienna on March 6, 1921, the son of Jakob and Josephine Sonnenblum Rudel. His father was a lawyer and insurance executive. At 3, Julius was playing a quarter-sized violin by ear. At 5 he began formal music training and a year
    later was playing the piano. As a boy, he was a regular standee for performances of the Vienna State Opera, and at home he built opera sets in shoe boxes. By 16 he had written two short operas.

    His father died in 1938, and two months after Germany annexed Austria that year, Julius, his mother and a younger brother, Ludwig, made their way to New York. Julius supported the family as a stock clerk, delivery boy and switchboard operator while
    continuing his music studies. He graduated from the Mannes School of Music in 1942 and became an American citizen in 1944.

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    In 1942, he married Rita Gillis. They had three children. Mrs. Rudel, a neuropsychologist and author, died in 1984.

    In addition to his son, Mr. Rudel is survived by two daughters, Joan Weinreich and Madeleine Grant; a brother, Ludwig; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

    City Opera's home during much of Mr. Rudel's tenure was the former Mecca Temple, originally a domed Shriners' meeting hall at 131 West 55th Street in Midtown that was seized by the city for back taxes, spared demolition in 1943 and converted into the
    City Center of Music and Drama, now known as City Center.

    Mr. Rudel was apprenticed as an unpaid rehearsal pianist and worked his way up, handling props, managing the stage, organizing auditions and choruses, occasionally substituting for performers, learning all phases of the opera and making himself
    generally indispensable. He was rewarded with casting and conducting assignments, and after a 1956 season of financial reversals and temperamental outbursts by the director and chief conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, Mr. Rudel, waiting in the wings, got his

    "We were terribly tired of prima donnas," a board member said, "and Rudel was the only man in the place who knew where all the scenery was buried."

    His dual roles as conductor and director gave him virtually complete control over the opera company, and as the years passed and the wavy hair turned silver, the habit of command made him seem older. But the long angular face, the sober smile and the
    appraising dark eyes retained vitality, and until late in life he had the trim look of the skier and swimmer he had been.

    Between seasons Mr. Rudel performed at festivals and concerts at Lewisohn Stadium at City College, at the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, N.Y., and in venues from Cincinnati and Philadelphia to Spoleto, Italy, and Israel. He also conducted in Milan,
    London, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Paris and Hamburg. After leaving City Opera, he conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1979 to 1985 and had engagements in Chicago, Munich, Caracas, Bonn, Copenhagen, Rome and many other cities.

    In 2013, the University of Rochester Press published "First and Lasting Impressions: Julius Rudel Looks Back on a Life in Music," a memoir written with Rebecca Paller.

    "Mr. Rudel has been perhaps the outstanding example of a vanishing breed, the true opera maestro who learned his craft in a company, beginning at entry level and staying with it, rather than moving prematurely to showier symphonic paths," Thor Eckert
    wrote in a 1994 career summation for The Times.

    "His skill in the pit is legendary; his knowledge of how opera works onstage and behind the scenes is second to none."

    Mr. Rudel's farewell to City Opera came in February, during a commemorative anniversary program, "70 Years of the People's Opera," at City Center. Mr. Rudel was brought onstage in a wheelchair and waved to the full house as it gave him an enthusiastic

    Correction: June 26, 2014
    An earlier version of this article misstated the location of "70 Years of the People's Opera," a commemorative anniversary program of the City Opera. It was at City Center, not the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

    (2022 Y. upload):

    "Dame Gwyneth Jones in Ariadne auf Naxos Hamburg 1982"

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