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Opera Fanatic Magazine in the News, continued

Opera Fanatic magazine

 Opera Fanatic, Issue 2

 Opera Fanatic, Issue 3

 Issue 2, 68 pages (8.5 x 11") (21.5 cm x 28 cm) US$3.95

Click to order: Issue 2

 Issue 3, 92 pages (8.5 x 11") (21.5 cm x 28 cm) US$6.95

Click to order: Issue 3


Carreras vs. Domingo vs. Pavarotti

Jeannie Williams wrote in her column in USA Today:

Domingo may be working hard, but he’s slipping in one poll. Opera Fanatic, a New York magazine/radio program, has had tenor fans calling for their favorites, and so far Pavarotti is in the lead, with José Carreras second and Domingo third. In a similar poll seven years ago, Domingo led and Pavarotti trailed.

Publishing on Pavarotti in the Montreal Gazette, Arthur Kaptainis noted, “Stefan Zucker says most callers to his radio show are more than satisfied with the current version of the primo tenore. There is even a hard statistical case for awarding Pavarotti that controversial title,” Kaptainis stated, giving details about our polls. (“The PAV is Back”)

In La Follia di New York, Cathy Wall devoted two pages to reporting the results of our polls. Our earlier polls were reported by Marylis Sevilla-Gonzaga in Opera News, by Michael Redmond in the Newark Star-Ledger, by Iris Bass in Sightlines, by Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times and, by Zucker, in New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine. Detailed results for a number of polls are in Opera Fanatic.          

Arthur Kaptainis declared in the Montreal Gazette, “Opera Fanatic packs more courageous and outrageous subjectivity into one issue than some journals hazard in a lifetime. . . . About half the magazine consists of astonishingly violent back-and-forth salvos on the virtues and vices of this or that diva or leading man. . . .” Kaptainis added that the question, “JFK—Millo’s Secret Dad?” will “take some time to reach the panelists of Texaco Opera Quiz.” He went on to discuss the article’s revelations, terming them “not uninteresting.” But he continued, “The alternatively gossipy and erudite articles ultimately seem secondary to the white-hot letters column.” Kaptainis quoted copiously from the letters and listener reviews. He obviously loved the magazine.

The New York Times Magazine ran an effusive article about Millo by one Lisa Schwarzbaum that mentioned that Opera Fanatic told her family’s saga with “surprising viciousness.” [Not so. I told the story by quoting court records, restricting my own writing to reportage about interstitial events. Are facts vicious?—SZ]

In a lengthy article about the magazine, Michael Redmond, music editor of the Newark Star-Ledger, championed Millo’s singing: “Just how high will this star rise in the operatic firmament? . . . the sky’s the limit.” He stated, “Above and beyond the sometimes embarrassing facts of family history, Opera Fanatic has raised the issues of what, if anything, an artist owes to the public in the way of biographical disclosure, and what, if anything, the press should do when questions are raised about an artist’s veracity in on-the-record interviews.” Redmond felt the magazine delves deep. (“Soprano’s Family Ties Stir Furor Among Opera Fans”)

In an article about Millo in The Washington Post, Joe McLellan noted that Opera Fanatic “lavishly documented” her family’s “problems.” (“Aprile Millo, the Bashful Strategist”)

The New York Post printed a partially accurate account of the Millogate story and described OF as an “opera fanzine.” The nerve! The story ran as the lead on Page Six, reserved for juicy scandals. (“Tangled Plot of Met Star’s Parents”)

Including a full-page photo of Zucker, a Condé Nast glossy from Britain, Tatler, referred to Opera Fanatic as “the magazine that prints the angst behind the arias” and declared, “Zucker’s journalistic nose twitches in pursuit of stories from the wildest shores of operatic scandals.” Calling the radio show “a forum for loony opera-buffs,” Robert Turnbull touched on the coverage of Caballé’s tummy ache, Cotrubas’ walkout, Domingo’s love life and the LaRouche-opera connection and gave an inaccurate account of the Millogate story and of a radio interview of Virginia Zeani. (“Singing on the Brain: Operamaniacs”)

Richard S. Ginell, in the Los Angeles Daily News, began, “Opera nuts who aren’t content with the sleaze that is sometimes depicted on stage can take heart: A new publication is serving their needs.” He limned the Millogate story and said of “The Listening Public Reviews,” “These catty listeners aren’t shy, either,” quoting an extended exchange about Te Kanawa. Ginell remarked, “I savor Opera Fanatic.” (“New Opera Magazine Dishes Up the Dirt for Fans”)

 Samples from Opera Fanatic

LaRouche and the Tuning Pitch 
In an article in The Washington Post on the LaRouche-sponsored bill to lower the tuning pitch, Joe McLellan wrote, “Zucker has taken a firm lead in opposing the legislation” and went on to quote Opera Fanatic at length, calling OF’s articles “an exhaustive study of pitch and LaRouche.” (“Lyndon LaRouche’s Pitch Battle”)

Bernard Holland wrote an article in The New York Times about the tuning pitch, based on the LaRouche position (“Singers Join in a Lament about Rising Pitch”). The Times published Zucker’s reply, mentioning this magazine (“Illegal Pitch?”). Zucker contended that “[Holland’s] claim that [Verdi] legislated a tuning pitch is pure invention.” Zucker also maintained that “during most of Verdi’s life, tuning pitches were higher than today’s—as high as A 457. The mean tuning pitch was in the neighborhood of A 450, which led the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome to recommend it as the standard.”

Zucker published an article on LaRouche and the tuning pitch in the Chelsea Clinton News and The Westsider, mentioning Opera Fanatic. Discussing the involvement of Pavarotti, Sutherland, Fischer-Dieskau, Caballé, Domingo, Horne, Freni, Kraus, Tebaldi, Di Stefano, Nilsson, Bergonzi, Bumbry, Milnes, Ameling, Mitchell, Cossotto, Verrett, Bechi, Bacquier, Cappuccilli, Sayão, Lorengar, Schreier, Kabaivanska, Cruz-Romo, R. Raimondi, Ludwig, Moll, E. Moser, L. Quilico, Rothenberger, Robbins-Landon, Kubelik, Chailly, Bonynge, Gavazzeni and hundreds of others in the opera world with LaRouche, Zucker contended:

Most of the performers have no idea of the real history of the tuning pitch. They believe that until recently it was a half-tone down. However, 440 cps, in general use since early in this century, is lower than the mean tuning pitches in the 19th century, when the tuning pitch ranged as high as A 457—more than a quarter-step above 440. The performers believe A 432 to be a half-step below 440; in actuality it is less than a third of a half-step below. Tuning pitches in the mid-440s, used by some European orchestras, are not wildly higher than 440—contrary to what some of the performers suppose. A 445, for example, is only about one fifth of a half-step higher. Never in history have more people tuned to the same pitch than today. . . .

The LaRouche bill in no way veils its threat to artistic freedom. According to Article 2 of the bill, state-subsidized organizations must adopt A 432. According to Article 5, “The utilization of instruments of reference”—tuning forks and tone generators—”not conforming to A 432 is punishable by the confiscation of the non-standard object and with a fine for each specimen of $73-$730.” The LaRouche literature makes no bones about this, and the petition’s celebrity signers are all presumably aware of it. (“Lyndon LaRouche and the Golden Mean”)

Francis Church focused on LaRouche and pitch in The Richmond News Leader, quoting Opera Fanatic extensively. He declared:

Zucker doesn’t merely raise his voice in protest. He supports his arguments with facts. . . . He feels LaRouche is using the issue to get more credibility and respectability. . .. 

Church concluded with Zucker saying, “If LaRouche has his way, pitch police might well tramp down the aisles of La Scala to arrest dissenters tuning to A 440.” (“Shall Lyndon LaRouche Call the Tuning Pitch?”)

In consequence of Opera Fanatic’s criticism of LaRouche’s bill regarding the tuning pitch, he and Zucker were interviewed by Lars Hoel on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Speaking from jail, LaRouche tried to justify his stand on pitch, which Zucker attacked, as in Issue 3. Hoel observed that Zucker “poked holes in the historical and scientific rationales behind LaRouche’s position.” During the course of the broadcast, one of the signatories of LaRouche’s pitch petition, soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson, avowed:

There’s nothing in the world that I can do to push my voice any louder, through E and F in the bottom of the voice; I will always have that. And when the pitch is slightly higher, it makes that even more difficult. I’ve sung Beethoven recitals with fortepiano, and things like “Ah, perfido!” are very, very tough on the voice—but when it was put in the proper pitch, I was in heaven! The piece just fit my voice perfectly.

On the same broadcast, Tim Page of Newsday stated:

If the LaRouchians and Stefan Zucker want to fight about it, I think that’s fine. But I don’t think the music world is up in arms. I remember the first time I ever encountered the LaRouchies: They were outside Alice Tully Hall, and they had some petition to ban Vivaldi from the concert halls. They didn’t think he had the “fundamental emotion”— whatever that means. They also recently disrupted a Chicago Symphony performance of “Brangle,” a work by Jacob Druckman, and passed out pamphlets saying “Leonard Slatkin Serves Satan” (Slatkin was the conductor there). This is not normal behavior.

Hoel noted, “Music critic Tim Page thinks all this energy haggling over pitch might be put to a better use, such as including more 20th-century music in the standard concert repertoire.”

[Because of the program’s format, I didn’t get a chance to reply. Bryn-Julson apparently doesn’t know that when ”Ah, perfido!” was composed, in 1796, the tuning pitch was 422-424 cycles per second. LaRouche’s bill specifies that tuning pitches varying from 432 by more than 0.5 hertz are illegal. Were the Italian Senate to enact the bill, in accordance with one of its provisions, she would be fined as much as $730 for using a tuning pitch as low as 424. 432 is too high for most music written prior to 1810 and too low for nearly everything later. (See Issue 3, pp. 39-52.) What Page fails to realize is that, on account of his pitch bill, LaRouche is being taken seriously: The Newark Star-Ledger, The New Yorker and the New York Post all more or less supported it on the grounds that since Pavarotti et al. wanted it, it had to be good. For the same reason, the European press has been very favorable to LaRouche. What could make him more credible than having his bill debated in the Italian Senate? On the subject of modern music, should LaRouche come to power he would prohibit the performance of music by Wagner and anyone since.—SZ]

Opera Fanatic’s coverage of the LaRouche-celebrity-singer connection occasioned three articles in the New York Post, one by Sharon Churcher (“Stars Favor One LaRouche Pitch”) and two by Clare McHugh (“LaRouche Backers Hit Sour Note” and “Lyndon’s Latest Pitch”). McHugh reported complaints by non-celebrity signatories of LaRouche’s pitch petition that they were being bombarded by the LaRouchites with propaganda and were being hit up for donations.     

 Samples from Opera Fanatic

One of Domingo’s Mistresses     

Richard Johnson wrote in Page Six of the New York Post:

The current issue of Opera Fanatic magazine says Giovanna Montgomery has been Domingo’s mistress.

“Her emanations make her sexually magnetic,” says the caption on a photograph of the attractive brunette. “When she enters a room, men suck in their tummies.”

The magazine’s editor, Stefan Zucker, revealed the alleged romance in his review of Domingo’s autobiography, Plácido Domingo, My First Forty Years (Knopf), which is dedicated to the tenor’s wife, Marta.

The book, according to Zucker, does deal with extracurricular sex in that it “recalls some youthful visits to Mexican whorehouses.” But there is no mention at all of Giovanna Montgomery, “who’s been having an affair with Domingo off and on since they met in Verona in ’69.”

When reached in Rome by PAGE SIX’s Pat Wadsley, Giovanna denied any relationship with Domingo. “It’s ridiculous. Who’s seen me with him?” she screamed. “Where have they seen me? It’s a bunch of lies.”

Giovanna’s ex-husband Patrick Montgomery, who was divorced from her 10 years ago, conceded that she had known Domingo for a long time and said the three of them have had dinner together: “But they weren’t having an affair during our marriage.”

Nevertheless, some opera buffs say the romance is for real. “Plácido was probably the first man in Giovanna’s life,” said Nancy Davis, a former concert violinist and confidant of Giovanna’s. “He went after her when she was 17 years old. Giovanna has always been obsessed with musicians and singers.”

And Bob Connolly, a photographer who’s documented the opera scene over the years, said: “I’ve seen Giovanna and Plácido together on countless occasions. Once they had a wild argument in front of me. And always, there is passion in his eyes.”

Domingo’s spokeswoman Mildred Grant was shocked: ”Of course women try to approach him. We laugh about it all the time. But his wife is always by his side. I’ve been with him four years, and in all this time I’ve never heard this woman’s name.”

But Zucker, who once interviewed Giovanna on WKCR radio, seems to know a lot about the woman. He tells how Luciano Pavarotti, the other great tenor of this era, tried to make music with her. “She wouldn’t come across for Pavarotti,” said Zucker, “even after he cooked spaghetti for her.” (“Things Aren’t Placid for Domingo”)

The Domingo-Montgomery story was also picked up by WNET-TV, the London newspaper Today and the Italian newsweekly Panorama.   

 Samples from Opera Fanatic

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