Danny Newman discusses his career as a theatrical press agent for opera theaters and his book, "Subscribe Now"
BROADCAST: Apr. 2, 1982 | DURATION: 00:37:06
Studs interview with Danny Newman, Public Relations Council for the Lyric Opera Company. Newman shares his theatrical opera introductions and discusses a variety of performers and operas for the Lyric Opera Company season.
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Studs Terkel Who better to describe the forthcoming Lyric Opera season than a Chicago original? The one and only Danny Newman who is sui generis, none like him, he is the public relations counsel of the Lyric Opera Company as well as a master of getting audiences. He saved a number of theaters throughout the country. Author of the definitive book on getting subscribers to theaters and to opera companies in all parts of the world, "Subscribe Now" is his book, and Danny will be describing in his own way some of the libretti of the forthcoming operas. Danny happens to be crazy about Italian tenors, and so the season--but let him tell it, 'cause I would pale
Studs Terkel And you will in a moment. The stallion Dany Newman. After this message we'll hear voices and we'll hear commentary by Danny Newman. Before I ask you, Danny, about some of the singers we'll hear and your thoughts about them, as well as your descriptions of the operas, yourself, you're of sort of an old tradition. I don't mean P.T. Barnum, but of that flamboyant tradition of the old, old-time publicity
Danny Newman Yes, the whip-cracking American showman. Well, I'm a theatrical press agent and manager by profession, I have been for a very long time, and I've been with Lyric Opera since it began in 1954 and prior to that was with the Chicago Opera Company, the one that closed 36 years ago in 1946, and then I also publicized the Metropolitan Opera and The New York City Opera in the intervening eight years from '46 to '54 when Lyric began for the Chicago engagements of those two companies.
Danny Newman Yes, I must say that there is, although I love soprano voices and baritones and basses and mezzo sopranos and contraltos, above all for me the thrill is the tenor voice and I'm not alone in that, many people share this great enthusiasm with me.
Danny Newman Well, here goes. "Emotions erupt. Favorite arias abound. Singers soar ecstatically and opera-intoxicated audiences experience sheer delight with this rapturous, meltingly melodic Italian Lyric Theatre work. Here we pleasure in the pomp and pageantry of Rome, the romantic tragedy of painter and prima donna, the spine-chilling malevolence of the patrician police chief, an all-powerful musical drama by the composer/genius who gave us 'La Boheme', 'Madama Butterfly', and 'Turandot', and of course I'm referring to Giacomo Puccini."
Studs Terkel I won't ask you, put you on the spot since we have the two, tenore prime in Pavarotti and Domingo, is one of the two--this is a silly question, by putting Danny Newman on, one of the two sends you more?
Studs Terkel Yes,
Studs Terkel Yes, my--father! I must ask you this. Danny Newman--by the way, as a matter of course refers to people as "my son." And, so, I ask you this question: What is your remarkable technique? You have a way of, like you're responsible for the Goodman Theatre. Goodman has succeeded now for several years and, good and bad plays in different productions, exciting ones, the audience flows in a steady, and is more often than not sold out, is your work. What is it you do?
Danny Newman Well, Studs, for many, many years, actually since I've been a boy, I've been obsessed with the idea of building what I call committed audiences. Now, that's my euphemism for subscription audiences, for the performing arts. For theatres, for opera companies, for ballet companies, for symphony orchestras, all of the arts disciplines. The idea that people should come regularly and in the coming regularly that they themselves, the audience members, would develop, would become better instruments for artists to play upon, so to speak. And so I have organized, you might say, all of the ways in which subscriptions can be sold and have taught this, these procedures, to arts people all over North America and in many places overseas, too. And I incorporated, let's say, the best of my knowledge and thinking on that subject in the book "Subscribe Now", which was published originally in 1977. And at that time I believe you and I did a program about it, I was your guest, and we talked about many things, including of course Lyric Opera is always in it, and Lyric Opera is my baby. I've been with it since it began as I said before, and I'm very proud of Lyric Opera. I'm very proud of Lyric Opera's present situation under the general managership of Ardis Krainik who came new to the position after Carol Fox left last year, retired and then unfortunately within six months died. And in this past year the company, which had been admittedly in financial difficulties despite its world fame, has recovered. We produced a brilliant 1980 season, virtually all esoteric works, but our wonderful subscriber audience loved it. And now we're offering a season which is almost the opposite, almost very, very little esoteric quotient, very popular operas, and I am very happy to say that the response of the Chicago opera public at the present time for subscription for the coming fall is overwhelming.
Studs Terkel You know, Danny, you said that in one sentence. You beat Marcel Proust. He used to write those long--yours is a clear, but it's all one sentence, the flow. And so we continue. We continue, Danny Newman, with the voice of Jon Vickers.
Danny Newman "Canio pours out his glorious searing song, then gives murderous vent to his rage, for clown though he be, he will not wear the cuckold's horns. This compact opera packs a powerful punch. It tears at the heart. A masterpiece. It is filled with the local colour of a tiny Italian town and its primitive folkways captured by an irresistible musical score."
Studs Terkel Now, we think of Jon Vickers as the great heldentenor of our day, the man who in a sense succeeded, more so, Lauritz Melchior, because he is the Wagnerian tenor, and here he is doing "Pagliacci".
Danny Newman Well, you know he's doing both in the coming season at Lyric Opera. He is our Tristan in "Tristan and Isolde" as well as the Canio in "Pagliacci". And if "Tristan and Isolde", by the way, if one were to describe--
Danny Newman One would say, "Out of the Dark Ages has come the legend of sorcery and of these two lovers' complete abandonment to their ecstasy and to their fate. In this tale of their irresistible tragic passion unfolded in the surging and soaring of a composer giant's immortal music comes their death while we thrill to one of grand operas most sublime moments, the 'Liebestod', to the final stupendous crash of monumental orchestral forces and at curtains' fall, the serenity of 'Tristan and Isolde's' perfect union."
Studs Terkel I have never heard Wagner described in that manner. When I think of "Die Liebestod", I think of Isolde running, you know, and to the dying Tristan, and Tristan is saying, "Isolde, Isolde, I smolder, I smolder!" As he did, he was a smoldering, was a smoldering aria duet.
Studs Terkel Right. And so Vickers and Domingo, tenors. May we now switch, if you don't mind, to a baritone? The great Welsh baritone and teacher and director, of course, Geraint Evans, who's worked with Vickers of course, and Peter Grimes.
Danny Newman Yes, in his role of Don Alfonso, and we speak of "Cosi Fan Tutte", we might say that "jubilant music bubbles and then bursts into magnificence as two dashing officers, egged on by a cynical bachelor, that's Geraint Evans, assume disguise to woo each other's fiancées, who seemingly succumb, or is it that they're onto their boyfriends' little ruse? Thus the master composer and his inspired librettist pose, but do not answer, their ultimate question on the reflexes of the sexes."
Studs Terkel Nor have I heard Mozart described in that manner. And so there's "Cosi Fan Tutte", so we have Mozart. We have the operetta, Strauss, we have Puccini and we have of course--it's "Pagliacci" and what, and "Cavalleria" together? "Pagliacci", that's the double
Danny Newman That's
Danny Newman Well, I, yes, those have been called the ham and eggs, you know, of opera, and they are a wonderful combination. However, Miss Krainik and Maestro Bruno Bartoletti, our artistic director who celebrated his 25th anniversary, by the way, with us this year, decided that this would be the combination for the programming of Lyric Opera's forthcoming 28th season at the Civic Opera House beginning on the 18th of September.
Studs Terkel So let's return to Evans. Though we couldn't find him doing "Cosi Fan Tutte" in the library at the moment, but we've got to hear Evans. Let's hear him doing--he was a great Figaro. He did Leporello and Giovanni, but also did Figaro in "Marriage of". And so, here he is. He's telling Cherubino you're gonna go off to the wars, okay, kid you're gonna be--you go ahead and you got that great scene with the broomstick and he's out there, and he's telling Cherubino what it's gonna be like, and this is "Non Piu Andrai", and this is Geraint Evans. [content removed, see catalog record] Geraint Evans as the Figa--by the way, Evans, of course, we know is a magnificent actor/singer and director, of course he directed the Peter--that magnificent "Peter Grimes" with Jon Vickers.
Studs Terkel Before we take a break we must ask Danny Newman to describe some other works, aside from his work with the Lyric Opera Company, when you worked for different theatres, you also described plays of that season. You have descriptions there of, oh, some of the classics. "Uncle Vanya" of Chekhov, or "She Stoops to Conquer", Goldsmith, or "Marat/Sade", so how would you describe "Uncle"--how would you describe "She Stoops to Conquer"?
Danny Newman "This delightfully delirious divertissement parlays its playwright's ploy of mistaken identity into an uproarious high comedy of errors about a girl betrothed to a man she has never met. It's rich in rapier riposte, bubbling with wit, laced with grace. While languishing ladies' fatuous flops, bumbling bumpkins and bawdy barmaids cavort in all manner of pastoral jollification and it's filled with all those marvelous preposterous absurdities of an era of elegant entertainment."
Danny Newman "The compassionate Russian dramatist whose works have inspired platoons of playwrights. I'm speaking of Chekhov, of course. Brilliantly illumines a human comedy in which powerful passions are stirred and brought to slow boil under the deceptively placid surface while bittersweet humor cannot assuage the pang or stop the pain of love unrequited. A moody masterpiece of private grief and muted laughter in which the yearning heart forgives man's follies and foibles."
Studs Terkel The good doctor would have said that may not be a Chekhovian interpretation, but it's certainly Newmanian. Newman, it's yours. One more and then we take a break and we go back to the opera. One more description of one more play. These are different theatres you've worked with
Danny Newman Yes.
Danny Newman "Here's one of the Bard's most simulating works of genius offering in quicksilver profusion a procession of frolicking goddesses, clowns, fairies, sprites and spirits weaving mythically and magically through the tangled tropical jungle of our subconscious in this pre-Freudian splurge of richly poetic fantasy all enthralled by the limitless wonders of sorcery. In short, such stuff as dreams are made on."
Studs Terkel Danny Newman, who we describe as publicity man, that doesn't do it. He's the public relations counsel of the Lyric Opera Company. He is an original, quite obviously, and somehow or other he brings a certain vitality to whatever theater he's working for. And you've worked in different parts of the world, I know that, that is, you help them--
Danny Newman Right.
Danny Newman Yes. I have many projects overseas in England, in Scotland, in Australia, in New Zealand. I'm going to Holland the end of the coming month. I have projects from coast to coast and Canada, where I have been working for the Canadian government for 20 years now for all of the professional arts in the country. And I'm happy to say that we have increased the audience which attends, by the way, over 1000 percent in those years. And I don't think it's been any less, certainly in the United States.
Studs Terkel And so we'll take a pause now, after this message we'll return, more about more arias, more music from the Lyric Opera season, and more of your--I was about to say reflections, well, they're not quiet reflections, but reflections nonetheless. After this message. And so we return to Danny Newman and Alfredo Kraus is appearing this season at the Lyric.
Danny Newman Yes, Alfredo Kraus who is, of course, like Geraint Evans who we spoke of a few minutes ago, a staple great star regularly appearing at Lyric Opera over many years. Alfredo Kraus is appearing in "The Tales of Hoffmann" this season. He's appeared in a considerable number of operas for us.
Studs Terkel But I ask about Kraus. Now and then a comment is made about Kraus, in contrast, say, Domingo or Pavarotti, that he, some would say he's cool. That is, he doesn't seem to indicate at least outwardly, it would say, the passion of a Domingo or a Pavarotti in their role, his more of a cool approach, is that fair or unfair?
Danny Newman I'm not certain whether one could describe it as cool, exactly. For me, I think he sings quite passionately. He's different. All of the great tenors really are different from each other. One can listen to 10 recordings in a row, and if one knows tenors, it can immediately tell which one it is. Kraus is--has a voice of great beauty which he produces with incredible perfection. He can be said to be the tenors' tenor. He is the most respected I know of all the opera singers of our time.
Danny Newman Well, I would describe it as, and I have described it as, in the Lyric brochure for the coming season, the brochure which is achieving such marvelous returns. By the way, this--the highest number of new subscriptions for this early in the year in the history of Lyric Opera. I would say about "The Tales of Hoffmann", "the creator of all those delightful frothy Frenchy operetta souffles, I'm speaking of, of course, Jacques Offenbach."
Studs Terkel Yes.
Danny Newman "Goes grand opera with a vengeance and with tremendous success as his dashing poet thrice loves and loses to the accompaniment of some of the most sensuous insinuating and lovely music ever composed and every one of Hoffmann's "Tales" is fascinating and fantastic."
Studs Terkel And this is that aria where he doesn't know whether he's awake or dreaming, the air has that of a paradise around him or the woods sigh as an echoing harp, a whole world reveals itself to his bedazzled eyes, and nature filled with charm and queen of time and space, and I--and it salutes the humble mortal, this Kraus then, we hear Kraus. [content removed, see catalog record] Kraus, of course, his strength really is in the French operas,
Danny Newman Yes, if you are an opera impresario, a management, an artistic direction in our time and you are presenting or producing "Werther", you must have Kraus. I mean, there is just no alternative
Danny Newman Right. And I'm sure that in succeeding years it will sometime be done again. It is a wonderful work, and as long as a great interpreter of the role like Alfredo Kraus is operative, people will want to do "Werther".
Studs Terkel And so, not accidentally, the combination of "Pagliacci" and I call "Vox Humana", the French, the human voice, the French opera of Poulenc. That will be--we should hear part of that. Maybe just the over--introduction to--
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Studs Terkel I think--just that because--the Lyric, though this is a traditional season, aside from "Luisa Miller", which is not too often performed, the Verdi, and "Vox Humana", this generally, these are traditional--
Studs Terkel Staples.
Studs Terkel You realize, before we hear a bit of Poulenc, what about, we haven't talked about some of the women performers, we'd better make that clear. We've been just emphasizing the, primarily the tenors aside from Geraint Evans, the baritone. Some of the women
Danny Newman Well, being that we have just spoken of "La Voix Humaine", as you know, there is only one artist in it, it's for one person, and that's Josephine Barstow. And anybody who was present during any of the performances of "Macbeth" last season at Lyric Opera, Verdi's "Macbeth", would have some idea of Miss Barstow's caliber. She had a stunning success as Lady Macbeth. Not just vocally, but also in characterization. She's a remarkable soprano and when our artistic direction and management decided to do "La Voix Humaine", I am sure that one of the reasons was that there is a Josephine Barstow to interpret
Danny Newman No,
Studs Terkel Because I was thinking of the younger singers today, American--well, as well as British, who have come forth now, acting singers or singing actors, and they're--in the olden days, we know in the olden days the performer, the soprano, the tenor would get out in front of the audience and belt out the aria, and the, and so the action would stop. Now we know the great many of them are singing actors, acting singers, and so they contin--they act it, and so it's part of the story and it flows. And she's one--of course, this is a remarkable acting job called
Danny Newman Ruth Welting, who was just, you know, an extraordinary performer. And we have, I think, somebody that's of great interest is Ellen Shade, who appeared in "Paradise Lost", you will recall, and has appeared in many traditional roles at Lyric Opera. An American artist of great quality.
Danny Newman Well, you know in "Madama Butterfly" we have Elena Mauti-Nunziata, and we have Elena Zilio also appearing in that opera, and in "Cosi Fan Tutte" there's Rachel Yakar, I believe is an Israeli soprano who's been very successful now all over Europe and Howells, the British soprano, and then we have also Elizabeth Hynes and of course in "Tosca", the Tosca is Grace Bumbry, and on--
Danny Newman Yes.
Danny Newman Is doing "Tosca"; well, Grace Bumbry has switched somewhere along the line. She now sings primarily soprano roles and, actually, sharing the role with her is Eva Marton, who had such a marvelous success here in "Lohengrin", you know,
Danny Newman Well, I think it would be an interpretation for anybody, or anybody who might come to themselves. I would say that "dainty butterfly loves not wisely but too well against the background of exotic cherry blossomed old Japan while the strains of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' mingle with one of the most moving outpourings of Italian music in all the soulful realm of romantic opera. No eye will be dry as Puccini's star-crossed lovers scale the heights of the musical staff only to come crashing down in a heart-rending denouement." I might say, that's me, "D. Newman."
Studs Terkel D. Newm--we're too--by the way, a word about Danny Newman. McNeil Lowry, who was vice president of the Ford Foundation, introduction to Danny's book "Subscribe Now", which is one of the naturals for people interested in promoting theatres or concerts or opera companies or dance companies, and McNeil Lowry writes, "I've been associated in my career with two foundations which have had real impact upon the performing arts. One was the Ford Foundation. The other was a one-man foundation in the person of Danny Newman. No third foundation to this date has put as much financial stability into theaters, symphonies, operas and dance companies." And then it goes on to describe the technique and the originality of my guest this morning, Danny Newman, speaking of the forthcoming Lyric Opera season, so as we hear the introduction to "La Voix Humaine", why don't you lead into that with your interpretation?
Danny Newman "Francis Poulenc's post-World War II Concerto for a dramatically gifted soprano and an orchestra of Lyric Opera caliber is French to its very marrow. Elegant and charming, yet for all of the Parisian sophistication and Gallic wit with which librettist Jean Cocteau has provided his protagonist, the eavesdropping audience is subtly made partner to the agony of her rejection as the telephone conversation with her faithless lover proceeds. A vocal and theatrical tour de force." [content removed, see
Studs Terkel Gee, I reluctantly fade that, it's powerful and dramatic, of course, this one-woman performance of a Cocteau-Poulenc work. And, to me, what's imaginative here, Danny, on the part of artists and yourself and the others is the bracketing of this with "Pagliacci", the contrast, you know, of the two. This contemporary work, you know, new and exciting and highly dramatic, and the flamboyant old warhorse that allows Domingo to have a field day, you see. So the combination of the two.
Studs Terkel Well, he, I, he'll be guest on the program. He and I trust his old colleague, Geraint Evans. So I hope we'll do some good ones together. And they will. And so Danny, we must also ask you about when you promote the work of a concert artist, too, there is, comes to town, he/she comes to town. Name a couple. And how you, and how you describe the
Danny Newman Actually, I--most of the work I've done for some years now in connection with artists of the classical music world have been in their roles as soloists with symphony orchestras for which I have built subscription audiences. So for instance, if I were writing about a very famous artist, that's one level. If I write about one who isn't so famous, I have to even be better,
Danny Newman Well, let's take a harpist who was relatively unknown when she first appeared in North America in the Canadian symphony orchestra. Her name was Marisa Robles, "this dark-eyed beauty from Madrid commands a startling range of colors and subtleties in her playing, turning her harp at will into a strumming guitar, a mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, an entire assortment of percussion instruments, and she can make you hear the tinkling sound of Lisztian piano cadenzas, too. Her recitals are held to be experiences in enchantment." Now--
Danny Newman Well, I don't know if it was ever translated for her. However, I know that we sold a lot of subscriptions and I know by what I read about her in the materials that were sent to me that she was an artist of impeccable qualifications.
Danny Newman All right. Let's say we are writing about Janos Starker, a very famous cellist. "He plays with the fantastic dash, bravura, intensity, and joyous rapture that only a supreme master of the instrument could ever hope to achieve. Though he's suave and subtle, too, and his lush velvet-lined brooding tone provides soulful pleasure to audiences fortunate enough to hear him play, he's the king of cellists, rightly raves critic so-and-so of "The New York so-and-so." Now, if we are writing about a pianist who may be wonderful but as yet hasn't completely arrived, we also want to say something strong about him. Here's a Spanish pianist, he--a matter of fact, probably came with Miss Robles the same
Danny Newman Esteban Sanchez. Here is the flaming ardor, the pride and passion that we have come to associate with the tradition of Spain's great ones. Yet for all of the abandoned frenzy that pours from his swift steely fingers as they hit the keyboard with the power of a flamenco dancer's pounding heels"--can't you see Jose Greco dancing on the piano? "He amazes by his sudden reining in, his superb control, his change of pace, his poetry and sensitivity. He's already the winner of 10 international competitions."
Studs Terkel Danny, so we come to the Lyric Opera season again and so Pavarotti appears once again. We'll end with Pavarotti, Luciano Pavarotti and some of his earliest appearance here were at the Lyric, weren't they?
Danny Newman Actually, he has been appearing with us now for the past decade almost regularly. Maybe he's missed maybe one or two seasons in the last decade. Pavarotti, even when he arrived here, there was of course already a great deal of excitement about him. And I believe that from the time he came here it's been impossible to get a ticket for any of his performances. Of course, if one is a subscriber, you see, there is no question of getting a ticket for the Pavarotti performances.
Studs Terkel Naturally.
Danny Newman Yes. Madame Callas made her American debut with Lyric Opera. At that time Carol Fox had gone to Europe and signed her up and she came here to open the season in "Norma", and that was the first season of Lyric Opera.
Danny Newman Right. And "Lucia" and "Traviata" in that season, you see, and then the next year she did "I Puritani" and "Trovatore" and "Butterfly", and those were the two years we had her exclusively, and I think she really sang the best here that she ever did in the United
Studs Terkel "Butterfly", she's Cio-Cio San, and this poor server, this processor was there and her face was a study in rage. So at that moment Cio-Cio San was Medusa. It was a remarkable photograph. But, you know what made it was the fact that she was in the "Butterfly" kimono and that was what made it the delicate butterfly, telling off this poor process server who didn't know
Studs Terkel You know, Danny realize our time is almost running--we should have got that Pavarotti, he's doing the role in "Luisa Miller", seldom, an early Verdi work, "Luisa Miller", seldom performed.
Danny Newman "On the eve of the revolutionary chaos that rocked Europe, we hear the heartbreaking poignancy of celebrated arias and dramatically charged scenes of confrontation and vengeance as Verdi exploits all of the very vivid colors of his vocal and orchestral palette, creating a work of fever and fervor in which the lovers Luisa and Rodolfo quaff the poisoned cup, while that most aptly named of all operatic villains, Worm, receives his just and fatal comeuppance."