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BOOK REVIEW

SHERRILL MILNES:  AMERICAN ARIA

 

By Joel Kasow

NEW YORK, 27 AUGUST 2007— Sherrill Milnes’s autobiography, American Aria , was originally published in 1998, and has now been updated for a paperback edition, though strangely shorn of its discography. Because the baritone does not opt for a strictly chronological telling of the tale, we are spared the "and then I …. and then I …., etc." though occasionally the reader is confused by the shifts in time. Milnes is honest about his early farm-boy days and his adventures (and also misadventures), his three marriages, and the fact that being an international opera star is not always the easiest of professions. His narrative, however, makes it clear that he would not have changed his career for anything in the world. He is open about his period of vocal distress in the 1980s, while his own comments and those of his doctors could easily be helpful to other singers. His remarks about his last seasons at the Met only confirm what has been bruited elsewhere concerning the communicative shortcomings and insensitivity of the then management.

Milnes is also generous in his praise of others, but that is part of the ethic of singers’ memoirs, though it is agreeable to read his tributes to George London or Lucine Amara or Jon Vickers.

It is surprising that with all the care taken over the writing of the book, no one was able to correct such misspellings of names as Irene Dallas (Dalis), Glenn (Glyn) Ross or Claus Helmut Dreser (Drese). I presume that a conductor called Conlin is in fact James Conlon. Even more distressing is the following description of Schoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw: "It is about Jews during the war in a ghetto in Warsaw."

The book remains a "fun" read, though one wishes that the author might have named names when it comes to the more malicious anecdotes; Daniele Barioni’s incorrect and unpunished answers to Turandot’s riddles remains a good story.

 

Sherrill Milnes, American Aria: Encore
by Sherrill Milnes

Paperback, 320 pages
Amadeus Press (an imprint of Hal Leonard Corporation), New York, June 2007
ISBN-10: 157467160X
ISBN-13: 978-1574671605
$22.95 

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor at Culturekiosque.com

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