First and Lasting Impressions

First and Lasting Impressions

Julius Rudel Looks Back on a Life in Music

Julius Rudel, Rebecca Paller


University of Rochester Press



The long-awaited memoir of Julius Rudel, the legendary opera conductor and arts administrator, gives insight into his ground-breaking repertory choices and his collaborations with Beverly Sills, Plácido Domingo, and others.
As a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy, Julius Rudel escaped from Austria after the Nazi invasion and moved to New York, where he began his career as an unpaid musical assistant and worked his way up through the ranks of the newly formed New York City Opera, being named in 1957 as the company's general director and principal conductor. Later, he became the first artistic director of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
In his twenty-two-year leadership of New York City Opera, Rudel challenged audiences with new and unusual repertoire -- including fifteen world premieres and three seasons consisting entirely of American operas -- turning the popularly priced "People's Opera" into the most influential and daring opera company in the United States.

Rudel writes in detail of his unusual repertoire choices and of the political battles behind New York City Opera's move to Lincoln Center in 1966, and he reminisces about his legendary collaborations with Beverly Sills (on Handel's Giulio Cesare and Donizetti's "Three Queens") and Plácido Domingo (on Ginastera's Don Rodrigo) -- and about his work with other extraordinary talents including Norman Treigle, Phyllis Curtin, William Ball, Frank Corsaro, Tito Capobianco, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Prince, and Gian Carlo Menotti.

First and Lasting Impressions gives a rare personal look into Julius Rudel's career as a conductor and administrator during the glory years of New York City Opera.

Julius Rudel was general director and principal conductor of New York City Opera from 1957 to 1979, and since that time has been a frequent guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and many of the world's other great opera houses.

Rebecca Paller, a curator at the Paley Center for Media in New York, has written about the arts for publications including Opera News, Opera, Vogue, Playbill, Symphony, and American Theatre.


March 2013
30 black and white illustrations
241 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781580464345
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, BIO004000, PER000000
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Table of Contents

Early Life in Vienna and the Shadow of the Swastika
"The People's Opera" Takes Flight: The Early Years of New York City Opera
The Flying Baton: A Company in Transition
A Lighter Muse: Broadway Musicals
Brush Up Your Shakespeare and Return to Vienna
Inheriting the Wind
Intermezzo: The Company Way
Politics and Acoustics: The Move to Lincoln Center
Tintinnabulation: Don Rodrigo and a Young Star Named Domingo
A Summer Idyll: The Magic of Caramoor
Giulio Cesare and the Sills Phenomenon
The Kennedy Center: From Concept to Opening
Glory Days
Jon Vickers: The Third Time Was Not the Charm
Reversal of Fortune
Life after New York City Opera
Appendix: The Three American Seasons of New York City Opera


In his remarkable career at New York City Opera, Julius Rudel enriched and enlarged the lives of music-loving New Yorkers. This book, coauthored with Rebecca Paller, is a fascinating account of how his devotion to music -- music, not marketing -- helped shape an era. I am particularly happy to have Maestro Rudel's version of his long and complicated working relationship with Beverly Sills. --Brian Kellow, features editor, Opera News

Julius Rudel offers us direct insight into his rise through the ranks to become the director of one of America's most vibrant cultural institutions in the twentieth century, the New York City Opera. Evident on nearly every page is that same abiding dedication, guiding spirit, and bold imagination that helped to transplant a largely foreign art form and root it deep in America's artistic soil. This book will prove fascinating to opera singers, lovers of opera, especially American opera, not to mention interested teachers, pianists, voice coaches, orchestra and choral conductors. --Michael V. Pisani, Vassar College

He looks back at his career with a good humour which suggests how he survived. . . . He and his co-author write engagingly. . . . Interesting for most opera-lovers, and, for those with transatlantic [i.e., American] viewpoints, fascinating. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [Michael Scott Rohan]

Julius Rudel has a great tale to tell. . . . Any reader with an interest in Rudel, in New York City Opera, or in the running of an opera company will devour it cover to cover. OPERA NEWS [Fred Cohn]

Highly informative, entertaining . . . autobiography by conductor Rudel and a biography in his words of the New York City Opera. . . . A loving memoir, brutally frank, but never vindictive. Powerful, even emotional working associations with great artists: Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, Phyllis Curtin, John Alexander, Richard Cassilly, and dozens more. . . . A most humane gentleman. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE [Charles H. Parsons]