Although anyone will enjoy reading this book because Alfredo Salmaggi was a character larger than life and operated in, to some way of thinking, a very unorthodox manner. He had many public relations tricks up his sleeve and never missed an opportunity for publicity.
Throughout his life he really had three goals. To keep food on the table and support his large family, to bring opera to the masses at very reasonable prices, and to provide a venue for young American singers to gain experience before they moved on to The New York City Opera or the Metropolitan. This experience was invaluable in that they worked with seasoned artists from the Metropolitan or European Opera houses.
For any serious student of opera, this book is a must. Alfredo Salmaggi made a great contribution to Opera in America during the 20th Century and should be lauded for it, not condemned. True, often his productions featured tacky scenery and costumes but it was the only way he could keep the cost down to make it affordable to the masses that couldn’t afford to go to the Metropolitan Opera. Tacky or not, the young singer could get a role on its feet. It was somewhere to gain experience on the way up.
Twenty two years before the Met had Marian Anderson make her debut as Ulrica in "The Masked Ball," The Maestro had a black soprano, Caterina Jarboro debut in the role of Aida at The Hippodrome.
In 1932 he produced "Aida" in Soldier Field in Chicago to an audience of 45,000 people. This was unheard of in those days. Rock and roll and the Three Tenors were still far in the future.
He received Italy’s highest honor: Commendatore--for his work in nurturing Italian Opera in America.
Enrico Caruso, considered the greatest tenor of the 20th Century, was a personal friend of Alfredo and the Godfather to one of The Maestro’s sons: Guido. At Guido’s christening, the baby was making such a racket that Caruso predicted "This boy will be a tenor." His prediction came true. Although Alfredo objected to any of his children taking up singing as a profession, Guido made his debut with his father’s company at The Hippodrome in "La Traviata." Guido was only 21 years of age.
Although his work covered a large repertoire of opera, his favorite seemed to be "Aida" and he used many famous sports figures in The Triumphal March. One example: he advertised "Johnson in Aida" on the marquee of The Hippodrome. The public could have mistakenly thought Johnson (who was manager of the Met at that time) was going to sing the tenor part. No, it was Jack Johnson, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, appearing in the Triumphal March.
One could go on and on about the people he gave a start to or influenced such as Jose Greco, Richard Tucker, Bruna Castagna, Anton Coppola, and Anne Jeffreys, who met Kurt Weill through a performance for Salmaggi which led to a career on Broadway. If you were told everything, you wouldn’t have to read the book. READ THE BOOK! PLEASE.