AbstractA lightning rod for powerful emotions, Thomas Schippers began his escalation to fame at nineteen continuing with performances in many renowned venues in the world. Here his career is traced through the accounts of those who knew or performed with him, redressing the astonishing lack of information about him which could be of interest to music historians and performers of today.
"The brilliant young conductor, Thomas Schippers, is tall, with the face and body of a Greek god at a time when Greek gods are hard to find." (Life magazine, December 6, 1963). Admired by many for his classic handsomeness, he was highly praised for his musicianship and for the ease with which he conducted complex scores, often by memory. But following his untimely death at the age of forty-seven, he was rapidly forgotten. He was Leonard Bernstein's assistant touring Iron Curtain Russia with the New York Philharmonic. He made a large contribution to American cultural life by championing the composers Barber, Rorem, Copland, and Proto and premiered a number of their works in addition to those of Menotti.
Schippers was a brilliant conductor of the symphonic repertoire but he had a special gift for opera, with his extraordinary ear for the human voice. Justino Diaz, Jane Marsh, Roberta Peters, Leonard Warren, Martina Arroyo, Leontyne Price, Tito Del Bianco, and numerous other celebrated singers of his time all sang under his baton. He conducted Maria Callas in Cherubini's Medea which was her last performance at La Scala. The opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in 1966 was under his direction.
....Nancy Spada’s new Schippers biography offers the English-language reader a welcome account of the whole of Schippers’s career, filling a definite need. Musician-researcher Spada’s storytelling tone is personal rather than impersonal, reading not at all like a cut-down dissertation. She has brought her subject—and classical-music’s midcentury doings—to life, both for older readers who can recall the era and for younger (and future) readers, all of whom will benefit from her personal experiences, many contacts in the business, devoted scholarship, and engaging writing. There is apparently no Thomas Schippers Society to preserve his legacy, making this book that much more welcome and important as a study of his life and career....
George J. Ferencz, William Paterson University
Download complete review at Music & Musical Performance: An International Journal, Iss. 4 (2023)
A concise critique in Music & Musical Performance: An International Journal by George J. Ferencz, of Nancy Spada’s needed recount of Thomas Schippers, with whom I opened Italy’s Festival dei Due Mondi as Desdémona (Verdi’s Otello) and made my New York Philharmonic debut.Thomas Schippers was an electric presence at the podium and a sensitive artist in every way. He is missed greatly and, thanks to Nancy Spada, he is now catapulted into our international present day.
Jane Marsh, Soprano
"One of the most eagerly sought-after conductors in the world in both the symphonic and operatic fields, the Michigan-born maestro was widely recognized for his musical brilliance, electric stage presence, handsome looks and glamorous lifestyle." Nancy Spada's new book provides an overdue portrait of the prodigious American conductor. The book details important highlights of Schippers’ career and offers insights into his development as a conductor.
Read the entire review by Janelle Gelfand at ClassicalVoiceAmerica.org 2023-Sept13.
Beyond the Handsomeness eloquently illuminates Thomas Schippers’s short life and enviable international career. More than with most biographies of elite musicians, Spada’s readers will come to know the prodigy intimately as a (yes, handsome) man. A wide selection of photographs and numerous, extended interviews with Tommy’s friends and performers from preeminent concert halls enrich the prose. Major events--conducting the opening performance at the new Metropolitan Opera Hall (1966) with Maria Callas and other singers of her ilk at La Scala¬—balanced by engagements with the New York Philharmonic are detailed. A concluding section pertains to his final years as esteemed music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Spada’s work places Schippers securely in the illustrious pantheon of mid-twentieth century American conductors.
--Peter Wilson, Conductor
Beyond the Handsomeness is a worthy memorial to a major performing artist who belonged to America and to the whole musical world. Also a reminder of what we all lost....Spada’s writing is clear and straightforward, and she provides dozens of photos, beautifully reproduced on bright white paper. The book is a worthy memorial to a major performing artist who belonged to America and to the whole musical world.
See complete review by Ralph P. Locke in The Arts Fuse (Boston, Massachusetts). August 2, 2023
Winner of the 1955 Tony Award for Best Conductor and Musical Director for “The Saint of Bleeker Street.” Nominated five times for a Grammy Award. “Mr. X” on the TV show “What’s My Line?” on December 7, 1958. Child prodigy Thomas Schippers—a pianist since age four—comes to life in this sparkling biography of one of America’s most celebrated conductors of the 1950s until his untimely death in 1977. Weaving in the conductor’s own thoughts about music and life, as well as reminiscences from those who knew him well—family, friends, and performers and others (such as scenic designers) who worked with him—the author guides readers along seamlessly in this intimate portrait and portrayal of a beautifully inspired American conductor.
Lovely, and beautifully written! It brings Tommy to life again as the extremely talented and extraordinary man he was! I am so grateful you have brought him forward again It is so wonderful you have been able to shine a light on his incredible life and story. I was particularly moved by the window onto his last days.
About the AuthorThe author was born in Lawrenceville New Jersey where she studied piano privately from the age of four. After moving to Miami Florida, she was educated at Florida State University where she completed a degree in piano studying with the concert pianist and composer Franciszek Zachara and later continued to Indiana University to further her harp studies with Peter Eagle. She married the pianist and musicologist Pietro Spada and moved to Rome Italy where she assisted him with his research on Muzio Clementi and several other great Classic composers, uncovering a large amount of previously unpublished material. She also worked as an independent translator. Additional articles published by her include "A Tribute to a Native Son Commemorating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Death of Thomas Schippers" and "The Other Tommy" in the Classic Record Collector, Winter 2007 Issue.
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