Thomas Schippers

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Thomas Schippers (9 March 1930 16 December 1977) was an American conductor. He was highly regarded for his work in opera.

Conducting Directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.



Of Dutch ancestry and son of the owner of a large appliance store, Schippers was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. [1] He began playing piano at age four. After graduating from high school at age 13, he attended the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School.

Kalamazoo, Michigan City in Michigan

Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is the county seat of Kalamazoo County. As of the 2010 census, Kalamazoo had a population of 74,262. Kalamazoo is the major city of the Kalamazoo-Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 335,340 as of 2015. Kalamazoo is equidistant from the major American cities of Chicago and Detroit, each less than 150 miles away.

Piano musical instrument

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

The Juilliard School is a private performing arts conservatory in New York City. Established in 1905, the school trains about 850 undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. It is widely regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs.

Schippers made his debut at the New York City Opera at age twenty-one, and the Metropolitan Opera at twenty-five. He conducted world premieres of now well-known music by Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. He conducted child actor Chet Allen in a theatrical version of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors . Schippers conducted in all the major opera houses of the United States and Europe, most notably the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, and founded Italy's Spoleto festival with Menotti and once described his perfect orchestra as being composed of « one-third Italian musicians for their line, one-third Jewish for their sound, a sprinkling of Germans for solidity ». [1]

New York City Opera American opera company based in New York City

The New York City Opera (NYCO) is an American opera company located in Manhattan in New York City. The company has been active from 1943 through 2013, and again since 2016 when it was revived.

Metropolitan Opera Opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Gian Carlo Menotti Composer and librettist

Gian Carlo Menotti was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, along with over two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste.

Schippers was a regular conductor with the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and made recordings with them as well, but in 1970 he finally took a full-time orchestral position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, succeeding his predecessor at the Metropolitan Opera, Max Rudolf. After making several recordings with them and building the orchestra's international reputation, his career was cut short by his death from lung cancer at 47 in 1977 in New York City, New York.

New York Philharmonic American symphony orchestra in New York, NY

The New York Philharmonic, officially the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., globally known as New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) or New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, is a symphony orchestra based in New York City. It is one of the leading American orchestras popularly referred to as the "Big Five". The Philharmonic's home is David Geffen Hall, located in New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra American symphony orchestra in Chicago, IL

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891. The ensemble makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival. The music director is Riccardo Muti, who began his tenure in 2010. The CSO is one of five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five".

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its primary concert venue is Music Hall. In addition to its symphony concerts, the orchestra gives 'pops' concerts as the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The Cincinnati Symphony is the resident orchestra for the Cincinnati May Festival, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Ballet.

During the 1970s, he was appointed principal conductor of l'Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia but conducted only one concert with the orchestra (in May 1976, including Ravel's Ma Mère l'Oye suite). He made many opera recordings in his time, and live recordings of his performances are gradually being made available on CD. His 1971 studio recording of Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti with Beverly Sills and Carlo Bergonzi was the first recording in which the glass harmonica was used in the mad scene. In 1974, he recorded, for EMI, The Siege of Corinth, with Sills, Shirley Verrett, Justino Díaz, and Harry Theyard. His 1964 recording (Decca) of Verdi's Macbeth with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra was noted for his dramatic approach.

Orchestra dellAccademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia symphonic orchestra

The Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is an Italian symphony orchestra based in Rome. Resident at the Parco della Musica, the orchestra primarily performs its Rome concerts in the 'Sala Santa Cecilia'.

<i>Lucia di Lammermoor</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Lucia di Lammermoor is a dramma tragico in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian-language libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.

Gaetano Donizetti 19th-century Italian opera composer

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer. Along with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, Donizetti was a leading composer of the bel canto opera style during the first half of the nineteenth century. Donizetti's close association with the bel canto style was undoubtedly an influence on other composers such as Giuseppe Verdi.

He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. [2]

Delta Omicron Professional honor fraternity for music

Delta Omicron (ΔΟ) is a co-ed international professional music honors fraternity whose mission is to promote and support excellence in music and musicianship.

Personal life

Though he was homosexual, Schippers married Elaine Lane "Nonie" Phipps (1939–1973) in 1965. [3] [4] [5] An heiress to the Grace shipping fortune and a daughter of the noted American polo player Michael Grace Phipps, she died of cancer in 1973. [6] Schippers died of the same disease four years later.

According to professor, writer and opera scholar John Louis DiGaetani, Schippers had a long-term romantic relationship with Menotti and a shorter one with mathematician Sean Clarke. [7] One of Leonard Bernstein's biographers claims that Schippers and Bernstein were also intimately involved. [8]

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  1. 1 2 "Oh! to Be 30 at Last". Time. 15 February 1960. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  2. Delta Omicron Archived 2010-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Thomas Mallon (11 November 2007). "The Homintern". The New York Times. p. 49. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  4. Clum, John M. (May 1996). "Queer Music". Performing Arts Journal. 8 (2): 118–126.
  5. "Born". Time. 23 April 1965. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  6. "Mrs. Nonie Phipps Schippers, Conductor's Wife, Grace Heiress Wed in '65 to Cincinnati Leader Dies". The New York Times. 8 January 1973. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  7. John Louis DiGaetani. "Menotti, Gian Carlo (1911-2007)". . Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  8. Burton, Humphrey (1995). Leonard Bernstein . New York: Anchor. ISBN   0-385-42352-7.