Musical Director, Conductor
( b. Mar 06, 1921 Vienna, AUSTRIA - d. Jun 26, 2014 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Julius Rudel was an Austrian-born conductor who raised the New York City Opera to a venturous golden age with highbrow music for the masses and a repertory that, like him, bridged the Old and New Worlds.
Julius Rudel was born the son of Jakob and Josephine Sonnenblum Rudel. At 3, Julius was playing a quarter-sized violin by ear. At 5 he began formal music training and a year later was playing the piano. As a boy, he was a regular standee for performances of the Vienna State Opera, and at home he built opera sets in shoe boxes. By 16 he had written two short operas.
Mr. Rudel was the maestro and the impresario, the principal conductor and the director of City Opera for 22 years (1957-79), working in the orchestra pit while running the company on shoestring budgets, signing contracts, casting productions and nurturing young singers like José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Beverly Sills.
A Jewish Viennese refugee from Hitler who fled to New York with his family in 1938, he joined the company in 1944, soon after its inception. He went on to preside over sweeping changes, reflecting his belief that the company should emphasize contemporary and American operas and musicals alongside the traditional European repertory — that it should entertain the wider public and not just opera lovers.
In this he advanced the spirit with which the company was founded, as “the people’s opera,” in Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s words — one that would be more accessible, affordable and adventurous than the august Metropolitan Opera.
While best known for developing City Opera to theatrical maturity, Mr. Rudel conducted operas and orchestras in scores of cities in the United States and around the world, freelancing during and after his City Opera years. Without interrupting his work in New York, he was the first music director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, from 1971 to 1975.
Nancy McAlhany, a first violinist who was with the company for more than 30 years, recalled that Mr. Rudel would begin the company’s popular production of Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele” with a flourish. Critics differed about Mr. Rudel’s abilities as a conductor. Many praised his clarity, forcefulness and technical performance and applauded his adventurous range of musical offerings. Others said his whirlwind life as a guest and resident conductor, recording artist and champion of American music (commissioning a dozen American operas) left him too busy to be consistently.
In 1942, he married Rita Gillis. They had three children. Mrs. Rudel, a neuropsychologist and author, died in 1984.
In 2013, the University of Rochester Press published “First and Lasting Impressions: Julius Rudel Looks Back on a Life in Music,” a memoir written with Rebecca Paller.
“Mr. Rudel has been perhaps the outstanding example of a vanishing breed, the true opera maestro who learned his craft in a company, beginning at entry level and staying with it, rather than moving prematurely to showier symphonic paths,” Thor Eckert wrote in a 1994 career summation for The Times.
Mr. Rudel’s farewell to City Opera came in February, during a commemorative anniversary program, “70 Years of the People’s Opera,” at City Center. Mr. Rudel was brought onstage in a wheelchair and waved to the full house as it gave him an enthusiastic ovation.
Source: The New York Times
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