EVE QUELER: “A View from the Podium, A Memoir,”


Exibris; Orders@Exlibris.com or click here
2019, 133 pages; hardcover: US$29.99; softcover: $19.89

In the current cultural landscape, any new book dealing with opera and singers is a welcome development. So few books are being published these days and even fewer dealing with love of and interest in operatic performance; therefore, last week, while attending the Metropolitan Opera’s rehearsal of “Manon,” my rehearsal companion ran into Rosalind Elias and Eve Queler during the intermission, and Queler mentioned that her memoirs were recently published. When I returned home I immediately ordered the book on Amazon.com and it arrived the next day. My first reaction after noting that the package was not very substantial was surprise that the slender book (softcover) was only 130 pages, and that the chronologies and other listings meant that there were only 118 pages of text, and thumbing through the 118 pages there were small non-professional half-tone photos on almost every page, and the type was large. But then I read the book.

And the book turned out to be very interesting, mostly about the unbelievable climate in the American classical music establishment that did not consider, or even entertain the idea, that a woman who was a fine musician, coach, and accompianist, could also be a conductor. Doors that seemed to open at first, were slammed shut when Eve was on the verge of being hired; the male-dominated milieu was not ready for her. But when most women would be discouraged and give up, Eve found the drive and fortitude to forge ahead with her dream. Paul Berl, the accompanist of Victoria de los Angeles, told Eve that female singers usually preferred a male accompianist. She did the study and the hard work, and eventually she was given a chance. More to the point, she created her own performing organization.

Eve Queler (nee Rabin) was born in 1931 in the Bronx, in the same neighborhood as Roberta Peterman (Peters); this is significant to this writer as a dear friend and work colleague, the late Lester Abrams, was born on the same street as Peters and was a classmate until she left public high school for private voice lessons; Queler also remembers Roberta Peters from those early days, and her mother predicted Peters’ success.

Eve Queler is ultimately known for her creation, and the success, of the Opera Orchestra of New York, not officially, but actually, the successor organization of the American Opera Society that introduced many great singers to the “Big Apple.”  In her memoir Queler describes the unglamorous part of creating and running this organization from her home; strictly low-budget, no fancy offices and glossy public relations, only a strong musical mind and a fantastic work ethic. Although she mentions many famous singers who were showcased in her Carnegie Hall offerings, she only mentions the good qualities of these artists, no gossip or bad-mouthing. Richard Tucker early on was a supporter of her efforts and so was Nicolai Gedda (click here). Operating on a shoestring, money was always an issue. In 1973 at the rehearsal of “Francesca da Rimini” (click here)with Domingo, Kabaivanska and Manuguerra they had used up their contracted time on the Carnegie Hall stage and there was no time left to rehearse the final scenes; Domingo volunteered to pay for the extra time needed. As I pen this review, Domingo just ended his fifty-one continuous year’s association with the Metropolitan in the backlash of the #MeToo movement. This tangentially plays into one of the themes of this book, as Queler frames her memoir as a woman breaking yet another “glass ceiling;” the movement of women for workplace equality.


Although Queler is mostly associated with her own OONY, over the years she obtained conducting engagements with some international opera companies, mostly what we now call “one-off”s, that is one unique time, no re-engagements. She lists staged operas at Hamburg, Barcelona(click here), Saint Petersburg, Prague, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Bonn, Sydney, Macau, Kassel, Nice, Brno, Livorno, Torre del Lago; She did “Nozze di Figaro” at the New York City Opera, but nothing at the Met., Chicago, San Francisco or Houston.

Back to some of her important memories which put a smile on the reader’s face. Her association with Leonie Rysanek, first in Australia and then in an historic performance of “Jenufa” (click here)with her own OONY, the performance that persons who were there still talk about the continuous applause throughout the intermission for Benackova and especially Rysanek. I was present at the “Nabucco” that introduced Ghena Dimitrova to New York, and one of the rare occasions when Piero Cappuccilli sang in New York. I was not present at concerts Carlo Bergonzi gave with Eve in 1994 and 1996, events some of my friends thought historic. In 2000, 75-year-old Bergonzi wanted to give “Otello” which Eve thought too-ambitions as did her Board, but they relented. She recalls that he was not in good voice, and the “Three Tenors” were in the audience adding to the pressure on Bergonzi, who lasted only two acts, leaving the stage saying “Son finito.”

I ran into Eve Queler about twelve years ago at a Metropolitan Opera rehearsal and asked her if she ever considered giving “I gioelli della Madonna;” an opera of interest to me as it was a key role of Rosa Raisa’s, and Queler said most of her off-beat offerings are a result of specific singers asking for an unusal rare opera, and none had asked for “Jewels.” Teatro Gratacielo offered “Jewels” a few years later.

This book is recommended for two reasons: 1) it is important to let publishers, or in vanity situations, know there is still a public out there that loves these invaluable reminiscences and will add them to their libraries and 2) this is probably the only chance to read and have as a reference an important part of the rich New York opera scene in the last half of the Twentieth Century.

Charles Mintzer, October 2019