From The Opera Quarterly, Autumn 1993 (vol. 10, no. 1)
Unquestionably, there is something cheeky about putting the above statement at the top of this section. It’s a bit like starting an opera with the second scene of the second act for an audience that has never heard the beginning of the piece. On the other hand, “The first notes you sing are the most important, my dear, you announce yourself to the public.” Thus spake Zinka, often, reminding everyone with a voice that the first sound out of your mouth had better make ‘em sit up and take notice, otherwise you’ve got an uphill battle to capture your hearers and carry them with you over an evening’s—let alone a lifetime’s—work. She was not, of course, saying that “O angoscia!” is more important than “Pace, pace, mio Dio” (or pick your own favorite example), just that it’s a fact of life that first impressions are usually the most lasting.
And so, by beginning partway into the story, I “announce myself.” The credentials required to be placed in a position to put words (whether of fact or opinion or both) out in any forum or format that others read and may accept as authoritative are just as rare and rarefied, two quite different things, as those essential to being granted the stage or welcomed in the classroom. The heartfelt conviction is the same, only its outward form is different: “I truly believe you should hear me do this” and “I truly believe I have something important to teach you” merge to become “I truly believe I have something of importance to say to you, something you must seriously consider.” In any and all cases, of course, it is only the agreement of others that confers the credentials (something exceptionally vital to bear in mind in our Internet age, when the “true belief” is as often terrible delusion as objective possibility). The tribute from Duke University Press speaks volumes regarding credentials earned on the basis of proven abilities that were always put to good use. So, Steve Cohn’s words are, in effect, the first notes I sing to you in detailing the transition from artist on the stage to artist behind the scenes, still and always artist, still and always musician, but now, also, wordsmith.
That said, it becomes possible to go back to the beginning. No, no, not all the way back to Hagerstown or “Underneath it All,” but to the moment that in my life amounted to The Great Seismic Shift. When ill health that would prove to be permanent made it impossible to continue performing and teaching (the “starter” year of the decline and shift was 1983), finding the next set of bootstraps to pull up was far from easy.
Black despair served as constant, relentless, dangerous companion during the first several years of adjustment. Because leaving music for any other field of endeavor was not even to be considered, options were decidedly limited. Still, there was precedent in my own history. In the mid-1970s in New York, Robert Cumming and Leighton Phraner, co-editors of a wonderful publication called Music Journal (which, alas, moved into extinction even before that trend for such periodicals took hold in general), engaged me to review performances and recordings in their magazine’s thumbnail format, a great way to learn how to put large amounts of information into very few words—an art I developed to a very polished degree but one that, obviously, I don’t feel the need to exercise on this website. After writing for Bob and Leighton, an experience that lasted just two seasons, it was back to making music exclusively rather than dividing my time between doing it and writing about it. The die had been cast, however, the possibility revealed and tasted. The planted seed lay dormant until truly needed (as they tend to do).
Without going into detail, in addition to Messrs. Cumming and Phraner, I would here like to acknowledge three individuals who helped in just the right way at just the right moment to impel me toward a life as a writer rather than a performer/teacher: William Albright, distinguished theater critic of The Houston Post from 1973 until the paper’s demise in 1995; Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Bernheimer, whose tenure as chief music critic of The Los Angeles Times stretched from my junior year at UCLA until I was in my fifties, making it, indeed, an “era”; and the late Irene Sloan, devoted founding editor of The Opera Quarterly. At least four of these prescient mentors remained pleased with and unthreatened by the monster they helped create and in some cases were not only happy to accept but even insisted upon receiving credit for having done so. Finally, I owe particular debts of gratitude to two wonderful men who buoyed me up after I was well into “the life”: Daniel Cariaga, much-loved staff music writer for The Los Angeles Times from 1972 until 2003 (and thereafter a free-lance contributor until his death in 2006), and Rudolph S. Rauch, kind and generous editor of Opera News from 1998 to 2003. Danny and Ru quite simply exemplified an indispensable quality that is increasingly rare (unto the point of extinction) in this old world: each proved to be a real and true gentleman.
What follows is an overview of my published work, samples of which can be found on this website as well as elsewhere on the Internet.
ARTICLES and EDITORIALS in PERIODICALS
In Opera News:
“Brava Zinka!" (Milanov 50th anniversary) .... 52: 7 (19 Dec 1987)
Quoted/opinion solicited in:
[Any of these articles that are currently available to be read online can be found by going to the Opera News website at www.operanews.com. Once there, click on Archives at the top of the page. Type Bruce Burroughs in the Keywords space, being sure to check the box “Search archives before 2004” right underneath. Then hit Search. A list from which you may make a selection should then appear.]
In The Opera Quarterly:
REVIEWS and FEATURES in NEWSPAPERS and PERIODICALS
In Music Journal:
Several score reviews of major Manhattan and Tri-State performing organizations (Metropolitan Opera, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, etc.) and great artists from A (Licia Albanese) through Z (Pinchas Zukerman); also recording reviews, the emphasis in that discipline being entirely on vocal music.
In The Houston Post:
“Evoking the Essence of Opera Divas” (book reviews) .... 16 Mar 1986
[To read Houston reviews, click on "Articles and Reviews" under the photo at upper right.]
In The Los Angeles Times:
More than 150 reviews between 1987 and 1992 of such artists (to name a scant few) as sopranos Aprile Millo, Marni Nixon, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Benita Valente, pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet, John Ogden, and Leonard Pennario, cellist Nathaniel Rosen, harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock, double bass virtuoso Gary Karr, and most of the important Southern California musical organizations (Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pacific Chorale, Pasadena Symphony, Opera Pacific, and so forth); interviews with a diverse cross-section of important musicians such as baritone Sesto Bruscantini, conductor John Eliot Gardiner, stage director Christopher Alden, etc. My final feature (10 April 1993) was a lengthy memorial tribute of which I am particularly proud (“Marian Anderson: A Voice for the Ages”), commissioned by Danny Cariaga after I had left the paper to become editor of The Opera Quarterly.
In Opera News:
Opera Pacific: Il barbiere di Siviglia .... 54: 1 (July 1989)
In The Opera Quarterly:
CONTRIBUTIONS to ANTHOLOGIES and ENCYCLOPEDIAS
In The International Dictionary of Opera, ed. C. Steven Larue (Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press, 1993): critical biographical entries on Licia Albanese, Lucrezia Bori, Zinka Milanov, Sigrid Onegin, Lily Pons, Rosa Ponselle, Antonio Scotti, and Martial Singher. (Also commissioned and submitted but ultimately omitted by the editor: Lucine Amara, Cristina Deutekom, Milka Ternina, and Blanche Thebom.)
In Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1997 and subsequent editions: critical biographical entries on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Marilyn Horne, Leos Janácek, and Jessye Norman
In The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Opera on Video, ed. Paul Gruber (New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997): the chapters on Don Pasquale, I due Foscari, Ernani, La favorita, La fille du régiment, La Gioconda, I Lombardi alla prima crociata, Roméo et Juliette, Serse, La sonnambula, Il trovatore, and I vespri Siciliani
CDs and DVDs PROGRAMMED and/or ANNOTATED
For the Metropolitan Opera Guild:
Portraits in Memory: Dorothy Kirsten .... MET 217 (p & a)
For Video Artists International (VAI):
Producers’ Showcase: Festival of Music, Vol. 1 VAI DVD 4244 (a)
CITATIONS IN BOOKS
Anna-Lisa Björling and Andrew Farkas: Jussi (1996)
BB as ARTICLE/INTERVIEW SUBJECT
“Americka biografija hrvatske operne dive” by Sina Karli …. Nacional (Zagreb) (No. 521, 8 Nov 2005, pp. 78–85)
Minnesota Orchestra schedule listings, Twin Cities Reader (September 1995):
“Eiji Oue can get down to business now, and he serves up a heaping portion of music on this week’s program. Under most circumstances, Bartok’s last completed orchestral work, the triumphant Concerto for Orchestra, would fill the warehouse. However, also ‘in the house’ is pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, hailed as ‘a beacon of musical and artistic integrity’ by the Boswell of American critics, Bruce Burroughs.” (David McKee)
The Rhonda Holman Informal Award for the Author Requiring the Least Editorial Intervention in the Year 1987 [RH was associate editor of Opera News]
ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award, 1991 (“Presented to Bruce Burroughs in recognition of the excellence of his articles published in The Opera Quarterly”)