Saturday, April 17, 2021

Lois Kirschenbaum, Ultimate Opera Superfan, dies at 88


For more than half a century, almost every lead singer performing at the Metropolitan Opera can be expected to be approached backstage by an intelligent woman in thick glasses who autographed a stack of mementos while praising her performance in a memorable Brooklyn did. pronounced

It was one of Lois Kirschenbaum, New York’s largest and longest-running opera buffers, and a one-night staple at the opera before the construction of the Envelope Center since the late 1950s, when the Met was located in Midtown.

There were some operational demonstrations at the Met through Ms. Kirchenbaum’s large telescope (she was legally blind from birth), usually from a seat in the upstairs balcony, with little or no money secured by operators at the entrance before the opening. .

And some leading singers went home without signing several items for Ms. Kirschenboom, whose constant desire helped her befriend some of the world’s most famous opera singers. Beverly seals For Plácido Domingo.

Ms. Kirschenbaum died in a hospital in Manhattan on March 27 after suffering from pneumonia and kidney failure, said her longtime friend Sally Jo Sandlin. She was 88.

Such was Mr. Kirschenbaum’s reputation, as well as the New York City Opera, Those singers half joked that they had actually arrived on the New York Opera scene only after being contacted by Ms. Kirschenbom after the performance.

“It was like getting a special kind of approval,” said Mejo-soprano Frederica von Stead. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t welcome her backstage and wants to hang out with her.”

He said, “We always looked out for him and brought him early if we could, because everyone loved him, and he would have a hundred things to sign.”

Bass singer Samuel Ramey said he was first approached by the City Opera in “The Barber of Seville” as Don Basilio in her dressing room shortly after her first lead role.

“I was told, ‘You’ve made it now – Lois has asked for your autograph from you,” he said, adding that Ms. Kirschenboom’s frequent appearances after her performances remained behind the stage and the two became good friends.

“She was something else – she always stayed on the backstage list,” he said.

Ms. Kirschenbaum, an intelligent woman from Flatbush, defined the stereotype of a highfalutin opera aficionado. He worked as a switchboard operator for the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid organization, until he retired in 2004. She lived almost her entire adult life in a rented controlled apartment in the eastern village, from where she traveled by metro and city bus. Ligging a huge handbag filled with photos, events and recordings to be signed at Lincoln Center.

If she could not get free or cheap tickets just before the performance, she would often slip with the help of friendly staff.

Another long-time friend, Karl Helperin, said, “Everyone knew him, who ranged from bathroom sweepers to ticket takers, administrators and singers.” “All you had to say was ‘Lois’ and everyone knew what you meant.”

Ms. Kirschenm was the grand dam of a group of hard-core fans who would flock to the backstage door for autographs and chats.

With the help of her formidable handbag, she quickly finds her way to the front of the line and approaches the singers with complimentary and detailed critiques for her performance – from that night or years ago.

Soprano Epile Milo said, “She can tell anything that goes into your performance on any given night – this or that particular phrase and what it means”. “For a singer, it gives you the feeling you were listening to.”

At the Opera House in Milan, Ms. Milo said, “She was so much a part of New York’s opera lore, like the Epiciondos in La Scala.”

Working on the switchboard allows Ms. Kirschnbaum to call singers and opera insiders for information on news such as call changes or cancellations, information she will then relay to fellow opera lovers.

“For opera, he was actually the Internet before the Internet,” said opera singers manager and another longtime friend Ken Benson.

And before the Met began implementing pre-decided schedules months in advance, Ms. Kirschenboom became known for the homemade lists she portrayed for upcoming performances and singers.

He would distribute copies to fellow buffers during the intermission, regularly smuggling coffee and sandwiches to avoid the expense of buying food at lunchtime.

“People would say that Lois’s list was more accurate than the press,” Ms. Milo said.

Urging autographs of the singers, Ms. Kirschenbaum highlighted a lot of her information.

“She’ll ask them, ‘When are you coming back and what are you singing next year?” “And late Luciano Pavarotti Something was signing for him, he would say that he would sing ‘La Bohème’ and ‘Tosca’ next season. And she will collect it all. “

Ms. Milo stated that Ms. Kirschennam may have her signature up to 20 pieces of memorabilia at a time. “It was a way to keep you busy – it was smart about that,” he said.

Lois Kirschenbaum was born in New York City on November 21, 1932, to Abraham and Gertrude Kirschnum. Her father was an optometrist.

A single child, he grew up in Flatbush and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

Ms. Kirschenboom was a fond Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but when the Dodgers left New York for Los Angeles in 1957, her passion shifted to opera after listening to a recording by the soprano. Renata Tabaldi Being played in a record shop.

In her later years, Ms. Kirschenm took turns alternating between being marginalized at the Met for tickets and autographs and being honored as a special guest at fancy lanes organized by opera organizations.

For his 75th birthday, in 2007, he was brought to the party by singers such as Marilyn Horn and Renee Fleming, as well as the Met’s music director, James levin – “Jimmy” to Ms. Kirschenbaum – who gave her a ring of “La Bohème” and an autographed operative score.

In 1980, she raced to see Beverly Seals’ farewell performance gala at the City Opera, after which she saw Ms. Sals in every role in New York, except one, for 25 years.

“Beverly then looked at me and said, ‘Lois, it was fixed,” Ms. Kirschenboom told The New York Times in 2012, laughing.

In recent years, Ms. Kirschenm started using wheelchairs and only sporadically went to the Mate. She listened to the opera (and Yankees games) on the radio.

Friends said she never married and did not talk to any family members.

It was not clear what would happen behind the autographs, programs and photographs in Ms. Kirschenm’s apartment.

“No one else was more dedicated to artists who loved the opera and Loyce,” Ms. Fleming said. “She was a favorite member of the metropolitan opera family, like a favorite aunt. I will miss knowing that she is watching from the balcony and watching her at the stage door. “



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