21 May 2012
Herbert Breslin, 87, Publicist and Manager Who Made Pavarotti a Superstar, Has Died
New York, NY, October 1, 1924 —Nice, France, May 17, 2012
A publicist and artist manager of legendary acumen and brashness, Breslin guided the career of Luciano Pavarotti for thirty-six years, transforming a superbly gifted tenor into a superstar whose fame encompassed stadium concerts (including a sold-out Madison Square Garden engagement that Breslin called "the peak of our career"), a Hollywood movie, television commercials and variety-show appearances. Breslin, who met Pavarotti in 1967, the year before the tenor's Metropolitan Opera debut, began to handle Pavarotti's publicity at the suggestion of Terrence McEwen, an executive at Decca (London), which had just signed Pavarotti to a recording contract. Over the next few seasons, Breslin carefully orchestrated Pavarotti's spectacular ascent to stardom; he was directly involved in all of the tenor's successes until the phenomenally popular "Three Tenors" concerts of the 1990s, which were organized by other impresarios. Pavarotti and Breslin parted company in 2002; two years later, Breslin published The King and I, a memoir (coauthored with critic and journalist Anne Midgette) that depicted his former client in an unflattering light, citing examples of the tenor's laziness and vanity. But Breslin never failed to pay tribute to Pavarotti's charisma and talent, even after the two men had stopped speaking; the secret to Breslin's strength as a negotiator was his unswerving advocacy for his clients. Despite his cynical comments about the classical-music business ("Marketing an artist is basically like marketing a bar of soap"), Breslin could not have represented Pavarotti so successfully for so long had he not believed in his talent completely.
After graduating from City College, Breslin worked in a variety of fields, including a stint as a speechwriter in the public-relations department of the Chrysler Corporation. He decided to combine his love for classical music with his knowledge of PR by working as an unpaid publicist for a season at Santa Fe Opera. Shortly thereafter, Breslin launched his own firm and took on his first paying client, soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who was soon joined on the Breslin client list by Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. Breslin was especially effective in his use of television to promote his clients: during the years that she worked with Breslin, Sutherland appeared eight times on The Ed Sullivan Show, her visits including a duet from Norma with Horne shortly after the latter's Met debut in 1970. Other artists who worked with Breslin over the years included pianist Alicia de Larrocha, Régine Crespin, Cornell MacNeil, Renata Tebaldi, Hildegard Behrens, Angela Gheorghiu, Natalie Dessay, Nicolai Gedda, Roberto Alagna, Renato Bruson, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gérard Souzay, Hermann Prey, James Morris, Marcello Giordani and Plácido Domingo.
Send breaking news to our Web
Send feedback to OPERA