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In 1948 Tom participated in a competition for young conductors with the Philadelphia Orchestra and took second prize out of forty entrants. At this time he decided to go to New York and in order to remain there took a job at the Greenwich Village Presbyterian Church as organist where he was paid the sum of $10 per week. At that time Tom co-founded the Lemonade Opera Company together with other young musicians. It was a low budget organization whose members’ average age was around 25. The name of the Opera Company derived from the custom of serving lemonade during intermission. They had very high musical standards and successfully presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel during their first season.

In 1949 he went on a tour of South America as the soprano Eileen Farrell’s accompanist. According to Miss Farrell he was impressively talented and actually “only wanted to conduct”.

Giancarlo Menotti introducing Tom before the television performance of Amahl and Night Visitors the on December 24, 1951

It was around this time that he met the composer Gian Carlo Menotti while accompanying a singer for an audition. This eventually led to a long term collaboration with Menotti. Following the 1950 premiere of Menotti’s opera The Consul, Schippers began conducting it on Broadway and in 1951 directed the milestone premiere television performance of Menotti’s Christmas Opera Amahl and the Night Visitors broadcast live on national television on December 24th. It was the very first opera commissioned specifically for television and was presented under the auspices of The Hallmark Hall of Fame series. While still in his twenty first year, he directed Menotti’s opera The Old Maid and The Thief at the New York City Opera making him the youngest conductor ever to perform there. It was during this period in his life that he met Menotti’s housemate, the composer Samuel Barber, with whom he established a close professional relationship. Schippers had a great affinity for the music of his time.

In March 1953 the well-known Italian conductor Tullio Serafin was taken ill and was forced to remain in Italy. Schippers was chosen by the Director of New York City Opera, Rosenstock, to replace him conducting L’Heure Espagnole. At that time, he had really never studied a Ravel score. However, he was already known for his fast-learning abilities and was able to give a fine performance on very short notice.

 

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