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At the age of 25 Schippers was appointed to be a regular conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. In its then 71 year history, he was only the third U.S. born conductor to achieve this. He was also the second youngest conductor ever to be signed up by the Met, Walter Damrosch having attained the position at 22 in 1885. In the same year, he was given the Tony Award for best Conductor and Musical Director for The Saint of Bleeker Street and nominated one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men” in the United States of that year. In May of the same year, he made his debut at La Scala in Milan.
Schippers receiving the award in 1955 as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men”
in the United States while Vice-President Richard Nixon looks on

The villa inside Spoleto at Piazza Campello where Schippers sometimes stayed during the Festival

 

 

The announcement of the first Festival of Two Worlds was given by Menotti and Schippers on February 25, 1958. Menotti was President of the Festival Foundation and Schippers was the Musical Director, a position he maintained for many years thereafter. In the summer of 1958 the first edition of the Festival of Two Worlds took place in Spoleto Italy. The hugely successful opening opera was Macbeth conducted by Schippers with scenes by Luchino Visconti. Donizetti’s opera Il Duca d’Alba which had not been finished by the composer was reconstructed by Schippers over an eight month period in 1959 and then presented at the Festival in Spoleto. It was praised warmly.
 
September 1959 brought Schippers to Moscow together with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. There he introduced to the Soviet audience, Samuel Barber’s Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance and Gian Carlo Menotti’s Two Interludes. He enjoyed a rousing success with the Muscovites.

The memorable performance of Cherubini’s Medea with Maria Callas took place at the Teatro alla Scala in December 1961 with Schippers conducting. It was considered a highly dramatic interpretation by the press and had at least 15 curtain calls. It was also Callas’ farewell performance at La Scala.

In the summer of 1963, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, Schippers conducted Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg at the Bayreuther Festspiele. In Schippers’ opinion the music of Wagner “Is more mysterious than any Sphinx…………Wagner was never able to explain himself with words ………..he changed the history of music more than Bach and , like him, could never be imitated”.

The Metropolitan Opera manager Rudolph Bing called the 1963-64 season the “Schippers Festival” because Tom was conducting 36 performances of 4 operas in one season including the first performance of The Last Savage by Menotti. At 24 he had been one of the youngest conductors ever to appear at the Metropolitan and was held by most to be one of the foremost conductors ever born in the United States. Nine years after first conducting at the Met, he was considered “the best conductor of opera yet born in America”.


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