Boris Goldovsky

[gohl-dawf-skee, -dof-; Russ. guhl-dawf-skyee]
Boris Goldovsky (Cyrillic: Борис Голдовский) (June 7, 1908 - February 15, 2001) was a promoter and popularizer of opera working in the United States of America. As a broadcaster, impresario, and conductor, he became prominent within the American operatic community between 1946 and 1979. He has been called one of the most important popularizers of opera in America.

Early life

He was born in Moscow to a well established Jewish family. His father was a lawyer, his mother a concert violinist, and several relatives were accomplished musicians. At an early age, he became a concert pianist, training at the Moscow Conservatory.


In the Bolshevik era, he and his parents travelled in Europe and America, eventually leaving the Soviet Union. Goldovsky gained fluency in several languages and was a protege of Ernő Dohnányi in Budapest. He moved to Philadelphia in 1930, and taught at the Curtis Institute for several years. He moved again to Boston in 1942, where he became director of the opera department at the New England Conservatory of Music. Sarah Caldwell became his assistant in Boston, and worked with him for several years. Around 1943 he became a protege of Koussevitsky at Tanglewood. Koussevitsky had become well acquainted with the Goldovsky family in Russia long before their immigration to the USA.

In January 1945, Goldovsky began the New England Opera Theater (later known as the "Goldovsky Opera Theater") under the sponsorship of the New England Conservatory.

During a tour of the New York Metropolitan Opera tour visit to Boston in around 1946, Goldovsky participated in a promotional opera quiz event. His encyclopedic knowledge led the Met to offer him a weekend job as master of ceremonies covering the intermission periods of the Texaco-sponsored broadcasts. The Met agreed to pay for weekly travel to New York. He quickly became known across the United States for his Saturday radio commentary. In the 1940s and 1950s, he and Gladys Childs Miller were the "star-makers" at New England Conservatory. In 1946, he was named director of the opera program at the Tanglewood Music Center in the Berkshires, a position he held through 1962.

In 1953 he wrote Accents on Opera, a series of essays, sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild and published in New York by Farrar, Straus & Young. In 1954 he received a Peabody Award for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Music.

In the late 1970s, he began again to teach at the Curtis Institute, from where he retired in 1985.

He has been credited in several recordings, including a Boston Symphony Orchestra recording of Wagner's "Lohengrin", conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. Famous associates include Mario Lanza, Leonard Bernstein and Mary Beth Peil.

He died in Brookline, Massachusetts, aged 92, in 2001.


  • Bringing Opera to Life (1968), about operatic acting and stage direction. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Bringing Soprano Arias to Life (1973) (with Arthur Schoep). New York: G. Schirmer.
  • Touring Opera: a Manual for Small Companies (1975) (with Thomas Wolf, foreword by Sherrill Milnes). National Opera Association.
  • My road to opera: the Recollections of Boris Goldovsky, (1979), Houghton Mifflin. [ISBN 0-395-27760-4] OCLC: 4516063
  • The University of Indiana published transcripts of his intermission commentary from the Metropolitan Opera radio shows in 1984.
  • Some intermission commentary transcripts can be found at

Students and protégés

  • Sarah Caldwell, who became a famous impresario and conductor in her own right
  • Phyllis Curtin, soprano, who sang at the Metropolitan, New York City Opera, and at leading European venues
  • Rosalind Elias, who also sang at the Met and in Europe
  • Peter Feldman, who performed for radio and television.
  • Robert McFerrin, the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Sherrill Milnes, baritone, star at the Met, City Opera, and in Europe.



  • Resources from the Spaulding Library at New England Conservatory
  • Goldovsky, Recollections
  • Macpherson and Klein, Measure by Measure
  • Edward Rothstein, Opera: Goldovsky Company's Farewell, The New York Times, March 19, 1984.

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