|Paul Plishka (born August 28, 1941
in Old Forge, Pennsylvania), is known for a wide range of major and supporting
roles. Both his parents were American-born children of Ukrainian immigrants.
As a boy, he was interested in farming and football, but also took guitar
lessons. His teacher insisted that he learn to sing while playing, so he
would sing popular songs such as Love is
a Many-Splendored Thing. When his father moved to a new job in Paterson,
New Jersey, Paul, joined the school chorus. Soon, he was offered the part
of Judd Fry in the school production of Oklahoma! He was spotted by Armen Boyajian,
who was starting a local opera workshop. Plishka joined Boyajian's Paterson
Lyric Opera Theatre.
Paul Plishka sang major roles - Raimondo in Lucia di Lamermoor, Guardiano in La Forza del Destino, and King Philip in Don Carlos - when he was only 21. Meanwhile, Boyajian taught him singing. Plishka was his first student, and Boyajian was Plishka's only teacher. Plishka attended Montclair State College in New Jersey, where he met his future wife, Judy. At the age of 23, he won the Baltimore Opera Auditions, and then won a prize in the Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions. This earned him a contract with the national touring company of the Met during what turned out to be its final year. After that, they offered him a contract to be a cover (understudy) singer in buffo parts. He accepted the offer, becoming a member of the company in 1966 and debuting on-stage as the Monk in La Gioconda in 1967, followed by parts such as the Sacristan in Tosca and Benoit in La Bohème.
At the Met, he became one of the company's leading basses, and has appeared in many other theaters, including the Teatro alla Scala (debut in La damnation de Faust, 1974) and the New York City Opera (I Puritani, 1981). He retired from the Metropolitan Opera after playing the Sacristan in Tosca, on the Saturday broadcast on January 28, 2012. He had performed at the Metropolitan Opera for forty-five years and in 1,642 performances, placing him at number ten on their official list of most-frequent performers, which dates back to the company's inception in 1883. There was a special tribute after Act I on stage, and on the air during the intermission. In 2016 he was invited back to the Metropolitan Opera for five post-retirement performances as Benoît and Alcindoro in La Bohème in April and May of that year, and 10 more in November, December, and January in the 2016/2017 season.
He is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. He has also made many audio and video recordings, some of which are shown on this webpage.
Paul Plishka's artistry was recognized in 1992 when he received the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and when, several years earlier, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great American Opera Singers in a celebration at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
Despite all of this acclaim, Plishka's international artistic successes have been dampened by a life filled with personal tragedies. In 1984, Plishka's younger brother, Dr Peter Plishka, was found dead in his Bronx apartment with a self-inflicted stab wound. At the time, Dr Plishka, 33, was chief of children's services at the state-run Children's Psychiatric Center. In 1991, Plishka's son Jeffrey was accused of the murder and rape of Laura Ronning, a crime of which he was eventually acquitted in 2010. In 2004, Plishka's first wife, Judith Ann Plishka, Jeffrey's mother, died, according to an obituary in The New York Times. Plishka is currently married to Sharon Thomas, a former resident stage director at the Met. Another of Plishka's sons, Paul, Jr, also died, according to Pastor Protopresbyter Nestor Kowal of St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Plishka has a third son, Nicolai.
Paul Plishka at Lyric Opera of Chicago
1981 - Macbeth (Banco) with Cappuccilli, Barstow, Little, Kunde; Fischer, N. Merrill, Benois, Schuler (lighting for this, and all subsequent productions)
Fidelio (Rocco) with J. Meier/Marton, Vickers, Roar, Hynes, Hoback, Kavrakos/DelCarlo; Kuhn, Hotter,
1985-86 - Otello (Lodovico) with Domingo/Johns, M. Price, Milnes, Redmon, McCauley; Bartoletti, Diaz, Pizzi
Samson [Handel] (Harapha) with Vickers, Shade, Howell, Anderson, Gordon; Rudel, Moshinsky, O'Brien, Tallchief
Anna Bolena (Enrico) with Sutherland, Merritt, Toczyska, Zilio, Doss; Bonynge, Mansouri, Pascoe
1986-87 - Gioconda (Alvise) with Dimitrova, Ciannella, Welker, Milcheva, M. Dunn/Curry; Bartoletti, Crivelli, Brown, Tallchief
1991-92 - Puritani (Walton) with Anderson, Merritt, Coni, Maultsby; Renzetti, Sequi, Lee
1995-96 - Don Pasquale (Pasquale) with Swenson, Ford, Nolen/Benedetti; Olmi, Montarsolo, Conklin
1999-2000 - L'Elisir D'Amore (Dulcamara) with Futral/Swensen, Lopardo/LaScola, Lanza; Abel, Chazalettes/Liotta, Santicchi
© 1981 & 1995 Bruce Duffie
These conversations were recorded in Chicago on November 24, 1981, and October 20, 1995. The first interview was transcribed and published in Opera Scene Magazine in August, 1982. Portions of the second interview were broadcast on WNIB two weeks after it was held, and again the following August. This transcription was made in 2017, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.