Music: Bing Remembers

"I am supposed to ask tactless questions," said the ship reporter on a chilly morning in November 1949.

"Ah yes, and I am supposed to give evasive answers," replied the thin, aristocratic-looking man with a Viennese accent.

With that, Rudolf Bing, general manager-designate of the Metropolitan Opera, strode off the Queen Elizabeth and into operatic history. The remarkable thing about Bing during the two decades that followed was that he rarely gave evasive answers—at least to the press. "Reporters found me what is called good copy," he recalls. He never evaded a fight either—whether...

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