Joseph Volpe - Wacko Designer?

While working as a stagehand on Broadway, Joseph Volpe decided that he wanted to build scenery for a living. Told that the best place to learn such a trade was the Metropolitan Opera, off he went:

"In 1966, the Met moved from its legendary home at Broadway and 39th Street to a new building at Lincoln Center. For opening night, Franco Zeffirelli was directing the premiere of a new opera, Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber. Volpe was involved in preparing the enormous set.

"One day, he was on stage removing some of the clouds the designer had prepared for the background; he felt there were simply too many. Zeffirelli came by and asked what Volpe was doing; Volpe said it was his job to make the production fit the stage, and that some 'wacko designer' had designed too much scenery. The director quickly left...

"The next day, Volpe's boss, Rudolph Bing, perhaps the most famous general manager in Met history, formally introduced the stagehand to Zeffirelli: 'This is the designer you accused of being wacko.'"

[A week later, the Met's master carpenter resigned -- and Volpe got the job.]

[An unlikely impressario, Volpe, before joining the Met as an apprentice stagehand in 1964, opened and ran his own auto repair shop and helped to manufacture baseball pitching machines.]

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