My Road to Radio And The Vocal Scene: Memoir of an Opera Commentator

June 21, 2019 - Comment

Born in Ujpest, Hungary, in 1919, George Jellinek began his musical career playing violin with gypsies in the family’s garden restaurant. He spent his adolescence doing much the same, honing his talent and enriching his own musical education with frequent trips to the Hungarian Royal Opera House. But when Hitler and Chamberlain signed the Munich

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Born in Ujpest, Hungary, in 1919, George Jellinek began his musical career playing violin with gypsies in the family’s garden restaurant. He spent his adolescence doing much the same, honing his talent and enriching his own musical education with frequent trips to the Hungarian Royal Opera House. But when Hitler and Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact in 1938, Jellinek’s quiet life was shattered. How the exiled teenager survived World War II, worked his way up from a poor Hungarian immigrant in Cuba and became one of the most important and influential musical administrators in New York is an unconventional but truly American success story. This memoir documents the inspiring life of George Jellinek, beginning with his childhood in his beloved Hungary. The crisis of World War II soon invaded his life and, leaving behind his family and homeland, he fled west. Having been finally allowed to enter the United States, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, obligated to bear arms against the country of his birth. This ironic turn of events culminated in his firsthand role in the capture of Ferenc Szálasi, the leader of Hungary’s Hitlerite faction. The latter half of the book reveals how music helped Jellinek piece back together his broken life in America. After rising to the post of musical director for radio station WQXR, he went on to become the producer and host of The Vocal Scene. His 36 years with that program established it as a revered fixture of New York’s opera life. The epilogue documents the day on which Hungary’s president bestowed upon Jellinek the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.

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