Edgar Vincent- Like no one else

Edgar Vincent is a gentleman in the OLD sense of the word. The best sense of the word. He helped guide some of the greatest talents ever, from Nilsson and Pinza, Sills, Domingo, all of them treated with rare accessibility, a real word of hope and calm and the best advice.

I shall never forget his expertise, his early friendship which remained steadfast and the enormous dignity the “grand Duke”, because he always looked like one, always showed me, his artists and the music he so adored.

I was proud to be one of your friends, sorry I drove you crazy on occasion, and pray you know how much I honor and love you now and always. Dear friend, all to soon, sleep well.
Say hello to all of heaven which is filled with stars you helped make shine.

Edgar Vincent; Opera Stars’ PR Man

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008; Page B04
Edgar Vincent, the longtime press representative and right-hand man to Placido Domingo and a host of other opera stars, died June 26 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He was 90 years old.

A resident of New York, he died of a blood clot while recovering from hip-replacement surgery, said his professional partner, Patrick Farrell.

“It is difficult to lose such a collaborator, such a friend,” Domingo, audibly shaken, said by telephone from Vienna, where he had just given a concert.

“He was there at every moment,” he added. “He was somebody who had the right words, always.”

Domingo had known Mr. Vincent since 1965; they worked together for more than 25 years.

Mr. Vincent’s roster of past clients reads like a “Who’s Who” of 20th-century musical luminaries. In addition to Domingo, it includes the sopranos Birgit Nilsson and Beverly Sills, the basses Ezio Pinza and Samuel Ramey, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the conductor George Szell and many others.

In the 1940s and 1950s, these people were larger-than-life figures of glamour and mystery. Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera was a social event of national consequence. Mr. Vincent mediated between his clients and the demands of the press with impeccable manners, Old World charm, a rapier wit and an underlying eye to practicalities.

When the soprano Lily Pons was appearing in the Midwest during a U.S. tour, Life magazine said it would be willing to run a photograph of her — milking a cow. “She said she would in no way milk a cow,” recounts Jack Mastroianni, who worked with Mr. Vincent and was the manager of Salvatore Licitra, Mirella Freni and many other opera stars. “And Edgar said, ‘How about if you milked it in a full-length mink coat?’ ” Pons milked the cow; Life got the photo.

Mr. Vincent also advised the solidly built Wagnerian soprano Nilsson, who complained that the costumes for a 1965 “Salome” itched and that she was not going to be allowed to perform her own dance. (The Dance of the Seven Veils is supposed to be a seductive high point of Strauss’s opera.) Mr. Vincent, accurately surmising that the production team had failed to appreciate his star’s physical endowments, suggested that she “show her gams.” Nilsson, who although built like an icebox had a great pair of legs, showed up the next day in a pair of black wool tights and ultimately got to do the dance herself.

“His advice was always impeccable,” Domingo said.

Edgar Vincent Julius Raffaelle Simone Pos was born March 13, 1918, in Hamburg and raised in Holland, the son of an Italian opera singer and a dentist whose father was the governor of Dutch Guiana (now Suriname). As a boy, he was a passionate pianist who dreamed of a concert career, but in his teen years he realized that he was not going to be good enough to satisfy his own expectations and gave the instrument up.

He later pursued hopes of an acting career to Hollywood, where his mother had connections to Warner Bros. Pictures. Despite striking good looks (he sported a debonair ’30s-style pencil mustache to the end of his life), he did not advance far beyond appearing in small, non-credited roles in a few movies (including the 1939 “Juarez”). He later attributed this in part to “an accent you could cut with a knife,” according to Jane Scovell, who interviewed Mr. Vincent for her book-in-progress about Ramey.

Mr. Vincent was so intensely private that even his closest associates knew little of his history. “My wife, Linda, and I were as close to Edgar as anyone could be,” Farrell said, “and we were still in the dark about his early life.” He did have a stint in U.S. Army intelligence in 1946.

His first public-relations job was with publicist Muriel Francis, who had met him as an actor but hired him for his knowledge of music and command of languages. His first client was Pinza, then in rehearsal for a show called “South Pacific.” The rest was history, for Pinza’s career and for Mr. Vincent. When Francis retired, Mr. Vincent took over her firm, later working in partnership with Cynthia Robbins and, for the past 21 years, Farrell.

For some clients, including Domingo, the bonds with Mr. Vincent went beyond professionalism to deep personal devotion. Mr. Vincent and Sills spoke on the phone every morning until the end of her life (among other things, they compared notes on the daily New York Times crossword puzzle).

And Sills certainly trusted his advice. When the Met was looking for its next general manager, Mr. Vincent and Mastroianni were working with Peter Gelb of Sony Classics on an album, “Duetto,” with Licitra and Marcelo Alvarez. According to Mastroianni, Mr. Vincent was impressed with Gelb’s marketing acumen, “how he thinks outside the box.” Sills, at the time, was chairman of the Met, and Mr. Vincent said, “I’m going to tell her they should look at Peter Gelb.” After many intervening steps and decisions, Gelb got the job.

Mr. Vincent would never have wanted to take any credit for such a thing. The antithesis of the stereotypical loud-mouth, attention-hungry PR rep, he kept himself in the background like a trusted courtier, an urbane old-school gentleman whose passions were music and weekend gardening at the homes of his associates. He leaves no survivors.

For Domingo, beyond the personal loss, Mr. Vincent’s death marks the end of “a generation I met when I started my career,” he said. “Mr. [Rudolf] Bing, [Sol] Hurok, many others. He was working with all of them.”

~ by aprilemillo on June 30, 2008.

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