Image from Albert Innaurato’s fantastical blog “Mrs. John Claggart’s Sad Life”

When I moved back to Philadelphia a few years ago, I reached out to Albert Innaurato, and he graciously agreed to meet from time to time to discuss the past and current music scenes and, of course, Albert himself. 

We would sit in coffee shops or in Rittenhouse Square, just across from his apartment, and talk for hours. Yes, he was opinionated, sometimes overbearing in making his points, and always intimidatingly brilliant.

His store of musical knowledge was so vast and superior to mine, yet he listened to my opinions as though we were equals, and gently tried to educate or correct what he thought were errors or gaps in my musical knowledge.

I never tired of listening to his endless tales of the great singers and performances he encountered around the world, filled with detail (musical and salacious), impeccable scholarship, and above all, passion for the human voice in song and how it can inspire or shatter our very beings.

He had the astonishing ability to argue for a certain a musical turn of phrase, or a certain singer’s ideal (or inappropriate) choices, or an aspect of historical accuracy, while making it sound as though these things were part of the unshakable foundation of a civilized culture.

And he talked freely about his life and career. I loved hearing about how he visited the Academy of Music when he was a member of the Opera Club at Central High. Even though were comparable in age, the idea of belonging to an opera club in high school was something unimaginable to me!

He did feel badly neglected in his later years, and held fierce grudges against those he felt had praised and used his literary and musical talents and then tossed him aside. So there definitely was some bitterness that occasionally poured out in intemperate rages.

But we are so fortunate that he shared as much as he did in his official roles as playwright and critic. He has left us with a unique record (piecemeal and scattered though it may be) of a musical era that will surely stand the test of time.

I feel privileged to have known him for a short time as an artist, supreme musical historian, and friend. He should be loudly praised and memorialized: not the least with a dedicated bench in Rittenhouse Square.

No doubt there are some who would gladly, but secretly, consign Albert to the deepest circle in Hell. If he felt that way about some people, and he did, he would not hesitate to say it out loud!)

Wherever he may be, I would love to be a fly on he wall of the afterlife the first time he encountered Evil Incarnate!