“Shut Up and Sing!” (The Story of a Tenor) is the rather bittersweet memoir of a long-time friend and colleague of mine, Paul Veglia. (Before I became a writer, I was an opera singer.)
A talented, charismatic Italian-American, Paul has interacted with many famous people in the course of his lifetime: Sophia Loren, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, to name a few. And that lifetime has included some astounding offers: a major role on opening night of the Metropolitan Opera, a six-figure recording contract with RCA-Victor, and a leading role in a major musical — none of which, unfortunately, came to be.
Even his marriage — to the love of his life,the daughter of movie star Paul Henreid — eventually turned into a nightmare, keeping him away from his children for many years and leading to a stay in a psychiatric hospital. Even that, however, didn’t help Paul with his problems, which could be attributed to various causes — his unhappy childhood, his overly trusting nature, other people’s jealousy, just plain bad luck, or his inability to handle his successes — and his failures.
But even with all the unhappiness and uncertainty in Paul’s life, he managed to retain his optimistic outlook, largely due to a couple of qualities that never let him down: his disarmingly offbeat personality and his naturally beautiful voice, with its thrilling high notes. If only Paul — the outspoken “smart-ass” — had taken the good advice given to him by several people along the way: “Shut up and sing!”