Mark Hernandez

Experience, Skill, and Passion — On Stage and Off

True Tales Cover

Published by Dundurn. Available in print and e-book format from Indie Bound, Amazon, Google, iTunes, and other vendors.



True Tales, a review from Kinderkuchen for the FBI, 23 January 2013

It used to be that things that went on behind the scenes at the opera made it into the newspapers. Why doesn't that happen any more? [True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera] is a fun book with lots of insider information.  I tend to find books annoying these days because they don't have a like button.  (Like)

Books: True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera, a review by Caroline Oliver, Guelph Mercury, 11 January 2013

Written in a friendly, conversational style, with deft, self-deprecating humour, True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera offers delightfully candid accounts of productions and performances that just didn’t work out as planned. A modest puff of smoke produced for a stage effect instead becomes a major smokescreen that sends an entire production into a tailspin, leading ladies march out of rehearsals in a huff, leading men refuse to follow the most obvious stage directions, a privately-funded production is cancelled at the last minute because of a “schedule change.”

Although Mansouri clarifies that “certain names have been changed to protect the guilty,” there are plenty of other names in the book that have been left intact. Readers who follow the opera scene will relish these stories about performers they may have heard. And readers for whom opera is foreign territory can nevertheless enjoy these anecdotes, which stand up in their own right as amusing tales, well told.

The Good Book: Recent Titles from Local Authors from the Nob Hill Gazette, January 2013

Opera director Lotfi Mansouri’s collection of vignettes about his personal experiences at the opera – including the San Francisco Opera – featuring the biggest names in the opera world and beyond. Written with Mark Hernandez, the book reveals that opera is indeed grand, in ways you might never expect.

“Operatic disaster is a dish Lotfi Mansouri serves hilarious” by John Terauds, Musical Toronto, 13 October 2012

Theatrical war stories — collapsed sets, missing actors, forgotten lines and erratic behaviour — are the stuff of legend, gossip and endless hilarity, especially when delivered with the quick, deft touch of someone like Lotfi Mansouri, the retired former general director of the Canadian Opera Company and San Francisco Opera….

Four years after his official memoirs (
Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey), the consummate showman returns with a collection of anecdotes, True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera, published by Toronto’s Dundurn Press.

The 184-page paperback contains two-dozen full-length anecdotes that are pretty much guaranteed to cause laughter. These are supplemented by assorted shorter reminiscences of gaffes, misses and near-disasters.

Much of the material reads like outtakes and paraphrases from his original memoir — but the new book is no less funny for it.

Mansouri always gets straight to the point as the lively raconteur that everyone would like to invite for dinner. And he’s not afraid to laugh at himself.
The first chapter is Mansouri’s own disastrous début as Orfeo in Caudio Monteverdi’s opera, back in his student days when he had ambitions to be a professional singer.

The director of more than 500 opera productions laughs at everyone else, too, from politicians (a drunk Boris Yeltsin lunging at Met star Carol Vaness at a White House dinner) to administrators (at the last minute ordering scenery to be placed in front of projections) to drunken leading men (a sloshed Samson wrecks everything but the temple) and divas who should have retired (his anecdote of a useless Orlovsky in a production of
Die Fledermaus is side-splitting).

Mansouri doesn’t spare anyone else, either, from critics to the members of his board of directors and the opera guild in San Francisco….

This volume is all about dish, and Mansouri shouldn’t feel a need to atone for this….

From the Publisher

Everything about opera is larger than life, but the bigger the art form, the bigger the potential for disaster. When things go wrong at the opera house, they really go wrong. No one has a greater or more intimate knowledge of such moments than Lotfi Mansouri. Over the course of a career that has spanned five decades, Mansouri has directed nearly 500 productions at major opera houses around the globe.

Mansouri has gathered a collection of discrete vignettes that recount unforgettable and revealing moments at the opera as personally experienced or witnessed by him. From unbelievable snafus to unfortunate mishaps to astounding coincidences, these vignettes feature some of the biggest names in opera, as well as prominent figures from politics and more. From the hilarious to the bizarre, this is a reader-friendly look at what is often thought of as an overly serious, even mysterious form of art.