Mark Schubin Remembers Kirk Browning
February 14, 2008
Kirk Browning called everyone with whom he worked "darling" and meant it. Born in 1921, he dated Gloria Vanderbilt, and, in the late 1940s, delivered eggs from his Connecticut farm. One customer ran a network music division, and soon Browning was directing the television coverage of Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
He directed NBC Opera Theater and, later, NET Opera Theater. Then came Great Performances, Live from Lincoln Center, and Live From the Met on PBS.
He directed Frank Sinatra's first TV show and Amahl and the Night Visitors, considered the first opera written for television.
Despite winning multiple Emmy, Peabody, and Christopher awards, Browning respected the performers he shot so much that he would not consider himself their equal; he referred to himself as a craftsman, never an artist. He attributed much of his success as a TV director to poor vision in one eye.
He thrived in crisis. While shooting O Pioneers! he lost one of six cameras, threw away his script, and directed on the fly. While shooting the New York Philharmonic, he lost his entire monitor wall, and directed from memory to the sound he heard over the intercom.
He directed a Live from Lincoln Center show this January and, almost six decades after Amahl, was scheduled to direct yet another opera in March. Kirk Browning died Feb. 10.