June 4, 1917 – October 23, 2004)
Robert Merrill was an American operatic baritone who had a giant career with the Metropolitan Opera and who recorded extensively.
Son of Jewish/ Polish immigrants and with an early stutter- he was encouraged by singing because when he sang the stutter disappeared.
At an early age he was inspired by a performance of the baritone Richard Bonelli singing Count Di Luna in a performance of Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera and he took a job singing at the Radio City Music Hall with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
With Toscanini conducting, he sang in two of the maestro's famous operas series for the NBC- a La Traviata (with Licia Albanese), and Un Ballo in Maschera in 1954
Merrill's official debut came in 1944 in Verdi's Aida at Newark, New Jersey, with the famous tenor of the time, Giovanni Martinelli- then in 1945, he sang the role of Germont in La Traviata.
Also in 1945, Robert Merrill recorded a 78rpm record set with Jeanette MacDonald .
He had a brief fallout with head of the Metropolitan, Rudolph Bing when he appeared in musical but after the famous Met baritone Leonard Warren died onstage in 1960 Robert Merrill was to take his mantle and become the Met's principal baritone singing all the baritone staple repertoire over a number of years.
He continued to make many recordings and among them was the Pearl Fishers duet "Au Fond du Temple Saint" from the opera by Georges Bizet, that he recorded with Jussi Björling. It has been at the top of listeners' polls ever since.
in 1973 he paired up with Richard Tucker to present a concert at Carnegie Hall— it was a concept that was to inspire the "Three Tenors" concerts many years later.
Robert Merrill retired from the Metropolitan in 1976 but he continued to sing at private Jewish ceremonies.
In a long and illustrious career his influence on American vocal music was acknowleged and honoured with various awards. In 1996 he was given The Lawrence Tibbett Award to honour his fifty years in opera and in 1993 he received the National Medal of Arts.
Robert Merrill famously married coloratura soprano Roberta Peters in 1952 but they separated shortly aftwards when she admitted it was his voice that she had fallen in love with.
He was a keen golfer and friends and colleagues remember him as a genial man with a healthy sense of humour.
Today he is remembered fondly as one of the great artists of yesteryear at the Metropolitan.
Robert Merrill is one of the featured stars on our "Legends" product range.