Robert Merrill (Baritone)
Born: 4th June 1917, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died: 23rd October 2004, New Rochelle, New York, USA
Robert Merrill was born in Brooklyn in 1917 into a Jewish family of Polish immigrants and began vocal lessons at a young age, originally as therapy for a stutter; whilst working the wedding and bar mitzvah circuit as a crooner he attracted the attention of an agent who secured him engagements with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, where early successes included broadcasts as Renato in Un ballo in maschera and Germont in La traviata under Toscanini (he had made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the latter role the previous year, and went on to have a lengthy but conflicted relationship with the house, notching up 769 performances over the course of his career in roles including Verdi’s Rodrigo, Iago, Rigoletto and Amonasro, Puccini’s Scarpia and Marcello, and Donizetti’s Malatesta and Enrico). He also maintained an active career in popular music and musical theatre, and towards the end of his career became celebrated for his performances of The Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events (he had been a semi-professional baseball pitcher in his youth). He died aged 87 whilst watching his beloved baseball on television.