Robert Merrill (1919-2004)

Di Provenza il mar il suol
La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

Merrill The man with the golden voice. I have heard him in person only once. The voice was grand. The execution, musically speaking, seemed to me sloppy and a bit corny. But then I've noticed this same shortcoming in a good many opera singers when they sing on the concert stage. Robert Merrill struck me as being a gentleman, a performer dedicated to his audience, possessed of a sense of humor and devoid of excessive ego. Tidbits: He received the National Medal of Arts (USA) in 1993. He was the first person ever to sing the National Anthem and throw out the first ball at Yankee Stadium for the Yanks home opener (1986). Frank Sinatra, desiring to preserve his voice as long as possible, sought tips on singing from Merrill.

This recording is of the young Robert Merrill singing in the 1946 radio production of Traviata (as Germont, which was also his 1945 debut role) under Toscanini. Merrill’s singing here seems more craft than art. The timbre is wonderful, but the musical line seems pedestrian.

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