Lebendige Vergangenheit - Robert Merrill

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Geboren 1917 in Brooklyn/New York hatte er vor seinem Operndebut bereits eigene Radiosendungen und sang in der Radio City Music Hall. Als Gewinner des Wettbewerbes der Metropolitan Opera „Auditions of the Air“ erfolgte sein Met- Debut 1945 als Germont père. 1946 wählte ihn Toscanini für seine Aufnahme von “La Traviata” und später auch für „Un Ballo in Maschera”. 1951 kündigte Rudolf Bing Merrills Vertrag, weil dieser anstatt mit der MET auf Tournee zu gehen, ein Filmangebot aus Hollywood angenommen hatte. Nach einem öffentlichen Entschuldigungsbrief feierte Merrill 1952 seine Rückkehr in “Il Trovatore”. Zwar gab er wiederholt Gastspiele in Südamerika und Europa, doch beschränkte sich der wesentliche Teil seiner Karriere auf die Metropolitan Opera (bis 1974/75). Von 1970-74 stand Merrill über 500 mal als Tevje in “The Fiddler on the Roof” am Broadway auf der Bühne. Noch 1983 trat er in einer Gala-Vorstellung anläßlich der MET-Jahrhundertfeier auf und starb 2004 in New York. Born in Brooklyn/New York in 1917 he already had his own radio program and regularly appeared at Radio City Music Hall before winning the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air. His Met-Debut took place in 1945 as father Germont. In 1946 Toscanini chose him for his „La Traviata“-recording and later in 1954 for „Un Ballo in Maschera“. In 1951 Bing fired Merrill for breach of contract because the singer had accepted a film-offer in Hollywood instead of joining the MET on its spring-tour. After a public letter of apology Merrill celebrated his return to the MET in 1952 in “Il Trovatore“. Among his close to 800 performances until 1974/75 (and an additional 200 on tour) in 85 roles which included Escamillo, Rigoletto, Ford, Scarpia, Valentin, Amonasro, Figaro („Barbiere“), Conte di Luna, Silvio, Posa and Enrico („Lucia“), the MET owed to him some of its finest performances. In 1971 Merrill once more sang Posa on the opening night of Bing´s last season at the MET. Although he did make guest appearances in South America and Europe (Covent Garden-debut: 1967 as Germont), mainly in Italy, the essential part of his career was devoted to the Metropolitan Opera. Merrills versatility as an artist became evident in his shows with Louis Armstrong or Joan Rivers in Las Vegas and Atlantic City or his friendships with Danny Kaye and Frank Sinatra, with whom he frequently appeared on TV. Between 1970 and 1974 he Merrill gave more than 500 performances on New York Broadway as Tevje in „The Fiddler on the Roof“ and also went on tour. Together with Richard Tucker he gave a series of highly acclaimed „joint recitals“ all over the United States from 1972 on, which were tragically put to an end in 1975 by Tuckers death (caused by a heart attack) some hours before a concert in the State of Michigan. In 1983 Merrill still took part in the MET´s Centennial-Gala-Performance and today lives near New York. The fact that Robert Merrill generally is remembered more for his singing than for his interpretations does in no way reduce his artistic merits. His voice was well focussed, it had a wonderfully rich resonance and a remarkable ring; until the end of his career he maintained complete control over it. Neither his top nor the low notes showed particular weak points and many of his colleagues confirmed, how exemplary he could be as an ensemble-singer. All his recordings give evidence of how much he enjoyed singing. – But then, he also enjoyed a good life: he was not exactly somebody who spent every free minute burying his head in a new score or adding new touches to a well-established role. „His Scarpia sounds like his Germont and is just as sympathetic as his Rodrigo. [. . .] Merrill spent most of „Vissi d´arte“ staring compassionately at his Tosca and no one would have been surprised had he led the applause afterwards.“, an American critic wrote after a performance of „Tosca“ in 1965. „He did not lend his roles their features, but his.“, as Jürgen Kesting put it. Merrill´s singing was „pure voice“. In this respect, Jussi Björling, who sincerely admired him (they were close friends, too) was an ideal tenor-partner. Their recordings of duets from „Don Carlo“, „I Pescatori di Perle“ and „Otello“, among others, (Merrill remembered how he and an apparently nervous Björling walked and walked around the block before entering the recording studio: „Bob – Caruso and Ruffo, that´s what I want it to sound like !“, he implored me. „We´ll try“, I replied, „but it´ll still be Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill.“) are rightly considered some of the finest duet-singing in recording history.