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Brooklyn-born Robert Merrill (1917-2004) first studied with his mother who had been a concert singer, then with Samuel Margolis and Angelo Canarutto. Following his stage début in 1943 as Amonasro in Aida in Trenton, New Jersey, he won the Metropolitan Opera Association Auditions of the Air, which brought about his first appearance in that house in December 1945 as Giorgio Germont in La Traviata. It was here that the larger part of Merrill’s career was spent over a period of thirty years, appearing in nearly 750 performances of 21 rôles. He flirted briefly with Hollywood in the early 1950s before returning to the opera house. His repertoire included Enrico Ashton in Lucia di Lammermoor, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rigoletto, both Silvio and Tonio in Pagliacci, Iago, Scarpia and Don Carlo in La forza del destino. Generally considered to have possessed one of the finest lyric baritone voices of his time, he also sang in opera in San Francisco (1957), Chicago (1960), Venice (1961) and London (1967). He recorded extensively, including many of the principal Verdi baritone rôles. His recordings on Naxos include Silvio in Pagliacci (8.110258) and Manon Lescaut (8.111030-31).

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