The Music Treasury is featuring baritone Lawrence Tibbett on this week’s show. Tibbett, quite the distinguished singer, had a career with the Metropolitan Opera House, as well as performing in solo recitals. Additionally, Tibbett performed in earlyier Hollywood movies. Besides performing in the classical literature, he gave voice to new compositions in his time.
Dr Gary Lemco hosts The Music Treasury, which can be heard between 19:00 and 21:00 PST from Stanford’s KZSU station; it can also be heard via concurrent streaming at kzsu.stanford.edu.
Lawrence Tibbett, baritone
One of the great voices of the Metropolitan Opera, Lawrence Mervil Tibbet (1896-1960) was born in Bakersfield, California at the end of the “wild west” era. He was only six when his father, a Kern County deputy sheriff, was killed by bandits. After training with, among others, Metropolitan Opera bass (and later film actor) Basil Ruysdael, he joined the Met, adding another “t” to his name in his initial contract. He made his company debut in 1923 in the small role of Lovitsky in Mussorgsky’s “Boris Gudonov.” Two years later, in 1925, he caused a sensation as “Ford” in Verdi’s “Falstaff” and his future with the company was assured. At home in French, Italian, German, and American opera, he created the leads in numerous Met premiers, most notably in Deems Taylor’s “The King’s Henchman,” Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra,” and Louis Gruenberg’s “The Emperor Jones.” Blessed, in his younger days, with boyish good looks, in addition to his powerful voice, he was one of the first great opera stars to enjoy success in Hollywood films, most notably 1929’s “The Rogue Song,” which brought him an Oscar nomination, and 1931’s “Cuban Love Song,” the latter opposite Lupe Velez and Jimmy Durante. He was also a highly-regarded recitalist and appeared successfully on radio. His recordings for Victor sold in the millions. In 1936, along with violinist Jascha Heifetz, he founded the American Guild of Musical Artists, serving for 17 years as its active president.
Unfortunately, beginning in around 1940, the stress of taking on too many heavy roles too early brought on a vocal crisis, which only worsened in the next decade. He continued to take on new roles at the Metropolitan (Michele in Puccini’s “Il Tabarro,” Balstrode in Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” Ivan in Mussorgsky’s “Khovantchina“), but these were parts that stressed his considerable dramatic abilities, rather than his diminishing vocal ones. This vocal crisis also triggered a drinking problem (some have said vice versa), which also got progressively worse with time. Perhaps wisely, Tibbett left the Met at the end of the 1949-50 season.
The 1950s saw him appearing on stage in both musical and dramatic roles, most notably succeeding former Met colleague Ezio Pinza in the Broadway musical hit “Fanny,” as well as hosting “Golden Voices” on NBC radio. But heavy drinking, which also brought on a well-publicized traffic arrest, left his once good looks bloated and puffy. An increasingly unhappy life ended in early 1960 when he tripped on a Persian runner in his home, badly gashing his head on the corner of his TV set and driving bone fragments into his brain. He died on July 17 at the age of 64. Tibbett’s unhappy end is best forgotten. His contributions to the world of music will live forever.
Moore: Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms 3:39
Calcott: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes 3:38
Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci: Si puo? Un nido de memori. . .Vesti la giubba 7:00
Pacius: Song of Finland (w/K. Flagstad; L. Melchior; K. Branzell) 4:24
Loewe: Edward, Op. 1, No. 1 4:43
Verdi: Rigoletto: Parmi siamo; Povero Rigoletto! Cortigiani, vil razza dannata 12:40
Gershwin: Porgy and Bess – excerpts (w/H. Jepson; G. Gershwin, supervisor) 28:00
Bizet: Carmen: Votre toast 5:07
The Rogue Song 3:18
The White Dove 3:42
Somervell: A Kingdom by the Sea 4:38
Dietz: “Under Your Spell”: 3 songs 11:00
Handel: Theodora: Defend Her, Heaven! 4:35
Wagner: Die Walkuere: Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire (w/L. Stokowski) 16: 35