Yo vocal music listeners:
I received unfortunate news yesterday. My favorite mezzo-soprano, Nan Merriman, died at age 92 on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles from "complications of old age."
Merriman is best known in the U. S. for her 11 year stint as a regular soloist on the NBC Symphony broadcasts under Arturo Toscanini. From age 16, she sang in movies, in choruses and as a soloist, often in movies with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. (Smiling Through, 1941) Her solo debut in LA was at an Easter Sunday sunrise service in 1940. She was then discovered again by Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Liegh in 1941. They were mounting a lavish production of Romeo and Juliet for New York, and they hired her to sing to cover the scene changes. She debuted with the Cincinnati, Ohio summer opera in 1942, winning a contest and becoming the first of 4 candidates picked from among 3000 applicants.
While perfoming in Cincinnati she entered another contest sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs. Part of her prize was 15 minutes of air time, in the form of a short recital with the NBC Symphony in 1943. The broadcast was heard by Arturo Toscanini, who evidently was not conducting that night. He summoned her for an audition and hired her on the spot. This led to her association with the NBC Symphony, which lasted until Toscanini's retirement in in 1954. She made many full length opera recordings under Toscanini in the period 1948 to 1954, including Otello (Emilia)and Falstaff (Meg Page), which are both still available on CD.
After Toscanini's retirement, she moved to Europe. In 1954, she undertook what was to become her best known and favorite role, Dorabella in Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte," performed many times by her and her best known collaborator, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. An example from that show follows: http://youtu.be/XPshz3-3p-M
Merriman exhibits here the dark, rich, chocolaty sound for which she was known, and her expressive use of vibrato. She was recorded many times by RCA, EMI, and DG, under many conductors, including Toscanini, Hermann Scherchen, and Leopold Stokowski and many others, including Toscanini's unfortunate protege Guido Cantelli.
Merriman continued her career in Europe, performing in North and South America, the U. S., Canada and Europe, until 1965, when she stepped off the stage, fulfilling a promise she had made to herself at age 18, that she would quit on her 45th birthday. Shortly after her final performance in Amsterdam, she married the Dutch tenor Tom Brand. The last Youtube clip is from her second to last performance, April 27, 1965. http://youtu.be/-zzcP3Da4Vg
. The song is a good example of her extensive and adventurous recital repertory, which included much 20th century Spanish material, the best known of which is Manuel De Falla's dark ballet "El Amor Brujo."
Tom Brand died in 1970, and Merriman, after staying in Holland to finish raising Brand's 10 children, returned to Los Angeles in 1973, residing there until her recent death. She will be missed by many fans, including this one.
And good luck from that sad old guy, with a wish for eternal peace and happiness to Nan,