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Nan Merriman (1920 - 2012)

Nan Merriman was born Katherine Ann Merriman and grew up in Pittsburgh’s East Side, attending the St Mercy Academy, before moving with her parents when she was fifteen to Los Angeles. Here she attended high school and studied singing with Alexia Bassian and Lotte Lehmann. She began her singing career in 1940 as a chorus member in several Hollywood films, singing in concert at the Hollywood Bowl during the same year, and made an uncredited singing appearance in the film Smilin’ Through (1941).

In Hollywood Merriman was noticed by Laurence Olivier, who engaged her for a national tour of Romeo and Juliet with himself and his wife Vivien Leigh: she sang arias by Palestrina and Purcell during the scene changes. Returning to Pittsburgh to appear in the Folies Bergère of 1941, Merriman made her operatic stage debut in 1942 with the Cincinnati Summer Opera as La Cieca / La Gioconda. While in Cincinnati she won a singing competition sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs and with the prize money bought $1,000’s-worth of radio time to give a fifteen-minute recital which was broadcast on the NBC radio network; on hearing this Toscanini engaged her to perform with the NBC Symphony.




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