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Robert Merrill (1917 - 2004)

Robert Merrill was born Moishe Miller (later known as Morris Miller) to Abraham and Lillian Miller, Orthodox Jewish immigrants to the USA from Warsaw. His mother was a concert singer who encouraged him to sing as a means of banishing his stutter. Although Merrill was for a while active as a semi-professional baseball player, after hearing Richard Bonelli sing di Luna / Il trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera in New York he decided to take professional singing lessons, paying for these from his baseball earnings.

Merrill studied in New York with Renato Bellini, Armando Agnini and Samuel Margolis; but his first audition for the Met, in 1941, was not successful. While singing at weddings and other religious ceremonies however, he met an agent, Moe Gale, who found him radio work with NBC that included both popular material and leading roles in Toscanini’s historic broadcasts of La traviata (1946) and later of Un ballo in maschera (1954). Having made his operatic debut in 1944 as Amonasro / Aida opposite Giovanni Martinelli at Newark, New Jersey, Merrill was encouraged by the conductor Wilfred Pelletier to audition for the Met once again. In 1945 he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and immediately made his Met debut as Germont père / La traviata, the company becoming his artistic base for the rest of his operatic career.



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