"Robert Merrill has for too long been written off as a bad actor with a good voice. What he really was was a bad actor with an EXCEPTIONALLY good voice, and these arias and songs prove it. And not only do these selections show off his wonderful, rich baritone, they also include some great songs and arias which aren't usually recorded. In particular, the "Invictus" of Bruno Huhn, the Toreador Song from Carmen, and the three spirituals are all either unknown or under-recorded, and all receive their due on this album. And, of course, Merrill's signature aria, "Largo al factotum," is wonderful. The only problem I have is with the sound quality of the album, but even that isn't as bad as it could be, and becomes less noticeable after listening to a couple tracks."
Robert Merrill's wonderful baritone shows well
Steven A. Peterson | Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL) | 02/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very good sampling of the art of baritone Robert Merrill. Born Moishe Millstein (Miller) in Brooklyn, 1917, he became one of the country's greatest baritones, a long-time star at the Metropolitan Opera. The cuts on this CD were recorded in 1946 and 1947, and the CD sounds pretty good overall (some technical notes discuss the challenges of taking the original recordings and transferring them to CD).
Some illustrations of the works on this CD. . . .
"The Toreador Song" from Bizet's "Carmen": Boy, does this show off Merrill's rich voice well! The backing chorus supports hi singing well. He sings this well known work with great aplomb. He displays a lot of vocal power--but with an attractive voice.
"Largo al factotum" from Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia": He sings this in a rollicking fashion; he also sings it well, given the treacherously fast pace of this aria. Once more, he shows off a powerful and rich voice. Anyone interested in opera has probably heard this piece a lot. Merrill's version still thrills and is not boring.
"Di provenza il mar" from Verdi's "La Traviata": This is a very different piece compared with the first two. This is poignant, and filled with pathos. Merrill'[s voice works well here, too, showing considerable tenderness. This is touchingly sung, suggesting that Merrill could handle a variety of roles well.
And now for something completely different. . . . A rather minor piece by Kleinsinger, "Brooklyn Baseball Cantata." Merrill was a baseball fan (his version of the National Anthem was routinely played at Yankee Stadium). This allows him a chance to sing a somewhat disjointed song on the Brooklyn Dodgers, a paean to Flatbush and "dem Bums." All manner of episodes: the disgruntled umpire who takes out his failure as a player on baseball players; comments about Brooklyn, such as references to Coney Island. But the centerpiece is the game between the Dodgers and Yankees Merrill is obviously having a lot of fun singing this 12 minute cantata. The game goes back and forth, with Cookie Lavagetto hitting a pinch hit home run to win the game! Excitement prevails! Oops. One problem. It was only a dream and didn't happen. The piece concludes with the common Dodgers' plea to "wait until next year." This is a boatload of fun, although the piece itself is a triviality. But it also illustrates that Merrill had a broad range of works that he sung.
Great introduction to a fine baritone. Worth listening to. . . . "
Magnificent tribute to a truly great artist!
Rod Tierman | 05/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is an absolute prize. Merrill, to me, was the finest of the American Baritone crop, possessing a rich timbre that is unmatched by todays standards. This CD finds Merrill offering some of his best and most famous renditions, some of which have been regrettably out of print for decades. That being said, this issue is an extremely welcome one indeed. One standout is the rare "Zazà, piccola zingara" from the seldom performed opera Zaza, by Pagliacci composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo. This aria, in this reviewer's opinion, uses that rich sonorous Merrill sound to its best advantage. Merrill once stated in a Met broadcast interview that this one recording (Zaza) was his all time favorite and the best recording of his voice. Other standout arias are, of course, "Largo al Factotum", "O vin dissipe la tristesse" from Hamlet, and the ethereal sounding "Vision Fugitive" from Herodiade. The non-operatice fare that stands out are "The Blind Ploughman" (what a truly heartfelt this performance is), "Drink to Me only with Thine Eyes", and the three spirituals. The recording quality is good overall and acceptable in places. Merrill was truly a great Baritone and this recording is a must for anybody's collection."
R. MAY | 01/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A very special singer. I second the other reviewers' comments, and add that I have been singing along, as best I can, all morning, to this wonderful CD. An exceptional Largo, by the way, even given the aria's warhorse status."