Lawrence Tibbett

Lawrence Mervil Tibbett (November 16, 1896 – July 15, 1960) was a famous American opera singer and recording artist who also performed as a film actor and radio personality. A baritone, he sang leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera in New York more than 600 times from 1923 to 1950. He performed diverse musical theatre roles, including Captain Hook in Peter Pan in a touring show.

Lawrence Mervil Tibbett
Lawrence Tibbett 1943
Tibbett in 1943
Lawrence Mervil Tibbet

November 16, 1896
DiedJuly 15, 1960 (aged 63)
OccupationOpera Singer
Radio Personality
Spouse(s)Jane Marston
(m. 1932; his death (1 Child))


Lawrence Tibbett was born Lawrence Mervil Tibbet (with a single final "t") on November 16, 1896 in Bakersfield, California.[1] His father was a part-time deputy sheriff, killed in a shootout with desperado Jim McKinney in 1903. Tibbett grew up in Los Angeles, earning money by singing in church choirs and at funerals. He graduated from Manual Arts High School in 1915. A year later, he met his future wife, Grace Mackay Smith, who rented a room in his mother's house.[2] During World War I he served in the Merchant Marine, after which he found employment singing as prologue to silent movies at the Grauman "Million Dollar" Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Tibbett studied in New York City with Frank La Forge and in 1923 at the age of 26, he signed his first contract, for $60 per week, with the Metropolitan Opera, using the name "Tibbett" (a spelling he had used occasionally in his youth). Over the ensuing years, with the Met, he built a hugely successful career, displaying an outstanding voice, immaculate musicianship, and a strong stage presence. He recorded exclusively for the Victor Talking Machine Company/RCA Victor for his entire career.

His Met roles included Valentin in Charles Gounod's Faust, Silvio, and later, Tonio, in Ruggiero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and the King's Herald in Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. He first achieved national recognition playing Ford in Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff.[3] Tibbett traveled to California in 1927 to sing the lead role in the Grove Play St. Francis of Assisi, and it was during that trip to San Francisco when he met ex-New Yorker Jennie Marston Burgard, whom he married in 1932.[4] During the 1930s, Tibbett toured Europe and Australia, performing on stage or giving recitals in London, Paris, Prague and Vienna as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.

Lawrence Tibbett crop
Tibbett in 1939

Tibbett made his first recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1926. In the early 1930s, Tibbett also appeared in movies. His Hollywood sojourn proved brief, although he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his first film, The Rogue Song, a 1930 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production with Laurel & Hardy, shot in two-color Technicolor (Only a few minutes of footage of the film, as well as the complete soundtrack, is known to survive today).[5] Soon afterward, he starred in another MGM musical film, New Moon, opposite Grace Moore and The Cuban Love Song (1931), with the Mexican Spitfire, Lupe Vélez. In 1935, he made Metropolitan for 20th Century Fox. This film is notable for its extensive segments of Tibbett performing operatic arias in a stage setting. His final film was Under Your Spell in 1936. Also during the 1930s, Tibbett had a domestic radio program sponsored by the Packard Motor Car Company of America on which he sang formal music. The company chose him to announce the Packard 120 to the world on air; he drove one. When the firm wanted to sell less expensive cars, they persuaded him to add popular tunes to his repertoire in order to boost sales. He also appeared on Your Hit Parade.

Together with violinist Jascha Heifetz, in 1936 he founded the American Guild of Musical Artists, the most important labor union for solo performing artists. He was the Guild's proactive president for 17 years. His forceful and articulate advocacy of artistic causes was unique in its day.

After his operatic career concluded, in the early 1950s, Tibbett performed in musicals and plays. He spent a summer in stock as the Reverend Davidson in Rain and played Captain Hook in a short-lived tour of the John Burrell staging of Peter Pan that was mounted for Jean Arthur and featured a musical score by the young Leonard Bernstein. Veronica Lake played Peter. Most notably, Tibbett took over the Italian operatic bass Ezio Pinza's role in Fanny during its original Broadway run.

Later years and death

In later years Tibbett served as host of a radio show featuring recordings of operatic singers. He leavened matters with reminiscences of his own stage experiences. Plagued by severe arthritis and drinking problems, he aged prematurely as his health worsened. He died on July 15, 1960, after hitting his head on a table during a fall in his apartment. The Time obituary said of him: "Tibbett had a big, bronzelike, dramatically eloquent voice that combined ringing power with remarkable agility ... he left behind not only the echoes of a great voice but the memory of a performer who could feel equally at home with high art and popular entertainment, suggesting that there is a magical link between the two."[6] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[7]

Tibbett's operatic recordings made in the United States during the 1920s and '30s are regarded as among the finest of that period. Many of them are available on LP and CD re-issues. A comprehensive story of his personal life and musical career, Dear Rogue: A Biography of the American Baritone Lawrence Tibbett, by Hertzel Weinstat and Bert Wechsler was published in 1996 by Amadeus Press of Portland, Oregon.

Famous roles

Although regarded as a dashing, compelling actor as well, Tibbett's true fame stems from the fact that he has long been considered to be, in terms of sheer voice, one of the finest baritones ever to appear at the Metropolitan Opera. His voice was large, with a dark timbre approaching that of a bass, and he commanded a full range of dynamics in his prime, from powerful fortes to delicate pianissimos. He was renowned for his affinity with the works of Verdi, notably his breakthrough role of Ford in Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra in Simon Boccanegra and Iago in Otello. He was also an imposing, sinister Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca, a swaggering Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen and a powerful Tonio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.

In addition, Tibbett created leading roles in a number of American operas, including Louis Gruenberg's The Emperor Jones, based on Eugene O'Neill's play. (He sang this in blackface; the character of Brutus Jones is an African-American). He starred in Howard Hanson's Merry Mount, as well as The King's Henchman and Peter Ibbetson, operas by Deems Taylor. Tibbett performed the roles of Porgy and Jake in the first album of selections from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, two roles which, on stage, are usually performed by black singers. Gershwin himself was present at the recording sessions. Continuing in this vein, Tibbett made a recording of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's song Ol' Man River from Show Boat.

Awards and portrayals

  • Lawrence Tibbett was pictured on a set of United States postage stamps in the "Legends of American Music series", celebrating opera singers.
  • The year he died, Tibbett was made a posthumous member of the charter class of honorees in the "Hollywood Walk of Fame." His star is located at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard, recognizing his contributions to the music industry.[8]
  • Though he was a pioneer in musical film, his star honors him as a recording artist.[9]
  • Tibbett is portrayed briefly as a character in the 1991 Hollywood film Bugsy, although the actor portraying him was shorter and pudgier than the real person.
  • A full-length biography of Tibbett, Dear Rogue by Hertzel Weinstat and Bert Wechsler, was published in 1996 (see above).


  1. ^ Mobile Times Register. "Musical History is Made By Unknown in New York Debut". 5 January 1925.
  2. ^ Mobile Times Register.
  3. ^ Mobile Times Register.
  4. ^ Farkas, Andrew. Lawrence Tibbet, Singing Actor, Hal Leonard Corporation, 1989, p. 85. ISBN 0-931340-17-9
  5. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  6. ^ Time magazine, "Opera's Grand Trouper" Archived 2010-10-08 at the Wayback Machine July 25, 1960
  7. ^ Lawrence Tibbett (1896 - 1960) at Find a Grave
  8. ^ "Lawrence Tibbett". Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  9. ^ "Lawrence Tibbett". Retrieved 2016-04-09.


External links

Coon Creek Girls

The Coon Creek Girls were a popular all-female "string band" in the Appalachian style of folk music (a precursor of country music) which began in the mid-1930s. Created (and named) by John Lair for his Renfro Valley Barn Dance show, the band originally consisted of sisters Lily May and Rosie Ledford (from Powell County, Kentucky) along with Esther "Violet" Koehler (from Indiana) and Evelyn "Daisey" Lange (from Ohio).

On June 8, 1939, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the White House of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, there were numerous musical acts, including Lawrence Tibbett, Marian Anderson, and Kate Smith. Also included were a troupe of Bascom Lunsford's square dancers and the Coon Creek Girls.In 1979, John Lair revived the name with the New Coon Creek Girls, a combo which remained popular for several decades, despite numerous changes in line-up. Among the former members are Pamela Gadd and Pam Perry, who later became members of the country band Wild Rose.In 2013, the original touring group of the New Coon Creek Girls from 1985-87 (Vicki Simmons, Pam Perry Combs, Wanda Barnett, and Pam Gadd) made the decision to reunite in order to fund speech therapy music camp for Simmons who underwent surgery for an aneurysm in 2008. As of 2014, Simmons has made an amazing recovery, and the band is still performing various reunion concerts. They are sponsored by Sassy Goat Milk Soap.

Ernst Victor Wolff

Ernst Victor Wolff (Aug 6, 1889–August 21, 1960) was a German-born concert pianist and harpsichordist who maintained a career not only as a soloist but also as a respected accompanist. Singers with whom he performed included Dorothy Maynor and Alexander Kipnis; he accompanied the latter in the Hugo Wolf Society recording project of the 1930s. As a harpsichordist, on February 20, 1938 he participated in the Carnegie Hall premiere of J.S. Bach's Coffee Cantata under the direction of Walter Damrosch; the other performers on that occasion included singers Charles Kullman, Helen Jepson, and Lawrence Tibbett; flutist Frances Blaisdell; violinists Jascha Heifetz and Sascha Jacobsen; violist Leon Barzin; cellist Gaspar Cassadó; and double bassist Anselme Fortier.

From 1955 until his death, Wolff taught at Michigan State University. His widow and family donated a collection of his papers to the MSU library; it includes photographs and other memorabilia and his diary, student notes, and performing scores. MSU has established an Ernst Victor Wolff Memorial Fund to support awards to meritorious music students. Perhaps his most distinguished student was the American conductor, musicologist, and harpsichordist Alan Curtis.

Last Night When We Were Young

"Last Night When We Were Young" is a 1935 popular song about nostalgia and young love composed by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Yip Harburg. Arlen regarded it as the favourite of the songs that he had written.Lawrence Tibbett recorded the song on October 9, 1935. It was cut from his film Metropolitan but performed instrumentally behind the credits."Last Night When We Were Young" was highly regarded by Judy Garland, who recorded it twice, and frequently performed it. Composer Alec Wilder called it a "most remarkable and beautiful song" that "goes far beyond the boundaries of popular music." Continuing, he stated that "[i]t is unlike any other Arlen song that I have heard. However, it is unmistakably his." Harburg did not know where he acquired the title, saying, "the juxtaposition of those two phrases is almost a whole world of philosophy".

Merry Mount (opera)

Merry Mount is an opera in three acts by American composer Howard Hanson; its libretto, by Richard Stokes, is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The May-Pole of Merry Mount", taken from his Twice Told Tales. Hanson's only opera, it was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The opera received its world premiere in concert at the fortieth annual May Festival of the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan (at Hill Auditorium), on May 20, 1933, with the composer conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The cast included Leonora Corona, Rose Bampton, Frederick Jagel, Chase Baromeo, John Charles Thomas, and George Galvani.

Its world stage premiere by the Metropolitan Opera was given on February 10, 1934. As that performance took place at a Saturday matinée, it was broadcast nationally as part of the company's weekly radio series, with Milton Cross serving as announcer. The premiere featured Lawrence Tibbett in the central role of Wrestling Bradford, the Puritan minister, with Gladys Swarthout as his betrothed, Plentiful Tewke. Swedish soprano Göta Ljungberg and Canadian tenor Edward Johnson took the roles of the Cavalier lovers, Lady Marigold Sandys and Sir Gower Lackland; Tullio Serafin was on the podium. At its premiere, the opera received a total of fifty curtain calls, still a house record. The opera was performed eight more times during the season, but never returned to the Met's repertory, and subsequent performances have been scarce.

Metropolitan (1935 film)

Metropolitan is a 1935 back-stage drama film interlaced with songs and musical segments from opera.

Directed by Ryszard Bolesławski (credited as Richard Boleslawski), it featured the famous baritone Lawrence Tibbett (in his penultimate movie role), with Virginia Bruce as his leading lady. Tibbett was America's leading baritone and a major star of the New York Metropolitan Opera, where he sang more than 600 times.

Metropolitan was the first production for the 20th Century Fox film studio, which had been newly formed from the merger of Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation.

New Moon (1930 film)

New Moon is the name of two different film versions of the operetta The New Moon with music by Sigmund Romberg and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and others. The original stage version premiered on Broadway in 1928. The 1930 version of New Moon is a 1930 black-and-white American musical film, and is also known as Komissa Strogoff in Greece, Nymånen in Denmark and Passione cosacca in Italy.

The 1930 film, directed by Jack Conway, starred Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett. It had an entirely different plot to the original play and is set in Russia. A 1940 film of the same name, also based on the operetta directed by Robert Z. Leonard and W. S. Van Dyke (uncredited), starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy and also reworked the plot, though it was slightly more faithful than the 1930 version. However, the music was not always presented faithfully. The 1930 version added new songs not by Romberg, and the 1940 version turns the melancholy tango number "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise", originally sung by the hero's best friend, into a cheerful little ditty sung by Eddy while he shines his shoes.

New Moon (disambiguation)

New moon is a lunar phase.

New Moon or The New Moon may also refer to:

New Moon (novel), by Stephenie Meyer

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, a 2009 film adaptation of the novel

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (soundtrack), for the film

The New Moon, a 1928 operetta

New Moon (1930 film), an adaptation of the operetta starring Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore

New Moon (1940 film), an adaptation of the operetta starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

The New Moon (1919 film), an American film starring Norma Talmadge

New Moon (1955 film), an Italian film

New Moon (magazine), a bi-monthly for girls

New Moon (film production), an independently owned film production company based in Soho, London

New Moon, a character on the DC Comics team the Moondancers

Orquesta Hermanos Palau

The Orquesta Hermanos Palau (Palau Brothers Orchestra) was one of the most renowned dance bands in Cuba during the early 1930s and late 1940s, following the tradition of local jazz bands started by the Jazz Band Sagua in 1914. These orchestras emerged as an influential sign of the American music in Cuba, to achieving a bridge between popular music genres and the characteristic sound of American jazz big bands.

The original orchestra, which was founded in 1920, was originally known as Los Califates, but at the end of the decade changed its name to that of the Hermanos Palau. The decision was taken because five of its were all brothers. Manolo Palau was the pianist and leader, Felipe and Luis played trumpet, Rafael contrabass, and Raimundo served as saxophonist and co-leader.

In 1931, the Palau Brothers orchestra appeared in the early sound film The Cuban Love Song, which was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starred by Lawrence Tibbett, Lupe Vélez, Ernest Torrence and Jimmy Durante. [1] This film brought to the screen for the first time the famous tune "The Peanut Vendor" (El manisero), composed by Moisés Simons and performed by Ernesto Lecuona and the Palau Brothers' orchestra. [2]

After that, the orchestra toured extensively in South America and played mostly in the all white, up-scale venues. Their music ranged from jazz to popular, typical, and Afro-Cuban as well as classical. Among others there in the orchestra were the trumpeter Julio Cueva and the guarachero Cascarita (Orlando Guerra).

The Palau musical tradition passed from brother to brother, and from them through their own families via their children, so much that the end of the 1950s they were able to organize another orchestra, known as Hermanos Palau Junior, to maintain their family tradition alive. [3]

Printer's devil

A printer's devil was an apprentice in a printing establishment who performed a number of tasks, such as mixing tubs of ink and fetching type. A number of notable men served as printer's devils in their youth, including Ambrose Bierce, William Dean Howells, James Printer, Benjamin Franklin, Raymond C. Hoiles, Samuel Fuller, Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, Warren Harding, Lawrence Tibbett, John Kellogg, Lyndon Johnson, Hoodoo Brown, James Hogg, Joseph Lyons, Albert Parsons, Meade Huggins and Lázaro Cárdenas.

Sweet Little Jesus Boy

"Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is a Christmas song composed by Robert MacGimsey and published in 1934 by Carl Fischer Music. Its style is similar to African-American spirituals.

Baritone Lawrence Tibbett introduced the song, and it went on to be recorded by choirs and other solo artists. They included Robert Merrill in 1947 (Victor 10-1303).

The Crucifixion (Stainer)

The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer is an oratorio composed by John Stainer in 1887. It is scored for a SATB choir and organ, and features solos for bass and tenor. Stainer intended that piece would be within the scope of most parish church choirs; it includes five hymns for congregational participation. The text was written by W J Sparrow Simpson, the librettist of Stainer's earlier cantata Mary Magdalene. The work is dedicated "to my pupil and friend W. Hodge and the choir of Marylebone Church", who first performed it on February 24, 1887, the day after Ash Wednesday.

Although the composer Ernest Walker dismissed the work, writing in 1924 that "Musicians today have no use for The Crucifixion", and even Stainer characterized his work as "rubbish," the work continues to be performed today. The oratorio has been recorded several times, including a well-known recording from RCA Victor in 1929, featuring Richard Crooks and Lawrence Tibbett. The oratorio consists of the following movements:

And They Came to a Place Named Gethsemane (tenor recitative) – text from Mark 14:32

The Agony (tenor and bass solo and chorus) – including text from Mark 14:46, 53, 60, 61–64, 15:1, 15–16

Processional to Calvary (organ solo) and "Fling Wide the Gates" (chorus and tenor solo)

And When They Were Come (bass recitative) – text from Luke 23:33

The Mystery of the Divine Humiliation (hymn)

He Made Himself of No Reputation (bass recitative) – text from Philippians 2:7–8

The Majesty of the Divine Humiliation tenor solo

And As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent (bass recitative) – text from John 3:14–15

God So Loved the World (chorus or quartet a cappella) – text from John 3:16–17

Litany of the Passion (hymn)

Jesus Said, 'Father, Forgive Them' (tenor and male chorus recitative) – text from Luke 23:34

So Thou Liftest Thy Divine Petition (tenor and bass solo duet)

The Mystery of the Intercession (hymn)

And One of the Malefactors (bass solo and male chorus) – text from Luke 23:39–43

The Adoration of the Crucified (hymn)

When Jesus Therefore Saw His Mother (tenor solo and male chorus) – text from John 19:26–27, Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:34

Is It Nothing to You? (bass solo) – text from Lamentations 1:12

The Appeal of the Crucified (chorus)

After This, Jesus Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished (tenor and male chorus recitative) – text from John 19:28, 30, Luke 23:46

For the Love of Jesus (hymn)Stainer's work has in recent times been performed in an orchestrated version. For instance Craig Hawkins' arrangement of the work has been performed in the USA (2004 premiere, New York) and the UK (Norwich, 2010).

The Cuban Love Song

The Cuban Love Song is a 1931 American pre-Code musical film directed by W. S. Van Dyke and written by C. Gardner Sullivan, Bess Meredyth, John Lynch, John Colton, Gilbert Emery, Robert E. Hopkins and Paul Hervey Fox. The film stars Lawrence Tibbett, Lupe Vélez, Ernest Torrence, Jimmy Durante, Karen Morley and Louise Fazenda. The film was released on December 5, 1931, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.It was the last of four films that the baritone Tibbett made for MGM following the introduction of sound. The film received a generally favorable critical reception, but suffered badly at the box office. Nonetheless two of the film's songs, "The Cuban Love Song" and "El Manisero", were major hits.

The Emperor Jones (opera)

The Emperor Jones is an opera in two acts with a prologue and interlude composed by Louis Gruenberg to an English-language libretto adapted by the composer from Eugene O'Neill's 1920 play, The Emperor Jones. It premiered on January 7, 1933, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City with Lawrence Tibbett in the title role. Set on an unnamed island in the West Indies, the opera tells the story of African American Brutus Jones, a former Pullman porter and ex-convict who escaped to the island, set himself up as its tyrannical "Emperor", and became rich by exploiting the natives. The natives start a revolt against him, and as he tries to escape through the jungle, he is haunted by visions of his past life and the man he had murdered. As the natives close in, he commits suicide using the silver bullet which he had worn around his neck as a good-luck charm. With a score that incorporates elements of jazz and negro spirituals, The Emperor Jones was the eleventh American opera to premiere at the Met, and has continued to be performed into the 21st century, albeit rarely.

The Ford Sunday Evening Hour

The Ford Sunday Evening Hour is an American concert radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. The hour-long program was broadcast from 1934 to 1946, with a hiatus from 1942 to 1945. Later known as The Ford Symphony Hour, the program presented selections of classical music, hymns, popular ballads and well-known arias.

The series featured a rotation of different conductors, including Victor Kolar, Fritz Reiner, Wilfred Pelletier and John Barbirolli. Soloists included soprano Kirsten Flagstad, tenor Thomas Hayward, Helen Jepson, contralto Gladys Swarthout, tenor Richard Tauber, baritone John Charles Thomas (a 1936-37 regular) and Lawrence Tibbett.

For the first two seasons, programs originated from Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Michigan. Demand for seats was so great, however, that Detroit's Masonic Temple Auditorium, which had more than twice as many seats, was used beginning in the fall of 1936.

The King's Henchman

The King's Henchman is an opera in three acts composed by Deems Taylor to an English language libretto by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The libretto is based on both legend and historical figures documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle including Edgar the Peaceful, Elfrida of Devon, and Dunstan. It tells the story of a love triangle between King Eadgar, his henchman Aethelwold, and Aelfrida, daughter of the Thane of Devon. It premiered on 17 February 1927 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in a performance conducted by Tullio Serafin.

The Prodigal (1931 film)

The Prodigal is a 1931 Pre-Code early talkie film, which starred Lawrence Tibbett, Esther Ralston, Roland Young and Hedda Hopper. The film was extremely provocative in its time in that it viewed adultery in a non-judgmental, even positive light.

The Rogue Song

The Rogue Song is a 1930 romantic musical film which tells the story of a Russian bandit who falls in love with a princess, but takes his revenge on her when her brother rapes and kills his sister. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production was directed by Lionel Barrymore and released in two versions, with and without sound. Hal Roach wrote and directed the Laurel and Hardy sequences and was not credited. The film stars Metropolitan Opera singer Lawrence Tibbett—who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance—and Catherine Dale Owen. Laurel and Hardy were third-billed; their sequences were filmed at the last minute and interspersed throughout the film in an attempt to boost its potential box office appeal.This film, which was MGM's first all-talking Technicolor film, is partially lost, as there are no known complete prints of this film. Fragments do exist. Film had strong similarity with late (1966) Soviet film Kidnapping, Caucasian Style by Leonid Gaidai.

Thomas Hayward (tenor)

Thomas T. Hayward (born Thomas Albert Tibbett; December 1, 1917, Kansas City, Missouri – died February 2, 1995, Las Vegas, Nevada) was an American operatic tenor. He was a cousin of opera singer Lawrence Tibbett.

Under Your Spell

Under Your Spell is a 1936 American romantic comedy film with music directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Frances Hyland and Saul Elkins is based on a story by Sy Bartlett and Bernice Mason.

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