Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday: Nan Merriman

Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas (De Falla)
Nan Merriman was born Katherine Ann Merriman on April 28, 1920, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The mezzo-soprano studied singing in Los Angeles with Alexis Bassian and the legendary Lotte Lehmann. By the age of twenty she was singing in Hollywood film soundtracks and it was there that she was spotted by Laurence Olivier. He picked Merriman to accompany him and his wife Vivien Leigh on a tour of Romeo and Juliet where Merriman would perform songs during the set changes. She sang many roles both live and on radio under the baton of Arturo Toscanini between 1944 and 1952 while he was conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Among the roles she sang with him, all released on CD, are Maddalena in Act IV of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto,

"Laudamus Te" and "Qui sedes ad
dextram Patris" (Bach)
Emilia in Verdi's Otello, Mistress Page in Verdi's Falstaff, and the trousers role of Orfeo in Act II of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. Soon after the Second World War Nan Merriman came to Europe where much of her career was to be centered. The role, she was most identified with and on which she built a strong reputation in Europe, was Dorabella in Mozart's Cosí fan tutte, which she sang amongst others at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence in 1953, 1955 and 1959; the Glyndebourne Festival 1956 and La Scala 1956 conducted by Toscanini's short-lived protégé, Guido Cantelli. She participated in two different complete recordings of Così fan tutte. Nan appeared as Baba the Turk in the British premiere of Stravinskys The Rakes Progress at Edinburgh (1953) and as Laura in The Stone Guest, by the nineteenth-century

"Che farò senza Euridice" (Gluck)
Russian composer Dargomizhsky, in 1958. Throughout the 1950s she appeared at many of the leading European opera houses, including Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Milan and Paris, and was a favorite at the Chicago Lyric Opera and the San Francisco Opera. She was very much admired in the Netherlands, where she became a particular favorite singer in recitals and on the concert platform with songs and Lieder of Bizet, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler and De Falla, accompanied by pianist as J.Antonietti and Felix de Nobel. On May 17, 19 and 21, 1957 she appeared under Otto Klemperer in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, together with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jozsef Simandy and Heinz Rehfuss. On stage she appeared only once in the Netherlands, in Verdi's Fallstaff as Mrs Meg Page on June 29, 1956 in the Gebouw voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen in The Hague. Nan Merriman married with the Dutch tenor Tom Brand in Eys, Limburg, became at the same time the Dutch nationality. Her husband started as an opera singer and became an

"Chère Nuit" (Bachelet)
accomplished oratorio singer who sang the tenor part in numerous passions, oratorio and cantatas. He was widowed in the early sixties and father to ten children. Nan decided to give up her career in order to be with him and take care of the children. Her last concerts, accompanied by Felix de Nobel at the piano, were at April 27 and 28, 1965 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Tom Brand died of a heart stroke in 1970. Nan stayed in the Netherlands taking responsibility for the children, but when they were grown up she moved to Los Angeles in 1973 where she still resides today. Her studio recordings of Spanish and French songs, with Gerald Moore at the piano, were recorded for EMI and have been released on CD by the Testament label. [Source, Source]

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