Lawrence Tibbett

Lawrence Tibbett

Original Name Lawrence Mervil Tibbett
Bakersfield, Kern County, California, USA
Death 15 Jul 1960 (aged 63)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Whispering Pines section, Map #03, Lot 794, Ground Interment Space 2
Memorial ID 4778 · View Source
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Opera Singer. A leading baritone of New York's Metropolitan Opera for close to 30 years, he was among the first operatic personalities to perform "popular" music. Born Lawrence Mervil Tibbet (the extra "t" was added when he signed his first Metropolitan contract), he was raised in Los Angeles and started singing for money at an early age in church choirs and at funerals. Following his 1915 high school graduation he served in the US Merchant Marine during World War I, then returned home where he sang at silent movie theaters. After a period of study in New York, he gave the first of his roughly 600 Metropolitan Opera performances in 1923 as the Herald in Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin". Tibbett saw his big break in 1925 when he was Ford in Giuseppe Verdi's "Falstaff" opposite Antonio Scotti; he was to assume continually larger roles over the years, among them the title leads of Verdi's "Rigoletto", "Simon Boccanegra", and "Falstaff", the bullfighter Escamillo from Georges Bizet's "Carmen", the evil police chief Scarpia of Puccini's "Tosca", both Silvio and Tonio in Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci", the elder Germont from Verdi's "La Traviata", and the villain Iago of the same composer's "Otello". He was to have a minor Hollywood film career in the 1930s, his 1930 debut in "The Rogue Song", an early sound and color feature, garnering him an Oscar nomination. He was also seen in "New Moon" (1930) with Grace Moore and 1935's "Metropolitan" while becoming a regular on the concert stage and on the radio with Packard automobile commercials and frequent appearances on "Your Hit Parade". During the 1930s, Tibbett sang throughout the United States and Europe and was to achieve note in some more modern operas, giving the 1933 world premiere, in blackface, of Louis Gruenberg's "The Emperor Jones" and having success in Deems Taylor's "The King's Henchman" and Howard Hanson's "Merry Mount". The title lead of George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" was essentially written for his voice as the composer's specification for the role was a "colored Lawrence Tibbett". Indeed, when RCA made the first recordings of the piece under Gershwin's supervision they featured Tibbett and Helen Jepson, not Todd Duncan and Anne Brown. Apparently a rather rude and unpleasant man, this quality was only exacerbated by his steadily worsening fondness for drink, with multiple tales told of him onstage intoxicated, the entire stage reeking on the occasions when he was partnered with the alcoholic Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling; in one such incident the Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch grew tired of his ways and repeatedly kicked him after "killing" him at the end of Act II of "Tosca", while another time he refused to allow a young Leonard Warren to sing Ford opposite his Falstaff, saying "I didn't want him doing to me what I did to Scotti". Tibbett saw his voice damaged by alcohol and overuse and left the Metropolitan in 1950, though he was to have some later success as Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" and on Broadway in "Fanny". He died of head injuries sustained in a fall while drunk at his apartment; Tibbett received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was depicted on a US postage stamp, and was the subject of Hertzel Weinstat and Bert Wechsler's 1996 biography "Dear Rogue". Much of his massive recorded legacy of both studio and "live" performances remains available in the CD format, while the Yale University Library houses the most complete collection of his original discs.

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 17 Mar 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4778
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Lawrence Tibbett (16 Nov 1896–15 Jul 1960), Find a Grave Memorial no. 4778, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .