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. . . .