Robert Merrill meets Joe DiMaggio
With the advent of a new baseball season, ones thoughts often turn to…opera? Yes. Though we know baritone Robert Merrill best for his charismatic stage presence and powerful voice, he was known by many as much for his love of baseball as his rich voice. He appeared more than 500 times on the Metropolitan Opera stage, but you may not know he was most likely heard more often, by more people, in Yankee Stadium. Merrill’s recording of the National Anthem was used regularly to open Yankee games.
Then there’s Tubby the Tuba. What does that have to do with opera OR Robert Merrill, you ask? Composer George Kleinsinger, who wrote the Tubby series, also wrote a similar work about baseball called The Brooklyn Baseball Cantata. Merrill sings and speaks the imaginary story of a game between his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers and their crosstown rivals the New York Yankees. How fitting then that, when Merrill passed away in the Fall of 2004, he was sitting in his favorite chair watching the first game of the World Series on television. So if you’re a baseball fan, or even if you’re not, lift a toast to Robert Merrill, who had one foot on the opera stage and the other firmly planted in the batters box. — Boyce Lancaster
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