Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)

Historical Note: Lawrence Tibbett was born in Bakersfield, California on November 16, 1896. Tibbett began his musical career as a church singer and by performing in local light operas. He began his formal studies as a vocalist with Joseph Dupuy and Basil Ruysdael in Los Angeles. Soon after, he studied with Frank La Forge and Ignaz Zitomirsky in New York. His studies in New York led to his Metropolitan debut as Lewicki in Boris Godunov (1923). A week later he sang Valentin in Faust, but recognition did not come until 1925 when he sang Ford in Falstaff, eclipsing Antonio Scotti in the title role. Tibbett eventually succeeded Scotti in the leading Italian roles and remained a principal with the company for 27 seasons, noted, in his prime, for his legato and vivid acting. He sang in the premiers of Taylor's The King's Henchman (1927) and Peter Ibbetson (1931), Gruenberg's The Emperor Jones (1933), Hanson's Merry Mount (1934) and Seymour's In the Pasha's Garden (1935). He also took part in the first Metropolitan performances of Jonny spielt auf, Peter Grimes, Hageman's Caponsacchi, Simon Boccanegra and Khovanshchina (in which he made his last Metropolitan appearance in 1950, as Ivan). He also sang in San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Vienna and Prague, and at Covent Garden created the title role in Goossens's Don Juan de Mara (1937). His dark, pliant voice and matine-idol appearance made him popular in films as well as light opera, and he was a significant force in early American radio. In 1950 he appeared on Broadway in The Barrier, and his last stage role was in the musical comedy Fanny (1956). He is perhaps best represented by his Otello recordings, which reveal him as an Iago of sly wit, his ample fervour in the "Credo" counterbalanced by a silken pianissimo in "Era la notte". He also sang Germont in the live 1935 Metropolitan recording of La traviata with Rosa Ponselle. Tibbett died in New York on July 15, 1960.
Sources: "Tibbett, Lawrence" in New Grove Dictionary of American Music�??�?�  (London: 1986), vol.4, p.394 [ML101.U6 N38] or New Grove Online.
Note Author: Noah Lenstra

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