Tibbett, Lawrence, 1896-1960

Alternative names
Birth 1896-11-16
Death 1960-07-15

Biographical notes:

Born in Bakersfield, California (USA) on November 16, 1896, baritone Lawrence Tibbett began his career as an actor as well as a singer in performances of light operas and also in churches. Tibbett's teachers were Joseph Dupuy and Basil Ruysdael in Los Angeles and Frank La Forge and Ignaz Zitomirsky in New York. Tibbett's study in New York led to his Metropolitan Opera debut in the role of Lewicki in Boris Godunov in 1923. Following shortly after his Met debut he sang the role of Valentin in Faust. In 1925 Tibbett became an overnight sensation in the role of Ford in Falstaff, and he later assumed the title role. He eventually sang many leading Italian, French, German and American roles at the Met and remained a principal with the company for 27 seasons. He sang in the premières of Deems Taylor's The King's Henchman (1927) and Peter Ibbetson (1931), Louis Gruenberg's The Emperor Jones (1933), Howard Hanson's Merry Mount (1934) and John Laurence Seymour's In the Pasha's Garden (1935). The first Metropolitan Opera performances of Jonny spielt auf, Peter Grimes, Richard Hageman's Caponsacchi, as well as Simon Boccanegra and Khovanshchina also included Tibbett in the cast. His last appearance at the Met occurred in 1950 as Ivan in Khovanshchina. In 1936, along with violinist Jascha Heifetz, he founded the American Guild of Musical Artists, and served as its president for 17 years. Tibbett appeared in major opera houses around the U.S. and the world, including San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Vienna and Prague, and at Covent Garden he created the title role in Eugene Goossens's Don Juan de Mañara (1937). In addition to performing on stage, Tibbett also sang frequently in radio performances during the early years of his career. Partly as a result of his striking good looks, as well as his dark, agile voice, Tibbett had significant success in film roles and light opera. He also appeared in Broadway stage productions, and his last Broadway role was in the musical comedy Fanny in 1956. His recordings for Victor sold in the millions. Among his best recordings are those of Verdi's Otello in which he sang the role of Iago and the live recording of his 1935 performance of La traviata at the Met with Rosa Ponselle. Tibbett died in New York, on July 15, 1960.

From the description of Lawrence Tibbett collection. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 694344869

Lawrence Mervil Tibbett (November 16, 1896 - July 15, 1960) was acknowledged as the greatest American opera singer in his days. Born Tibbet he alternately spelled his last name with two t's at the end, the spelling he approved on his first contract with the Metropolitan Opera. Lawrence Tibbett was born in Bakersfield, California, but was raised in Los Angeles where he first began vocal studies with Basil Ruysdael. By 1921, he was appearing as a concert singer and, in 1923, began coaching with Frank La Forge in New York City. Also in 1923, he auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera. His debut took pace on November 24, 1923 in the small role of Lovitsky in Boris Godunov . Lawrence Tibbett continued to gather experience and grow as an artist during the next few years singing such roles as Marullo ( Rigoletto ), Fleville ( Chenier ), Silvio Pagliacci, the Herald ( Lohengrin ) and Escamillo ( Carmen ). His career took a tremendous upward swing when he first performed Ford in Verdi's Falstaff on January 2, 1925, and was given a fifteen-minute ovation and front-page newspaper coverage the next day. During the next few years the smaller roles he had been concentrating on were replaced with major roles such as: Tonia ( Pagliacci ), Alfio ( Cavalleria ), Telramund ( Lohengrin ), Amonasro ( Aida ), the elder Germont ( Traviata ). His most often performed roles were Jonny ( Jonny Spielt Auf ), Jack Rance ( Fanciulla ), and in January of 1932 probably his most famous characterization, Simon Boccanegra. During the 1930s and 1940s, he continued to display his versatility as Falstaff, Iago ( Otello ), Balstrode ( Peter Grimes ) and the villains in Hoffmann . Tibbett was also instrumental in the world premieres in a number of operas including Taylor's The King's Henchmen (1927), Peter Ibbettson (1931), Gruenberg's Emperor Jones (1933), Hanson's Merry Mount (1934) and Seymour's In A Pasha's Garden (1935). The 1939 performance of Boccanegra is considered by historians to be one of the finest broadcasts given by the Metropolitan Opera and has been commercially released by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. All these performances show Tibbett's individual style and beautiful timbre, artistic probity and his ability to communicate with the subtlest inflections Although Tibbett based his career at the Metropolitan Opera, he made numerous operatic and concert appearances throughout the world as well as radio broadcasts and recitals. He was the first internationally known artist to appear in full-length motion pictures and was extremely successful in this medium: Rogue Song (MGM 1930), New Moon (MGM 1930), The Southerner/Prodigal Son (MGM 1931), Cuban Love Song (MGM 1931), Metropolitan (20th Century Fox, 1935), and Under Your Spell (MGM, 1936). He had a radio program on which he sang formal music; his sponsor was the Packard Motor Car Company. When the firm wanted to sell even less expensive cars, they had him add popular tunes to his repertoire. Lawrence Tibbett died in 1960 in New York City as the result of a fall in his apartment.

From the guide to the Lawrence Tibbett papers, 1916-1960, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

One of the most well-known American opera singers of his day, baritone Lawrence Mervil Tibbett (1896-1960) developed an international reputation through his many appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, numerous recordings, radio broadcasts, and featured film roles.

Born in Bakersfield, California, Tibbett (also spelled Tibbet) began vocal studies with Basil Ruysdael in Los Angeles. By 1921, he was appearing as a concert singer, but by 1923 he had moved to New York City, where Frank La Forge became his coach. Tibbett auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera in 1923 and made his debut on November 24th in the small role of Lovitsky in Boris Godunov. He made steady progress at the Met, but his career took a tremendous upward swing when he first performed Ford in Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff on January 2, 1925. He was given a fifteen-minute ovation and front-page newspaper coverage the next day. During the next few years the smaller roles were replaced with major ones, including what probably became his most famous characterization, the title role in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, in which he first appeared in 1932. In addition to succeeding in the established repertoire, Tibbett was involved in the premieres of several American operas, including Deems Taylor's The King's Henchmen (1927), Peter Ibbetson (1931), Louis Gruenberg's Emperor Jones (1933), Howard Hanson's Merry Mount (1934) and John Laurence Seymour's In the Pasha's Garden (1935). At the height of his popularity, Tibbett signed a movie contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the studio created several vehicles around his talents, including Rogue Song (1930), New Moon (1930), The Southerner/Prodigal Son (1931), and Cuban Love Song (1931). He also had his own radio program, sponsored by the Packard Motor Car Company during the 1930s. In addition to his accomplishments as a performer, Tibbett also was the founding president of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA).

From the description of Lawrence Tibbett papers, 1916-1960. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 80718851


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  • Opera--20th century
  • Operas--Excerpts
  • Radio program excerpts
  • National songs
  • Opera--19th century
  • Baritones (Singers)--20th century
  • Baritones (Singers)--United States--20th century
  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Popular music--1931-1940
  • Motion picture music--Excerpts
  • Popular music--1941-1950
  • Baritones (Singers)
  • Vocal duets with orchestra
  • Motion picture actors and actresses--United States


  • Performer
  • Baritones (Singers)
  • Motion picture actors and actresses


  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)