Tibbett, Lawrence

American baritone, 1896 - 1960

Biographical notes:

He began his career as an actor and singer in light operas and in church. He had various teachers, among them Ignaz Zitomirsky and Frank La Forge.  He made his Met debut as Lewicki in Boris Godunov in 1923. In the same season he sang Valentin, but recognition did not come until 1925. He sang Ford in a Falstaff performance and earned much more success than Antonio Scotti in the title role! Since then he was a principal of the Met for 27 seasons, not only admired as an excellent singer but also as a phantastic actor. He also appeared in San Francisco, Chicago, Vienna, Prague and Paris. Simone Boccanegra was possibly his greatest role. He created several roles, among others Taylor’s The King’s Henchman and Gruenberg’s The Emperor Jones. He became a national legend through several films in which he appeared as the hero. He was a significant force in early American radio. In 1941 he had temporaraly to retire with what was called severe “spasticity of the larynx muscle.” A period of decline did set in the mid 1940s. In the broadcasts recorded later in the decade his voice had lost its superb quality. Lawrence Tibbett is considered as one of the towering baritone of America. Roy Henderson (the famous critique) compared him to Feodor Chaliapin...


As Ford: The role made him a star overnight. He first sang the role in January, 1925


Probably his greatest success: Simon Boccanegra, a role he first sang in 1932


As Rigoletto


As Wolfram


Recordings: (selection)

Debussy - Pelléas et Mélisande (Cooper 1945 live/Sayão, Singher, Kipnis, Harshaw)

Naxos Historical

Hanson - Merry Mount (Serafin 1934 live/Ljungberg, Swarthout, Johnson, Gandolfi)

Naxos Historical

Offenbach - Les Contes d’Hoffmann (De Abravanel live 1937/Bovy, Maison, Petina)

Naxos Historical

Puccini - Tosca (Sodero 1946 live/Moore, Peerce)


Verdi - La Forza del Destino (Walter 1943 live/Roman, Jagel, Petina, Pinza, Baccaloni)

Naxos Historical

Verdi - Otello (Panizza 1941 live/Martinelli, Roman)


Verdi - Otello (Panizza 1938 live /Martinelli, Rethberg)

The Fourties

Verdi - Rigoletto (Panizza 1935 live/Pons, Jagel)

Naxos Historical

Verdi - Rigoletto (Papi 1939 live /Pons, Kiepura)

Naxos Historical

Verdi - Simon Boccanegra (Panizza 1939 live/Rethberg, Martinelli, Pinza, Warren)

Myto           Naxos Historical

Verdi - La Traviata (Panizza 1935 live/Ponselle, Jagel)

Naxos Historical

The Emperor Tibbett (Simon Boccanegra, Otello, The Emperor Jones, Il Tabarro, Rigoletto, The King´s Henchman, Hérodiade, Andrea Chénier, The Rogue Song, Tosca)


Lawrence Tibbett - “Dear Rogue” (see above)


Recital (Arias by Verdi, Wagner, Rossini, Puccini, Leoncavallo)


Four American Baritones of the Past (John Charles Thomas, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill)

Preiser - LV

Verdi - Excerpts from Otello (with Giovanni Martinelli)


A 1940’s Radio Hour Vol. 1 and Vol. 2


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 3


100 Met Singers


Covent Garden on Record Vol. 4



As Brutus Jones in Gruenberg’s “Emperor Jones”


As Escamillo: He sang this role only eight times on stage


As Hans Sachs: A role he often talked about. He sang only Act III in English!


Lawrence Tibbett is one of my top favorite baritones. I adore the sheer expansion and marvellous richness of his dark-timbred voice, his pure legato, the warmth, the extensive range from the bottom to the very top, his coloring and nuancing a phrase, and his lyrical declamation. Robert Steane explains that he was a master of vibrato and I do agree with him.

Quite amazing, that Lawrence Tibbett did not speak the languages in which he sang. He studied Italian, German and French by phonetics! His Italian and German are perfectly idiomatic, his French enunciation is slightly strange but still superior to many singers of our time... He had an incredible feeling for languages.

You will read a lot about his vocal decline beginning in 1940. In his Otello live recording (1941) I can detect very little of this decline. In Forza del Destino, Tosca and in Pelléas et Mélisande you can recognize the “tired” voice, but his singing is still moving, still a great artist.

Simone Boccanegra, Scarpia, Renato, Escamillo, Michele, Wotan, Wolfram are models of their kind. It is a great pity that we have comparatively few recordings of this fabulous singer.


A superb Iago


My favorite recordings:

- Si può? (Tonio in I Pagliacci / Leoncavallo / 1926)

- Tre sbirri, una carrozza (Scarpia in Tosca / Puccini / 1929)

- Eri tu che macchiavi (Renato in Ballo un Maschera / Verdi / 1929)

- Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre (Escamillo in Carmen / Bizet / 1929)

- The Rogue Song: The White Dove (Lehár / 1930)

The Emperor Jones: Final Scene (Gruenberg / Live broadcast / 1934)

- Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music (Wotan in Walküre / Wagner / 1934)

- Wie Todesahnung...O du, mein holder Abendstern (Wolfram in Tannhäuser / Wagner / 1934)

- O Sainte médaille...Avant de quitter ces lieux (Valentin in Faust / Gounod / 1934)

- Oh, Bess, Oh, Where’s My Bess (Porgy in Porgy and Bess / Gershwin / 1935)

- È sogno o realtà?  (Ford in Falstaff / Verdi / Live broadcast / 1935)

- Scorre fiume (Michele in Il Tabarro / Puccini /  Live broadcast / 1935)

- Credo in un Dio crudel (Iago in Otello /Verdi / Live broadccast / 1939)

- Era la notte (Iago in Otello / Verdi / Live broadcast  / 1939)

- Suogni ogni labbro il mio nome (Title role in Simon Boccanegra / Verdi / Live broadcast / 1939)

- Figlia, tal nome palpita with Rose Bampton (Title role in Simon Boccanegra / Verdi / Live broadcast / 1939)

- Innordisco! No Simone...Anco’una volta  (Title role in Simon Boccanegra / Verdi / Live broadcast  / 1939)


Farkas, Andrew: Lawrence Tibbett. Singing Actor, Amadeus Press 1989

Weinstadt, Hertzel and Wechsler, Bert: Dear Rogue. A Biography of the American Baritone Lawrence Tibbett (Opera Biography Series, No. 6), Amadeus Press 1996

Tibbett, Lawrence: The Glory Road


The many faces of Lawrence Tibbett

Pictures from Andrew Farkas’ biography: Lawrence Tibbett - Singing Actor, Amadeus Press,  1989