Warren, Leonard

American baritone, 1911 - 1960

Biographical notes:

He was born Leonard Warenov to Russian parents in the Bronx of New York.  His father wished to employ him as a businessman in his fur company, but Leonard entered the choir of the Radio City Music Hall in 1935. In his early 20s he studied with Sidney Dietch. After winning the “Metropolitan Opera Competition” he went to Milan for further studies with Giuseppe Païs and Riccardo Picozzi. Conductor Wilfred Pelletier heard his exceptional qualities and recommended Leonard to the Met! At the time his repertory consisted of five operatic arias and a selection of Rigoletto. He studied seven roles in seven months and received vocal tuition by Giuseppe de Luca! In January 1939 he made his Met debut as Paolo in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, opposite stars like Lawrence Tibbett, Ezio Pinza , Giuseppe Martinelli and Elisabeth Rethberg. In his first season Warren was also cast as Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff, just the role which had been Tibbett’s first big success. Later Warren took over Tibbett’s roles (the older singer was experiencing a vocal decline around 1942) and appeared as Simon Boccanegra, Rigoletto (he sang the role 88 times), Iago, Don Carlo, Tonio, Amonasro, Valentin and Escamillo among many others. The Met was his artistic home during his whole career. He rareley performed abroad (except a few performances at La Scala, Chicago, Mexico City and San Francisco). He made his greatest achievements in Verdi’s operas. He collapsed during a performance of La Forza del Destino and died of a heart attack on stage.

Verdi, Verdi, Verdi...

As Simon Boccanegra


As Count Luna


As Renato


As Rigoletto


As Macbeth


Recordings: (selection)

Bizet - Carmen (Pelletier 1941 live/Swarthout, Albanese, Votipka, Kullmann)

Naxos Historical

Gluck - Alceste (Panizza 1941 live/Bampton, Maison, Cehanovsky, De Paolis)

Naxos Historical

Gounod - Faust (Pelletier 1940 live/Kirsten, di Stefano, Tajo)

Naxos Historical

Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci (Mitropoulos/Amara, del Monaco)

Naxos Historical

Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov (Panizza 1939 live/Pinza, Thorborg, Kullmann, Moscona, Cordon)

Naxos Historical

Ponchielli - La Gioconda (Cooper/Milanov, Tucker, Stevens, Harshaw)


Verdi - Aida (Perlea/Milanov, Björling, Barbieri, Christoff)


Verdi - Un Ballo in Maschera (Walter/Milanov, Peerce)


Verdi - Falstaff (Reiner/Valdengo, Resnik, Elmo, Albanese, di Stefano)


Verdi - La Forza del Destino (Stiedry/Milanov, Tucker, Siepi, Corena, Elias)


Verdi - Otello (Busch/Albanese, Vinay)


Verdi - Otello (Szell/Roman, Ralf)


Verdi - Rigoletto (Sodero 1945 live/Björling, Sayao)

Naxos Historical

Verdi - Rigoletto (Cellini 1950/Berger, Peerce, Tajo)

Myto           Naxos Historical

Verdi - Il Trovatore (Cellini/Björling, Milanov, Barbieri)


His First Recordings 1940


The Complete Victor Recordings 1939 - 1947


Leonard Warren in Live Performances 1945 - 1959


Recordings 1941 - 1947


A 1940’ Radio Hour Vol. 1


Leonard Warren Vol. 1 - 3

Preiser - LV

A 1940’ Radio Hour Vol. 2


Live Radio Broadcasts


Four American Baritones of the Past (+ John Charles Thomas, Robert, Merrill, Lawrence Tibbett)

Preiser - LV

Met - 100 Singers


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: Stars of David/The Record of Singing Vol. 4



A handsome man


Leonard Warren, Lawrence Tibbett , Robert Merrill and John Charles Thomas are undoubtedly the towering American baritones of the 20th century.

Warren’s was a very rich and resonant baritone voice - and it had an immediately recognizable timbre. The expansion of the upper register (brilliance) was spectacular (while the lower was rather short). His voice was of a soft, velvety quality.


As Renato


As Valentin


As Lord Ashton in “Lucia di Lammermoor”


My favorite recordings:

In 1940, the New York Post, hoping to beef up its reputation in the cultural community of New York, decided to record a series of operatic excerpts that could be obtained through discount coupons in the tabloid. Pelletier was to conduct in a series that was to become known as the    “No Name Records”, since no credits were given... Pelletier saw to it that the young baritone was awarded some plums. Here the arias sung by Leonard Warren (by the time 29 years old!). Si può and Cortigiani, vil razza, dannata belong to the most thrilling baritone records I ever heard.

“No Name Records”, 1940:

 Si può? (Tonio in I Pagliacci / Leoncavallo)

- Excerpts from La Traviata with Eleanor Steber

- Excerpts from Rigoletto with Jean Dickinson and Armand Tokatyan

- Cortigiani, vil razza, dannata (Title role in Rigoletto / Verdi)

- Excerpts from Aida with Rose Bampton

- Votre toast (Escamillo in Carmen / Bizet)

Victor Recordings:

- È sogno? o realtà? (Ford in Falstaff / Verdi / 1941)

- Scintille, diamant! (Dapertutto in Les Contes d’Hoffmann / Offenbach / 1941)

- Cortigiani, vil razza, dannata (Title role in Rigoletto / Verdi / 1945)

- Si può? (Tonio in I Pagliacci / Leoncavallo / 1946)

- Credo in un Dio crudel (Iago in Otello / Verdi / 1946)

- Tutto è deserto...Il balen del suo sorriso (Count di Luna in Il Trovatore /Verdi / 1947)