Merriman, Nan

American mezzo-soprano, b. 1920


Biographical notes:

She studied with Alexia Bassian and Lotte Lehmann. She had been making regular concert appearances for five years before she made her operatic debut as La Cieca (La Gioconda) at the opera of Cincinnati. In 1944 Arturo Toscanini engaged her for his broadcasts and recordings of Gluck’s Orfeo (as Orpheus), Falstaff (as Meg Page), Rigoletto (as Maddalena) and Otello (as Emilia). Soon after the Second World War she came to Europe where much of her career was to be centered. She was an admired Dorabella at Aix-en-Provence in 1953/55/59, the Piccola Scala (1955/56) and Glyndebourne (1956). She appeared as Baba the Turk in the British premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at Edinburgh (1953) and Laura in Dargomizhsky’s The Stone Guest in 1958. Throughout the 1950s she also appeared at many of the leading European opera houses, including Vienna, Milan and Paris. She was not engaged at the Met (light voices had no chance there). She was much admired in the Netherlands, where she became a particular favorite singer in recitals and on the concert platform. Nan Merriman married and retired completely from stage in April 1965. Her husband was an accomplished oratorio singer who sang the tenor part in the St. Matthew Passion under Anton van der Horst. His talents were discovered relatively late and he took lessons at the Maastricht conservatory. He was widowed in the early sixties and father to ten children. Nan and he fell in love, and she decided to give up her career in order to be with him and take care of the children. Unfortunately, her husband died of a heart stroke in 1966. She stayed in the Netherlands taking responsibility for the children, but when they were grown up she moved to Los Angeles and never returned to Europe.



One of the superb recordings of Mozart’s Così fan tutte is conducted by Guido Cantelli, it was a legendary performance at the Piccolo Scala in Milan, a production commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s birth


Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Nan Merriman, Graziella Sciutti, Luigi Alva, Rolando Panerai,  Franco Calabrese



Opera Arias (Mozart/La Clemenza di Tito, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Verdi, Saint-Saëns, Thomas, Tchaikovsky)

Bella Voce

The Red Cross Concert (Toscanini 1944 live)

Radio Years

French and Spanish Songs (G. Moore)


Gluck - Orpheus ed Euridice (Toscanini 1952 live/Gibson)


Mozart - Così fan tutte (Karajan 1954/Schwarzkopf, Otto, Panerai, Simoneau, Bruscantini)


Mozart - Così fan tutte (Cantelli 1956 live/Schwarzkopf, Sciutti, Panerai, Alva, Calabrese)


Mozart - Così fan tutte (Jochum 1962/Seefried, Köth, Prey, Haefliger, Fischer-Dieskau)


Verdi - Falstaff (Toscanini 1950/Valdengo, Guarrera, Nelli, Elmo, Madasi, Stich-Randall)


Verdi - Otello (Toscanini 1947/Vinay, Valdengo, Nelli)


Verdi - Rigoletto (Toscanini 1944/Warren, Milanova, Peerce, Moscona)


Verdi - Rigoletto (Cellini live 1950/Warren, Berger, Peerce)

Naxos Historical

Bach - Messe in h-moll (Scherchen 1959)


Beethoven - Missa solemnis (Walter 1948 live)

AS Disc

Beethoven - Missa solemnis (Toscanini 1953)


Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde/Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (von Beinum 1956)


Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde (Jochum 1963)


Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde (Schmidt-Isserstedt 1965 live)

Bella Voce



She belongs to my favorite mezzo-sopranos. I have the impression that she is still an underrated singer. Unfortunately, she did not record prolifically.

She was a great concert and lieder singer - and a passionate Dorabella. I admire her sensual and voluptous timbre in her splendid recording of French and Spanish songs accompanied by Gerald Moore. She has the right kind of lightness and “smile in the voice” for these songs. Le Nozze di Figaro under Guido Cantelli is a classical recording performance. Otello and Falstaff conducted by Toscanini are indispensable although the conductor’s approach to music and singers (!) might not be to everyone’s taste.

  La Flûte de Pan - Trois Chansons de Bilitis (Debussy-Louys / 1954 / G. Moore)



My warmest thanks to Jos Aarts