Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leonard Warren, Opera Singer and Angler

Leonard Warren, Opera Singer and Angler

One of the most notable baritones of the middle part of the twentieth century was Leonard Warren. Often headlining at the Met and other prestigious venues, his voice was considered "rich, rounded, [and] mellow...bursting with resonant overtones."

But in his spare time was also famous as an angler, and a dedicated one at that. His biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz wrote that he was a regular at the New York City Boat Show, and even rearranged his calendar for it, and always came home with a trunk full of catalogs. She related the following anecdote:

[Warren[ had been unable to find his favorite fishing reel, a Pflueger, which had formerly been made by Enterprise Manufacturing Company in Akron. During the war, Enterprise had stopped making tackle, and gradually the Pflueger reels became collector's items. Warren told many people about his search for this reel. "You can't find one anywhere," he complained. Finally, John S. Pflueger, the president and treasurer of Enterprise, heard of Warren's search and asked his employees to look for the reel he wanted. In a salesman's old sample line, one was found. Pflueger gave it to him. "And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship," the baritone said. The reel became the pride of his tackle box.

As a dedicated Pflueger historian, the story makes me smile, but I can't for the life of me think of what reel this was. My first thought was a Pflueger Golden West -- anyone got a better guess than this? Perhaps a Pflueger Atlapac?

Warren was a fascinating individual who's voice was said to fill the Metropolitan Opera house "like black smoke." He was born the son of Russian Jewish immigrants as Leonard Warenoff in 1911, and by the late 1930s was signed by the Met after winning an audition contest. After years of great success he died tragically on stage on March 1st, 1960 at the age of 48.

Here Warren sings the famed "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

Lest we think he was a one-dimensional singer, here Warren sings the great Kipling classic "On the Road to Mandalay."

-- Dr. Todd

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