|Year of Birth:||1917|
|Year of Death:||2004|
Robert Merrill (June 4, 1917 – October 23, 2004) was an American operatic baritone and actor, who was also active in the musical theatre circuit. He received the National Medal of Arts in 1993.
Merrill was born Moishe Miller, later known as Morris Miller, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of tailor Abraham Miller, originally Milstein, and his wife, Lillian (née Balaban), Jewish immigrants from Pultusk, Poland, near Warsaw. His paternal grandparents were Berl Milstein and Chana (née Mlawski), both from Pultusk, Poland.
His mother claimed to have had an operatic and concert career in Poland (a fact denied by her son in his biographies) and encouraged her son to have early voice training: he had a tendency to stutter, which disappeared when singing. Merrill was inspired to pursue professional singing lessons when he saw the baritone Richard Bonelli singing Count Di Luna in a performance of Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, and paid for them with money earned as a semi-professional pitcher.
In his early radio appearances as a crooner he was sometimes billed as Merrill Miller. While singing at bar mitzvahs and weddings and Borscht Belt resorts, he met an agent, Moe Gale, who found him work at Radio City Music Hall and with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. With Toscanini conducting, he eventually sang in two of the maestro's NBC broadcasts of famous operas, La traviata (with Licia Albanese, in 1946), and Un ballo in maschera (with Herva Nelli, in 1954). Both of those broadcasts were eventually released on both LP and CD by RCA Victor. His ranking as an important NBC performer is evidenced by his inclusion in NBC's 1947 promotional book, NBC Parade of Stars: As Heard Over Your Favorite NBC Station, displaying Sam Berman's caricatures of leading NBC personalities.