B0048. (Leonard Warren) Mary Jane Phillips-Matz. Leonard Warren, American Baritone. Portland, OR, Amadeus, 2000. 471pp. Index; Bibliography; Exhaustive Crawford Discography; Exhaustive Chronology; Photos; DJ. - 9781574670530 1-57467-053-0
“Leonard Warren was the great American baritone of the middle of the 20th century, and experienced opera journalist Mary Jane Phillips-Matz has prepared a detailed account of his operatic life, down to a careful recounting of Warren’s last hours and minutes before he died on stage at the Met during a performance of LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. After examining Warren’s family background and childhood briefly, and looking at his series of failed careers, Phillips-Matz arrives at the beginning of his singing career, when as an untrained 23-year-old he was accepted into the Radio City Music Hall Glee Club on the basis of his sheer talent. Not quite three years later, in 1937, he participated in the Met’s Auditions of the Air, and in November of 1938 he debuted at the Met in LA TRAVIATA.
Phillips-Matz follows the rest of Warren’s life, including his seasons at the Met, trips abroad, and his courtship and marriage. This vast amount of information was compiled with the assistance of Vivien Warren, Leonard’s younger sister, and other family members; Vivien insisted on honesty in the account of her brother’s life, and did not avoid controversial topics such as his conversion to Catholicism, or withhold unfavorable press reviews from Phillips-Matz.
This long-overdue volume concludes with an exhaustive discography as well as a complete chronology of Warren’s opera performances, prepared by Barrett Crawford, president of the Leonard Warren Foundation. A bibliography, notes, and an index of names round out this invaluable addition to opera history and literature.
Mary Jane Phillips-Matz was known in particular for her monumental volume VERDI: A BIOGRAPHY, published in 1993 by Oxford University Press. Spanning 941 pages, the book was the product of some 30 years’ research. Reviewing it in THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review in 1994, Edward Rothstein, then the newspaper’s chief music critic, called it an ‘important biography’, adding, ‘provides us with a more complicated portrait of the man than we have had so far’. The biography won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1994.
Verdi, Ms. Phillips-Matz’s biography explains, was a man of outsize moods and corresponding actions. He could be immensely generous, founding or supporting schools, hospitals, libraries and a musicians’ retirement home, among other good works. Yet after a rift with his family when he was an adult, Verdi legally disowned his father and forced him from his home. He also may have sired at least one child out of wedlock who was given up for adoption at birth.
Ms. Phillips-Matz took a similar approach in PUCCINI: A BIOGRAPHY (2002). The book portrayed its subject as a simple man of immoderate appetites — for fast cars, speedboats, cigarettes and women.
In the late 1940s, after earning a bachelor’s degree in medieval literature from Smith College and a master’s in the field from Columbia, she began writing for Opera News magazine, to which she would contribute articles for more than 50 years. She was also a regular writer of program notes for the Royal Opera House in London.
Her other books include ROSA PONSELLE: AMERICAN DIVA (1997), LEONARD WARREN: AMERICAN BARITONE (2000) & OPERA STARS IN THE SUN (1955).”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Jan., 2013
"[Warren's] remarkable voice had a dramatic intensity which did not come naturally to him. As with everything else in his life, he worked at that until he got it right. Fortunately, his incomparable voice and dramatic power are still available to us on recordings of some of his most famous roles....[He] became one of the most famous and beloved operatic baritones in the world....Warren's flawless technique, seamless flow of sound, and brilliant top voice were his vocal trademarks and these qualities became the standard by which others would be measured, including me."
- Sherrill Milnes, AMERICAN ARIA, pp.76-77