Born: April 28, 1920 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: July 22, 2012 - Los Angeles, California, USA
The American mezzo-soprano, Nan (actually, Katherine-Ann) Merriman, studied with Alexia Bassian and Lotte Lehmann.
In 1940, Nan Merriman took part in a tour together with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh: during set changes of Romeo and Juliet, she sang Palestrina and Purcell arias. 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. Later, after she had ‘won’ 15 min of NBC broadcasting time at a singing competition, Arturo Toscanini heard her on the radio. In 1944 he 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 World War II, Nan Merriman came to Europe where much of her career was to be centered. She was an admired Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte) 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 Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at Edinburgh (1953) and Laura in Dargomizhsky’s The Stone Guest in 1958. Throughout the 1950’s she also appeared at many of the leading European opera houses, including Vienna, Milan and Paris. Other notable roles were Gluck’s Orfeo, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Emilia in Othello, and Meg in Falstaff. 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 favourite singer in recitals and on the concert platform.
Nan Merriman married and retired completely from stage in April 1965. Her husband, Tom Brand, was an accomplished oratorio singer who sang the tenor part in J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) under Anthon 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, Tom Brand died of a heart stroke in October 1970. She stayed in the Netherlands taking responsibility for the children, but when they were grown up she moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and never returned to Europe.