Warren, Leonard, outstanding American baritone; b. N.Y., April 21, 1911; d. there, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House while singing the role of Don Carlo during a performance of La forza del destino, March 4, 1960. The original family name was Warenoff; it was Americanized as Warren when his Russian father settled in the U.S. Warren was first employed in his father’s fur business in N.Y. In 1935 he joined the chorus of Radio City Music Hall; he also studied voice with Sidney Dietch and Giuseppe De Luca. In 1938 Warren won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and was granted a stipend to study in Italy, where he took voice lessons with Pais and Piccozi. Returning to America, Warren made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in excerpts from La Traviata and Pagliacci during a concert in N.Y. on Nov. 27, 1938; his formal operatic debut took place there on Jan. 13, 1939, when he sang Paolo in Simon Boccanegra. He quickly advanced in public favor, eventually assuming a leading place among the noted baritones of his time. He also sang in San Francisco, Chicago, Canada, and South America. He appeared at La Scala in Milan in 1953; in 1958 he made a highly successful tour of the Soviet Union. His last complete performance at the Metropolitan Opera was as Simon Boccanegra on March 1, 1960, 3 days before his tragic death. He was particularly acclaimed as one of the foremost interpreters of the great Verdi baritone roles; he also sang the parts of Tonio in Pagliacci, Escamillo in Carmen, and Scarpia in Tosca. He collapsed while singing the aria “Urna fatale dal mio destino” underlining the tragic irony of the words, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage backstage. He was reputed to be a person of an intractable character, who always tried to impose his will on stage designers, managers, and even conductors in matters of production, direction, and tempi. He caused pain, a colleague said, but he had a great voice.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire