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Norman Treigle (Bass-Baritone)

Born: March 6, 1927 - New Orleans, USA
Died: February 16, 1975 - New Orleans, USA

The remarkable American bass-baritone, Norman Treigle ((born: Adanelle Wilfred Treigle), was born in New Orleans, the fifth and final child of a carpenter and his wife. He sang in a church choir as a child; upon graduation from high school in 1943, he served in the navy. After two months in service, due to a medical discharge, he returned to New Orleans. Following his marriage in 1946, he began studies with the contralto Elisabeth Wood.

Norman Treigle made his operatic debut in 1947 with the New Orleans Opera as the Duke of Verona in Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, which was followed by Lodovico in Verdi's Otello. He then attended Loyola University's College of Music. He joined the New York City Opera, making his debut there in March 1953, as Colline in La Boheme. Three years later, he scored his first great success, in the New York premiere of Floyd's Susannah, as the Reverend Olin Blitch. He remained with the company for 20 years, establishing himself as a favourite with the public. In 1958, he made his European debut in this opera, at the Brussels World's Fair. In the fall of 1974, he made his Covent Garden debut, in Faust.

Norman Treigle became the leading bass-baritone of the Americas, and was acclaimed as one of the world's greatest singing-actors, specialising in roles that evoked villainy and terror. Perhaps his finest roles were in Faust, Carmen, Susannah, Les contes d'Hoffmann and Méphistophélès. Among his most successful roles were also Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Boris Godunov. He also sang in modern operas, including leading roles in the premieres of 3 operas by Carlisle Floyd: The Passion of Jonathan Wade (New York, October 1962), The Sojourner and Mollie Sinclair (Raleigh, North Carolina, December 1963), and Markheim (New Orleans, March 1966). Treigle's other parts in contemporary operas were the title role in Luigi Dallapiccola's The Prisoner and that of the grandfather in Copland's The Tender Land. In the studio, he recorded three operas, Giulio Cesare, Les contes d'Hoffmann and Mefistofele. In addition, a kinescope of the Revival Scene from Susannah can be found on commercial video.

Norman Treigle's performances of the masterpieces of J S Bach were infrequent, but important: In 1959, he sang the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) under Leopold Stokowski, with the Houston Symphony Orchestra; in 1966, he sang the Christus in the St John Passion (BWV 245) with Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Berkshire Festival (with Phyllis Curtin as soprano soloist), following this with the Magnificat (BWV 243) the next day; and during Holy Week of the following year (commemorating the centennial of Arturo Toscanini's birth), he sang the same Passion with the same maestro, soprano and orchestra, in Boston. During the Holy Week of 1968, he sang the St John Passion (BWV 245) again, this time with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (with Judith Raskin, Maureen Forrester, Richard Lewis, George Shirley and Thomas Paul). The same forces then performed the work at Lincoln Center, and subsequently recorded it for Columbia.

On February 16, 1975, Norman Treigle died suddenly at his New Orleans apartment, at the age of forty-seven. A chronic insomniac, it was determined he was the victim of an accidental overdose of sleeping-pills. His untimely death deprived the American musical theater of one of its fmest talents.

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Brian Morgan (August 2006)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2002), Brian Morgan (August 2006)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Eugene Ormandy


BWV 245

Links to other Sites



Brian Morgan: "Strange Child of Chaos: Norman Treigle" (iUniverse, 2006). Buy this book at:

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