Herbert Witherspoon

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Witherspoon circa 1915

Herbert Witherspoon (July 21, 1873 – May 10, 1935) was an American bass singer and opera manager.


He was born on July 21, 1873 in Buffalo, New York. Herbert Witherspoon graduated from Yale University in 1895 where he had performed as a member of the Glee Club. After leaving school he studied music with Horatio Parker, Edward MacDowell, and Gustav Stoeckel. Witherspoon also studied singing with Walter Henry Hall and Max Treumann in New York. For further study he traveled to Europe. He worked in Paris with Jean-Baptiste Faure and Jacques Bouhy and in Milan with Francesco Lamperti and also studied in London and Berlin.

Witherspoon made his singing debut in 1898 with a small company in New York, and soon was making many appearances in concert and in oratorios. On November 26, 1908, he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Titurel in Richard Wagner's Parsifal. He remained with the company until his retirement from singing in 1914, at which point he chose to concentrate on teaching. Witherspoon made many recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1907-17.

In 1925 Witherspoon became president of the Chicago Musical College. In 1930 he became artistic director of the Chicago Civic Opera, and in 1931 took over as president of the Cincinnati Conservatory. On the strength of his work in these positions, Witherspoon was named to succeed Giulio Gatti-Casazza when the latter retired as General Manager of the Metropolitan.

Barely six weeks into his term he collapsed dead at his desk from a heart attack while meeting with his assistant, Edward Ziegler. His last words, regarding the news that subscriptions for the 1935-1936 season were exceeding expectations, were, "That's grand."


Witherspoon was succeeded as general manager by tenor Edward Johnson. During his career he also taught singing privately. One of his students was Mabel Garrison.


Works or publications[edit]

Preceded by
Giulio Gatti-Casazza
General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera
Succeeded by
Edward Johnson