Herbert Witherspoon

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Herbert Witherspoon
Herbert Witherspoon (July 21, 1873 – May 10, 1935) circa 1915.jpg
Witherspoon circa 1915
General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera
In office
Preceded by Giulio Gatti-Casazza
Succeeded by Edward Patrick Johnson
Personal details
Born (1873-07-21)July 21, 1873
Buffalo, New York
Died May 10, 1935(1935-05-10) (aged 61)
Manhattan, New York City
Spouse(s) Greta Hughes (divorced)
Florence Hinkle (m. 1916; her death 1933)
Blanche Sternberg Skeath
(m. 1933; his death 1935)
Education Yale University

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.

He graduated from Yale University in 1895 where he had performed as a member of the Yale 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 City. 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 and 1917.

On June 20, 1916 in Manhattan he married Florence Hinkle as his second wife.[1]

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.

After the death of Florence Hinkle in 1933, he married Blanche Sternberg Skeath.[2]

He died on May 10, 1935 in Manhattan, New York City.[3][4] He was barely six weeks into his term when he died 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."[5] In 1944 his widow became the managing director of the new Ballet International.[6] His will set aside money for the Library of Congress to buy music scripts to be donated in the name of Florence Hinkle, his second wife. The remainder of his estate went to his third wife, Blanche Sternberg Skeath.[2]


Witherspoon was succeeded as General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera by tenor Edward Johnson. During his career he also taught singing privately. One of his students was Mabel Garrison.

Works or publications[edit]


  1. ^ "H. Witherspoon Weds. Metropolitan Opera Basso Marries Miss Florence Hinkle, Soprano". New York Times. June 21, 1916. Retrieved 2015-08-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Witherspoon Will Sets Up Memorial. Fund in Name of Second Wife Will Buy Music Manuscripts for Library of Congress.". New York Times. May 17, 1935. Retrieved 2015-08-28. The will of Herbert Witherspoon, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, who died suddenly on May 10, was filed in Surrogate's Court yesterday. It provides for a memorial to his second wife and pupil, the late Florence Hinkle Witherspoon, and bequeaths his residuary estate to his widow, Blanche Sternberg Skeath Witherspoon. 
  3. ^ "Witherspoon, Opera Leader, Dies in Office". Chicago Tribune. May 11, 1935. Retrieved 2015-08-28. 
  4. ^ "Witherspoon Dies In Office At Opera On Eve Of Sailing. New Manager of Metropolitan Is Victim of Sudden Heart Attack After Day's Work". New York Times. May 11, 1935. Retrieved 2015-08-12. Herbert Witherspoon, the new general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, died suddenly yesterday afternoon in the executive offices at the opera house that he had occupied for only two weeks, since the departure of Giulio Gatti-Casazza. ... 
  5. ^ "Death in the Met". Time Magazine. May 20, 1935. New Manager Witherspoon was genial and relaxed as he talked with his aide, Edward Ziegler. He beamed when Treasurer Earle Lewis came in to report that next year's subscriptions ... 
  6. ^ "Mrs. H. Witherspoon Directs New Ballet". New York Times. July 19, 1944. Retrieved 2015-08-12. Mrs. Herbert Witherspoon has been appointed managing director of the new Ballet International, the company to be sponsored by the Ballet Institute, of which George de Cuevas is head. Mrs. Witherspoon was for four years executive secretary of the American Guild of Musical Artists, and before that was a member for five years of the board of governors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. ... 
Preceded by
Giulio Gatti-Casazza
General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera
Succeeded by
Edward Johnson