Michler Chapman, Jr.
Frank was born March 19, 1900 and was an only child.
He was a gifted singer in his own right, his rich
baritone matching well with Gladys. His first wife
was the daughter of Funnyman Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb,
Elisabeth Cobb. They were engaged in 1923 and divorced
about 1930. There was one daughter, Patricia,
born before 1927, from the marriage.
Gladys married Frank Chapman in Englewood, New
Jersey, on May 9, 1932, two years after they were
introduced by her sister, Roma, in an opera house
in Florence, Italy. In her own words, "A fine
singer himself, he seemed to be more interested
in helping and giving faith to others. I have been
one of the fortunate ones that he has helped. Whenever
I have hit a stumbling block, he's been there to
give me strength and to renew my confidence."
Attending Princeton, he left college early to serve
in the Marine Corps in France during World War I
in the same company with James Joseph ("Gene")
Tunney. Back at Princeton after the War, having
a deeper voice than most of the boys and a fine
stage scowl, he sang villain parts in Triangle Club
shows. Mr. Chapman, who was a graduate of Princeton,
Class of 1922, was also a distingushed operatic
In 1955, Ralph Lear got his long awaited "break."
He caused a sensation at Teatro Comunale in Florence,
when during a performance of Verdi’s Othello
he took over the title role at the end of the first
act when the Italian tenor, Raimon Vinay, was too
ill to continue. A report written in the Rome
Daily American by Frank Chapman,
a singer and the husband of Gladys Swarthout, states:
Lambert [Ralph’s stage name] went through
the opera without a mistake and with a vocal quality
and assurance which under normal conditions would
have been praise-worthy but which under the circumstances
was sheerly fantastic. He had done the role once
before. So there it is again – the youngster
stepping in to save the show. . . . Congratulations
to Ralph Lambert whose vocal and visceral qualities
conquered an almost insurmountable challenge.
Subsequently Ralph was engaged for the leading
tenor role in Bellini’s Norma at the operatic
festival in Florence. Engagements with the Vienna
State Opera and major companies followed.
John Charles Thomas - An American Classic - 'If
I had to choose the four greatest voices I've heard,
I would list Thomas along with Caruso, Ponselle
and Pinza,' said Frank Chapman
in Opera News in 1961.
Frank was cremated and his ashes interred in the
family plot at Brookside Cemetery, East Side Plot
110, Englewood, New Jersey.