Here are pictures of some of the finest of singers who made gramophone records and whose native language was English.
Opera collectors should find records of these artists quite easy to find and well worth buying!
(NB This page is a photo-gallery and may take some time to load).
The distinguished American baritone, DAVID BISPHAM (1857-1921) sang regularly at The Metropolitan and Covent Garden and sang oratorio as well as opera.
English baritone Sir CHARLES SANTLEY (1834-1922).
Gounod wrote the FAUST aria Avant De Quitter Ces Lieux specifically for him.
The baton is passed. The youthful LAWRENCE TIBBETT (1896-1960) shakes hands with ANTONIO SCOTTI (1866-1936) at the end of his long career.
Three youthful pictures of the American contralto LOUISE HOMER (1871-1947), the first two as Amneris in AIDA and the third in LA GIOCONDA. Her career at The Metropolitan straddled 30 years, enabling her to record with both Caruso and Gigli!
The English mezzo-soprano LOUISE KIRKBY-LUNN (1873-1930) looking much younger than the Madame Kirkby-Lunn on her records suggests. Her reputation at both the Metropolitan and Covent Garden was very high indeed.
The American soprano BESSIE ABOTT (née Pickens 1878-1919) was a Red-Seal Artist for Victor before World War One. Here she is seen in TANNHAUSER and FAUST.
Notwithstanding more recent fame, the greatest of New Zealand prima-donnas was FRANCES ALDA (1883-1952). Not only was she a fine soprano admired by Caruso, but she married the director of The Metropolitan, Gatti-Gasazza himself!
FLORENCE AUSTRAL (née florence Wilson 1894-1968).
Her career was cut short by bad health, but she was truly a world-class dramatic soprano. She even recorded with the legendary Chaliapin.
The great American soprano of The Golden Era, EMMA EAMES (1865-1952) here seen as Marguerite, Aida and Amelia as well as herself, was born in Shanghai! She was one of the early Red Seal artists for Victor, but also was recorded live by Mapleson at The Metropolitan around 1903. Later, she recorded a famous radio interview in 1939, sounding every inch the prima-donna.
GERALDINE FARRAR (1882-1967) was trained by Lilli Lehmann, returning to the USA to be Caruso’s leading lady for most of her career. She inspired almost hysterical reactions from her fans, the Gerryflappers, her looks gaining her star-billing in early Hollywood silent films, retired at the top and later broadcast talks at The Metropolitan at the piano in between acts. Finally, when I was a little boy (and she 80), I wrote to her…and she replied!
The charismatic Scottish prima-donna MARY GARDEN (1874-1967) created the role of Mélisande for Debussy and ruled at The Chicago Opera in the early 20s.
NELLIE MELBA (née Helen Mitchell 1861-1931), the great Australian diva was never the angelic figure she seems here probably as Marguerite in FAUST. Nevertheless, she was the unchallenged soprano at Covent Garden for two decades until the arrival of a certain Luisa Tetrazzini! Her voice was still impressive at her famous recorded Covent Garden farewell in 1926!
The doomed American lyric soprano GRACE MOORE (1901-1947) seen in the upper picture as LOUISE, was far more than the film-star that the lower picture suggests, and performed alongside such greats as Tito Schipa in the best Opera Houses. She was killed in an aeroplane accident.
The legendary American soprano LILLIAN NORDICA (née Lillian Norton 1857-1914) was a Metropolitan star around the turn of the century, living long enough to record for Columbia. Here she is seen as Aida and Isolde.
Four rare photos of the great American soprano ROSA PONSELLE (née Rosa Ponzillo 1897-1981). The first shows her while still in vaudeville, the second with Caruso in LA JUIVE, while the last two picture her with other great sopranos Claudia Muzio and Luisa Tetrazzini.
DAME EVA TURNER (1892-1990) although tiny had an astonishingly enormous voice. She could and did sing Wagner’s RING and TURANDOT in the same week! She was acknowledged as the greatest Turandot by Rosa Raisa herself, the creator of the role. After retirement, she spent 40 years teaching and adjudicating. Her early Columbia electrics are simply awe-inspiring!
The Welsh tenor BEN DAVIES (1858-1943) was a typical British tenor of his time, singing operetta and musical comedies as often as opera. He was perhaps best known, however, as a concert-singer; a singer of songs. As such he had a long recording career on G&T, Pathé, HMV and finally electric Columbias in 1934 at the age of 76.
TOM BURKE (1890-1968), like Eva Turner hailed from Lancashire, but this fine tenor sang more like an Italian and lived his life like a swashbuckling film-star.
The American tenor MARIO CHAMLEE (né Arthur Cholmondeley 1892-1966) who recorded for Brunswick, based his whole approach to singing on that of Caruso. It certainly seemed to work!
The New Jersey born American tenor RICHARD CROOKS (1900-1972) enjoyed success in Europe and the USA in both the Italian and German repertoire.
The young JOHN McCORMACK (1884-1945) in FAUST before he left the operatic stage to become the most famous Irish concert tenor of the century and made a Papal Count to boot.