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This is a page of opera and concert programmes from nights of which we could all say…I wish we were there.My particular favourite would be the night in Milan in 1901 when Chaliapin and Caruso sang Mefistofele under the baton of Toscanini and in the presence of the composer, Boito!Some of the cast-lists were incredible and were certainly packed full of names which we know today only on the labels of highly desirable records.These programmes remind us, however, that these great singers were once real, living, flesh-and-blood artists.(NB This page is full of pictures and may take some time to load)
One often forgets that singers earned their living not only in Opera-Houses and Concert-Halls. Indeed, they could probably make more money entertaining live in the drawing rooms of the rich and priveleged. Top of the list was royalty in whichever country in which the singers happened to be. The Czar and especially Queen Victoria were among the biggest music-lovers who gave their favourite artists not only money but expensive jewellery too!. (Victoria, remember, had been friends with Mendelssohn). One always dreams that at least some of these people had bought a Phonograph and naturally turned on the recording apparatus when their famous guests began to sing. Maybe, somewhere, in some attic somewhere!…Evening Concert, 1st July, 1892.Nellie Melba and Ernest Van Dyck.Inside the beautifully embossed programme, the extra slip of paper makes it seem all the more real.
Concert, 24th February, 1899.Maria Galvany.The year of this press release is not given, but 1899 seems a reasonable guess.
Evening Concert, 30th June 1899.Emma Albani, David Bispham, Emma Nevada and Fernando De Lucia.
…and at 6, Carlton House Terrace on 27th June 1900, as you can see, an orchestra under Mr. (later Sir) Landon Ronald, 5 years before he was Patti’s accompanist on her records made in Wales, supported Fernando De Lucia, Pol Plancon and Lilian Blauvelt of the Golden Era and the still young American contralto Louise Homer.
Royal Gala, 11th June, 1907.MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Act 1) with Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, Antonio Scotti, Vanni-Marcoux and Gabrielle Lejeune-Gilibert.LA BOHEME (Act 1) with Nellie Melba, Enrico Caruso, Mario Sammarco, Charles Gilibert and Vanni-Marcoux.DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG (Act 3) with Frieda Hempel, Karl Jorn, Anton Van Rooy.The conductors were Campanini and Richter.