The Edison Legacy, Vol. 1
Hidden Treasures of the Edison Archive

52042-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 36.00
VOCAL

 

The Edison Legacy, Vol. 1
It is not an exaggeration that the Edison Legacy series will be one of the most significant historical releases ever. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in the last quarter of the 19th Century. He began recording artists in the late 1800s and by 1929 his record company was out of business. In this short period of time, he captured some of the greatest voices of the dawn of the recording era and yet, many of the recordings have never been published and have only been heard by Edison and his staff. These historic documents are some of the rarest and most important recordings in the world. The first volume of our series contains selections of Leisner, Melis, Bori, Walker, White, Korsoff, Olitzka, Destinn, and many other important singers of the last century.
CD 1 (79:43)

LUCREZIA BORI [so]

1. LA TRAVIATA: È strano…Ah, fors’ è lui…Follie!…Sempre libera (Verdi) 6:44
  Mid-1910; London (180-S1) 12 inch1  
2. RIGOLETTO: Gualtier Maldè!...Caro nome (Verdi) 4:41
  9 April 1913; New York (2218-B) 10 inch2  
3. MANON LESCAUT: In quelle trine morbide (Puccini) 2:43
  Mid-1910; London (192-A) 12 inch  
4. TOSCA: Vissi d’arte (Puccini) 3:13
  August or September 1911; London (885-B) 10 inch  
5. MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Un bel dì vedremo (Puccini) 4:56
  Mid-1910; London (188-A) 12 inch  

MARCELLA CRAFT [so]

6. LA TRAVIATA: Addio del passato (Verdi) 4:19
  5 June 1918; New York (6203-C) 10 inch  

EMMY DESTINN [so]

7. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Voi lo sapete (Mascagni) 3:25
  15 December 1911; New York (887-A) 10 inch  

EMMY DESTINN [so] & DINH GILLY [ba]

8. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Ah! Il Signore vi manda (Mascagni) 5:08
  15 December 1911; New York (888-A) 12 inch3  

EDOARDO FATICANTI [ba]

9. ERNANI: Gran dio!...O de’ verd’anni miei (Verdi) 4:52
  Mid-1910; London (206-B) 12 inch  

LUISA GARIBALDI [ms] & ITALO CRISTALI [te]

10. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Tu qui, Santuzza? (Mascagni) 3:58
  Fall 1910; London (413-A) 12 inch  

MELITTA HEIM [so]

11. RIGOLETTO: Gualtier Maldè!...Teurer Name (Gualtier Maldè!...Caro nome) (Verdi) 5:06
  May or June 1911; London (703-B) 12 inch  

FRIEDA HEMPEL [so]

12. Il pensieroso: Sweet Bird (Handel) 4:41
  28 May 1920; New York (7372-C) 10 inch  

HEINRICH HENSEL [te]

13. DIE MEISTERSINGER: Am stillen Herd (Wagner) 3:54
  ca. March 1911; London (624-A) 12 inch  

VALENTIN JAUME [te]

14. L’AFRICAINE: Pays merveilleux…O Paradis (Meyerbeer) 3:59
  June 1914; London (3189-B) 10 inch  

PAOLA KORALEK [so] & ORESTE BENEDETTI [ba]

15. LA GIOCONDA: Ora posso morir (Act IV Finale) (Ponchielli) 6:34
  July or August 1911; London (760-S1) 12 inch  

LUCETTE KORSOFF [so]

16. MANON LESCAUT: C’est l’histoire amoureuse [Eclat de rire] (Auber) 3:07
  August or Septem1ber 1910; London (395) 10 inch (published briefly)4  
17. MIREILLE: O légère hirondelle [Valse] (Gounod) 3:13
  July 1914; London (3209-B) 10 inch  

MARIA LABIA [so] & VALENTIN JAUME [te]

18. LES HUGUENOTS: Dillo ancor, tu m’ami (Tu l’as dit, oui, tu m’aimes!) (Meyerbeer) 4:57
  May 1914; London (3161-B) 10 inch  
1 After the words “Follie! Follie!” the orchestra takes an unwieldy transposition down a semi-tone so that “Sempre libera” is sung in G
2 Transposed down to E-flat
3 Published only on LP: Edison Originals FS889B
4 Briefly published as a preliminary matching on 82007, 82008, and 82009. Re-matched in June 1913 on 82038, which did not appear on the list of 1 May 1917.
 
CD 2 (77:03)

EMMI LEISNER [con]

1. ORFEO ED EURIDICE: Che farò senza Euridice? (Gluck) 4:34
  June or July 1914; London (3200-A) 10 inch  
2. LE PROPHÈTE: Wer ich bin…Ich bin, weh’ mir (Qui je suis…Je suis, hélas!) (Meyebeer) 3:48
  June or July 1914; London (3206-B) 10 inch  
3. MIGNON: Kennst du das Land? (Connais-tu le pays?) (Thomas) 5:02
  June or July 1914; London (3201-A) 10 inch  

UMBERTO MACNEZ [te]

4. CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: O Lola [Siciliana] (Mascagni) 2:46
  November 1910; London (383-A) 10 inch (issued briefly)  
5. L’AMICO FRITZ: Ed anche Beppe amò…O amore, o bella luce (Mascagni) 4:14
  November or December 1910; London (430-A) 12 inch5  

MARGARETE MATZENAUER [ms]

6. DON CARLO: O don fatale (Verdi) 4:39
  25 February 1915; New York (3606-B) 10 inch  

CARMEN MELIS [so]

7. ADRIANA LECOUVREUR: Ecco, respiro appena…Io son l’umile ancella (Giordano) 3:54
  21 March 1913; New York (2195-A) 10 inch  
8. Io son l’amore (Tosti) 4:35 
  September 1913; London (1432-A) 10 inch  

ROSA OLITZKA [con]

9. LES HUGUENOTS: Nobles seigneurs, salut…une dame noble et sage (Meyerbeer) 3:56
  28 December 1915; New York (4376-C) 10 inch  
10. CARMEN: All’ udir del sistra (Les tringles des sistres tintaient) (Bizet) 3:14
  10 January 1916; New York (4409-C) 10 inch  

MARIE RAPPOLD [so]

11. CARMEN: C’est des contrebandiers…Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante (Bizet) 6:47
  July 1910; Paris (171-B) 12 inch  
12. TOSCA: Vissi d’arte (Puccini) 3:17
  July 1910; Paris (168-B) 12 inch  

DOMENICO VIGLIONE-BORGHESE [ba]

13. UN BALLO IN MASCHERA: Alzati; là tuo figlio…Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima (Verdi) 6:19
  ca. June 1911; London (1146-A) 12 inch  

FRITZ VOGELSTROM [te]

14. LOHENGRIN: In fernem Land (Wagner) 4:46
  July or August 1910; London (270-A) 12 inch  

EDYTH WALKER [so]

15. DIE WALKÜRE: Ho-yo-to-ho (Wagner) 2:10
  December 1910 or January 1911; London (538) 10 inch  

CAROLINA WHITE [so]

16. LA GIOCONDA: Suicidio! In questi fieri momenti tu sol mi resti (Ponchielli) 4:02
  19 July 1910; Paris (181-B) 12 inch6  
17. ANDREA CHENIER: La mamma morta (Giordano) 4:49
  20 July 1910; Paris (178-A) 12 inch  
18. LA WALLY: Ebben? Ne andrò lontana (Catalani) 4:02
  22 July 1910; Paris (0176-S2) 12 inch  
5 Briefly published as a preliminary matching on 82509 and c.o. in June 1913. Re-matched on 82513, which did not appear on the list of January 1915.
6 The exact dates of the Carolina White recordings were determined from Paris vouchers.
General note on dating and issue nomenclature: Transmittal sheets do not exist from 1910 through 1913. The recording dates of unpublished recordings within this period were determined by reviewing dates of published recordings and estimating the recording dates. A two to three week allowance for shipping was utilized. Several of the recordings have an “S” suffix. This early practice designated those recordings as “specials.” Later, an “A, B, C…” designation was adopted.

CD 1:
Accompaniment: All tracks accompanied by orchestra
Languages: Italian [1-10, 15, 18]; German [11, 13]; English [12]; French [14, 16-17]

CD 2:
Accompaniment: All tracks accompanied by orchestra
Languages: Italian [1, 4-8, 10, 12-13, 16-18]; German [2-3, 14-15]; French [9, 11]


 

Producers: Scott Kessler and Ward Marston

AD Transfers of original discs: Jerry Fabris

Audio Re-mastering: Ward Marston

Audio Assistance: J. Richard Harris

Photographs: Girvice Archer, Roberto Marcocci, Charles Mintzer, and Peter van der Waal

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

This issue, which has been many years in the making, required extraordinary assistance from several people who provided biographies of obscure singers; rare and important photos and the scanning needed for the booklet; and extensive research of Edison material. Marston would like to extend special gratitude to Girvice Archer, Ramona Fasio, Lawrence F. Holdridge, Jerry Fabris, and Raymond Wile for their tremendous assistance.

Marston would also like to thank Richard Arsenty, Vincent Giroud, Leonard DeGraaf, John Humbley, Peter Lack, Roberto Marcocci, Charles Mintzer, Robert Tuggle, and Peter van der Waal for their help in the production of this CD release.

Marston would also like to thank the Edison National Historic Site, the National Park Service, and the United States Department of the Interior for conserving and sharing rare recorded treasures.


Singer Biographies

ORESTE BENEDETTI [baritone] Pisa, 1874–Novara, 1917. Originally a worker in a brick factory, Benedetti became acquainted with the father of Titta Ruffo, who arranged for his admission to the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and for him to live with the Ruffo family. Young Titta, when he heard Benedetti sing, said, “I envied Benedetti’s voice so much, I would have liked to steal it. … It was a divine voice.” A student of Andrioli, Benedetti made his debut at Rome’s Teatro Quirino in 1894 as Count Di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore. Performances in a number of Italian theaters followed and in the 1897–1898 season he appeared in Buenos Aires in several leading roles including Rigoletto. In 1898, Benedetti made his Teatro Costanzi debut as Valentin in Faust. Most of his career was centered in Italy and included roles such as Nelusko (L’Africaine), Gunter (Götterdämmerung), Telramund (Lohengrin), as well as the expected Verdi and Puccini parts. He last appeared in public as Kyoto in Mascagni’s Iris at the end of 1915. Only one commercial recording was issued of his voice, an Edison cylinder of a duet from La bohème with tenor Aristodemo Giorgini. Interestingly, all Edison publicity material referred to his first name in error as “Preste”.

LUCREZIA BORI [soprano] Valencia, 1887–New York, 1960. Bori began her formal studies at the age of 21 in Milan with Vidal; the slightly younger Spanish singer Graziella Pareto was a fellow student. Bori made her debut as Micaëla in 1908 at the Teatro Adriano in Rome, substituted for Maria Farneti in Madama Butterfly at San Carlo, and was engaged at La Scala the following season (1910–1911). At the urging of Toscanini, she debuted in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut on 9 June 1910 with the Metropolitan during its season at the Châtelet in Paris. Lina Cavalieri was to sing the title role but cancelled, and the relatively unknown Lucrezia Bori sang the role opposite none other than Enrico Caruso. Despite being offered a Met contract after this performance, Bori fulfilled her La Scala obligation. Her debut role at La Scala (10 January 1911) was Carolina in Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto, a revival so successful that it ran for 15 performances that season. Bori joined the Metropolitan in 1912 and debuted on the opening night of the 1912–1913 season as Manon Lescaut. Thus began a nearly 25-year career with the Met. Bori’s lyric-soprano voice was expressive and her manner patrician. She made two Edison cylinders soon after her five Manon Lescaut performances with the Met in Paris. These have been released on Marston’s Lagniappe series along with her eight published Edison Diamond Discs recorded in New York, 1913. Heard here are five unpublished Edison disc recordings.

MARCELLA CRAFT [soprano] Indianapolis, Indiana, 1880–Riverside, California, 1959. Craft began her vocal training in Milan and Germany. Her first performances were in the Italian provinces, but it was in Germany where she gained particular success. Craft appeared as Marguerite in Elberfeld (1905). This led to a series of performances: Mainz (1905–1907), Kiel (1907–1909), and finally Munich (1909–1914), where she had a resounding success in 1910 as Strauss’s Salome under the direction of the composer. As a guest she was heard in a number of other German theaters as well as at Covent Garden, 1907, singing Agathe in Der Freischütz. She returned to the U.S. at the outbreak of the First World War, appearing in concert and with various touring companies, such as the San Carlo Opera. In the later 1920s she returned to Germany for Lieder appearances, and in 1930 settled in Riverside, California, where she directed an opera company and taught. Only one unpublished Edison recording exists of her voice.

ITALO CRISTALI [tenor] Piacenza, Italy, 1879–1932. Cristali studied at the Piacenza Conservatory and began singing small roles in that city’s opera house. His principal debut was Alfredo in La traviata in 1903. Later that year he had particular success as Lohengrin at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo. He sang at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome (1907 and 1919) and a season at the Metropolitan Opera, 1913–1914. There he was kept busy with Edgardo, Turiddu, Nemorino, Rodolfo, the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier, and Clitandro in Wolf-Ferrari’s L’amore Medico, as well as Sunday concerts. His career was truly international, as his performance venues included Madrid, Cairo, Buenos Aires, Japan, China, and Russia, as well as most opera houses in Italy (although, surprisingly, not La Scala). Only one Columbia record exists of his voice in addition to his Edison titles, all unpublished.

EMMY DESTINN (EMILIE PAULINE KITTL) [soprano] Prague, 1878–Ceské Budejovice, Czechoslovakia, 1930. Destinn showed promise as a violinist at a very young age. At 14, she began her singing studies with Marie von Dreger Loewe-Destinn, whose name she adopted. She made her debut as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana in August of 1898 at the Kroll Theatre in Berlin, and she sang Elisabeth in the 400th performance of Tannhäuser there. Soon after, she became a member of the Hofoper, making her debut as Santuzza, and remained there until 1908. Her international career was launched in Bayreuth, singing the role of Senta in 1901. At the Berlin in 1904, Destinn premiered in Leoncavallo’s Roland von Berlin. She appeared in the London premiere of Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera opposite Caruso in 1906. She was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera in 1908, and on 10 December 1910 she created the role of Minnie in the world premiere of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West. In 1916, Destinn left $100,000 in concert bookings behind when she impulsively returned to Bohemia to join her lover, the baritone Dinh Gilly (also see) who had been interned as an alien. In 1927 she appeared in Berlin, and gave her final concert in London 16 October 1928 at the age of 50. Her roles spanned a wide range, from Wagner’s Eva, Elsa, and Senta to Mozart’s Pamina and Donna Anna; Verdi’s Aida; Gounod’s Marguerite; Strauss’s Salome; Puccini’s Butterfly; and even Charpentier’s Louise. Destinn made six Edison Diamond Discs in December of 1911, three of which were published.

EDOARDO FATICANTI [baritone] 1880 (?)–Rome, 1955. Faticanti made his debut around 1906. His career continued through the late 1930s, and he was heard in most of Italy’s principal opera houses as well as in Germany, France, and South America. The first part of his career was in major baritone roles such as Amonasro, Escamillo, and Amfortas, all of which he sang at Teatro Costanzi, as well as premieres of works by Respighi and Malipiero. His La Scala debut was in Catalani’s Loreley, 1915, and he appeared there again (1927–1928 season) as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, Simon Mago in Boito’s Nerone, and Klingsor in Parsifal. Through the 1930s he added a number of buffo roles to his repertoire, and in 1931 he recorded excerpts from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore for Italian Columbia, singing the role of Dulcamara.

LUISA GARIBALDI [mezzo-soprano] Genoa, 1878 (?)–Genoa, 1917. A pupil of baritone Vittorio Carpi in Firenze, Garibaldi made her debut in Genoa in concert in 1899. It wasn’t until 1901 that she first appeared in opera, again in Genoa, in Verdi’s Nabucco. She subsequently traveled through Italy and was heard on the stages in Torino, Brescia, Milan’s Teatro Lirico, and Rome’s Teatro Costanzi. There she sang in the 1905 premiere of Dupont’s La cabrera, and during the following season, she sang in Franchetti’s La figlia di Jorio. At La Scala she was heard in several roles, including the Mother in the 1908 Italian premiere of Charpentier’s Louise, directed by Toscanini. She had considerable success in South America as well, appearing in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Montevideo. Her repertoire was varied, including Santuzza, Waltraute, and Nicklausse in Les contes d’Hoffmann. Despite the importance of her career, Garibaldi recorded only for Edison, and until now these sides were unpublished.

DINH GILLY [baritone] After studying in Toulouse, and then in Rome with Antonio Cotogni, Gilly won a premier prix at the Paris Conservatoire in 1902. One source places his debut as early as 1899 (Paris Opéra, a priest in Sigurd) while others cite 1902 (Paris Opéra, Silvio in Pagliacci). We do know that he sang at the Teatro Colón, as well as in Spain, Germany, and Monaco prior to his Metropolitan Opera debut in the 1909–1910 season. There he sang Sonora in the world premiere of La fanciulla del West (10 December 1910), Rigoletto, Di Luna, Amonasro, Lescaut (Manon), Albert (Werther), and other leading roles. In 1911 he made his Covent Garden debut as Amonasro and also sang Jack Rance (in the first London Fanciulla), Sharpless, Rigoletto, and Athanaël in Thaïs. In 1914 Gilly was detained in Austria during World War One. After the war he established a singing school in London. He was last heard in 1924 as the elder Germont at Covent Garden, and sang occasionally on British radio. Between 1908 and 1928 he made approximately 40 disc recordings for Beka, Odeon, HMV, and Victor. He recorded three Edison cylinders, which were published, but his two Edison discs (duets with Destinn) were not released.

MELITTA HEIM [soprano] Vienna, 1888–London, 1950. Heim was a student of Frau Schlemmer and Johannes Ressin in Vienna. She made her debut as Gilda in Graz, 1909. From 1911–1916 she was the leading coloratura at Frankfurt, and from 1917–1922 she appeared successfully with the Vienna Staatsoper. She sang as a guest at the Drury Lane Theatre in London in 1912 and returned as the Queen of the Night in 1914. Her repertoire included coloratura and lyric roles such as Lakmé, Lucia, Violetta, Mimi, and Leonora in Il trovatore, this last occasionally sung in that era by coloraturas. Some sort of nervous disability necessitated her retirement from the operatic stage in 1922. Being Jewish, she and her mother fled from Germany to England in 1938. Having no financial resources, Heim had to work for a period as a scrubwoman, but later became established as a voice teacher. Her commercial recordings were made in the later ’teens for Odeon. Two cylinders appeared on Edison, but her Edison Discs were not published.

FRIEDA HEMPEL [soprano] She made her professional debut in Breslau, and her Berlin debut in 1905 at the Royal Opera in Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. From 1905–1907 she was at the Court Opera in Schwerin, and from 1907–1912 she was a member of the Royal Opera in Berlin. Hempel was first heard at Covent Garden in 1907 in a double bill as Mozart’s Bastienne and Humperdinck’s Gretel, then as Eva and Mistress Ford (Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor.) From 1912–1919 she was on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her debut as Marguerite de Valois in on 27 December 1912. On 9 December 1913 she sang the Marschallin in the American premiere of Der Rosenkavalier, a role Richard Strauss had given her for the Berlin premiere almost two years previously. Her important London success came during Thomas Beecham’s Drury Lane season of 1914, when she sang the Queen of the Night, perhaps her most famous role. In 1919 she left the Metropolitan Opera, and on 6 October 1920, on the centenary of Jenny Lind’s birth, Hempel began giving a series of recitals in which she impersonated Jenny Lind. These concerts, in which she wore clothing from Lind’s time, were so successful that she continued to give them as well as other recitals until her retirement in 1951. Hempel made records for Odeon, HMV, Victor, Polydor, and Edison (both discs and cylinders).

HEINRICH HENSEL [tenor] Neustadt, Germany, 1874–Hamburg, 1935. A pupil of Gustav Walter in Vienna, Hensel made his debut in Freiburg in 1897. He then was secured by the Frankfurt Opera where he appeared through 1906. Tenure with the opera at Wiesbaden followed (1906–1911). At the Bayreuth Festival Hensel was heard as Parsifal and Loge. He was on the Metropolitan Opera roster in 1911–1912, singing Siegmund, Siegfried, Lohengrin, and Jenik in The Bartered Bride. Hensel sang with the Chicago Opera, as well as at Covent Garden 1911–1914, where he sang Wagnerian repertoire, including London’s first staged Parsifal in 1914. From 1912 through 1929 he was the leading Heldentenor of the Hamburg Opera. Hensel’s voice was captured by Pathé, the Gramophone Company, and Parlophon, but it was perhaps Edison who achieved the most sonically successful results.

VALENTIN JAUME [tenor] Arles, 1877–Arles, 1930. Jaume was one of the leading exponents of what was called the “fort ténor”, particularly appreciated in opera houses in the south of France. After graduating from the Marseille conservatorium, he was engaged in 1905 by the Capitol in Toulouse for leading roles such as Eléazar in La Juive. He also appeared at La Monnaie in Brussels, before being called to the Paris Opéra the following year to sing what would become his most famous role, Arnold in Guillaume Tell. In 1907 he performed this role in Marseille, where critics commented that, in spite of his lack of subtlety, he could do no wrong with the audiences who adored his high C taken off the chest (fit to shatter glass). He continued to perform in this theater until 1910 and later during the First World War, singing in L’Africaine, Le trouvère, Les Huguenots, and the local premiere of Nouguès’s Quo Vadis. He was also called to La Scala and Covent Garden, and it was in London that he made his Edison discs. His largest group of records was made for French Odeon.

PAOLA KORALEK [soprano] Budapest 1882–Viareggio, 1924. Entering the choir of the Budapest Royal Theater as a child, Koralek eventually studied with Hans Richter and Arthur Nikisch. Her debut was at the Royal Theater in 1900 in Goldmark’s Queen of Sheba. She moved to Italy in 1903 and made her debut there in December at the Ciabreta of Savona as Tosca. This, Aida, and Gioconda she declared as her preferred roles, although she just as frequently sang Maddelena in Andrea Chenier. In 1908 Koralek appeared at the Vittorio Emanuele of Messina. The terrible earthquake that destroyed the city occurred while she was performing Aida. The opera house collapsed, killing the tenor, Angelo Gamba, but she survived. In 1910 she traveled to Montevideo for a season, returning to Italy for performances throughout the provinces. She appears to have ended her operatic career around 1914. Her issued recordings were for Pathé in 1912 and included groups of excerpts from Mascagni’s Isabeau (9) and La gioconda (6). Of her Edison discs none was issued.

LUCETTE KORSOFF [soprano] Genoa, 1876–Brussels, 1955. Born in Italy of Russian parents, Korsoff’s father, a baritone, was the impresario of a touring opera company. He had changed the family name from Goering to Korsoff in tribute to Corsi, his voice teacher in Milan. Lucette made her debut at the age 16 in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and was granted a scholarship to study in Paris with Frédéric Boyer. A tour of Egypt with a French company followed in 1900, in which she sang Ophélie to Maurice Renaud’s Hamlet. He recommended her to the Opéra-Comique, where she was first heard as Lakmé, Marie (Fille du Régiment), Philine (Mignon), Micaëla (Carmen), and Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia). For the next 20 years she appeared internationally in the major lyric-coloratura roles, perhaps her most celebrated having been the Queen of the Night. Following her retirement in 1921 she taught first in Paris and then in Brussels, her pupils including Gina Cigna and Joseph Rogachewsky. Korsoff made numerous recordings for French HMV and a small number for the Aeolian Gramophone Company. Only one Edison recording was published and is included here.

MARIA LABIA [soprano] Verona, 1880–Como, 1953. Labia was born into Venetian nobility. Her grandmother had been an operatic singer and her mother a trained singer, with whom she studied. Her sister, Fausta, was also a noted soprano. Maria made her operatic debut in Stockholm, 1905, as Mimi in La bohème. In 1907 she had great success at the Berlin Komische Opera. She was similarly received at Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera, 1908–1910, the Vienna Opera, and many other important houses. She was La Scala’s first Salome (1913) and at Rome’s Costanzi she created Giorgetta in the 1919 Italian premiere of Puccini’s Il tabarro. While she recorded for Odeon in Germany, it was her Edison discs and cylinders that most effectively represented her voice. As is typical of Edison, not all of her discs were issued, although she fared better than many.

EMMI LEISNER [contralto] Flensburg, Germany, 1885–Kampen on Sylt, Germany, 1958. Leisner began her vocal studies with Helene Breest in Berlin. She was engaged as soloist by Karl Straube, the conductor of Leipzig’s world-famous Thomas Choir, where her success was enormous. Her career as an oratorio singer was born. In 1912 she sang Orphée in Jacques-Dalcroze’s famous and avant-garde production of Gluck’s opera at Hellerau. She was a member of the Berlin Opera (1913–1921) where she sang Amneris, Dalila, Brangäne, Fricka, and Erda. After 1922 she withdrew from the operatic stage and concentrated on Lieder and oratorio work. She gave concerts in all of the major German cities as well as in France, England, USA, Denmark, Sweden, and the Middle East. Especially impressive were her renditions of Schubert’s “Winterreise” and Brahms’s “Vier ernste Gesänge.” She also helped to popularize contemporary composers and was regarded as one of the best interpreters of Hans Pfitzner’s Lieder. In the oratorio category she was noted for her Bach and Handel interpretations. In 1939 Emmi Leisner moved to Kampen on the island of Sylt. She gave her last Lieder recital in 1948, and she spent the last years of her life passing on her vast experience to her pupils. On the occasion of her 65th birthday she received the specially created Schleswig-Holstein art award. Leisner recorded a few German Odeon discs at the beginning of her career, but most of her records were made for Deutsche Grammophon. None of her Edison discs was published.

UMBERTO MACNEZ [tenor] Pesaro, Italy, 1883–1947. A pupil of Felice Coen in his native Pesaro, Macnez made his debut in Buenos Aires, singing Count Almaviva to Luisa Tetrazzini’s Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He became identified with lyric roles such as Elvino in La sonnambula, the Duke in Rigoletto, and Beppe in L’amico Fritz. His Covent Garden debut was in 1910, followed by a season at Rome’s Costanzi, 1910–1911. At the Metropolitan Opera he was a leading tenor during the 1912–1913 season, singing eight roles, including the title part in the Met premiere of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. At La Scala he made his debut during the 1916–1917 season as Rabaud’s Marouf. He seems to have become less active in the 1920s, the last traced performance having been in Piacenza, 1927, as Alfredo in La traviata. Macnez made a few recordings for the Gramophone Company in 1910 and several sides for Edison. Only one of the latter group was commercially issued.

MARGARETE MATZENAUER [soprano/mezzo-soprano] Matzenauer’s father was a conductor and her mother was an opera singer.  She studied opera in Graz and Berlin, making her debut in 1901 as Puck in Weber’s Oberon at the Strassburg Stadttheater From 1904 to 1911 she was a member of the Munich Hofoper, appearing in both dramatic soprano and contralto roles in Italian and Wagnerian operas. She sang at Bayreuth in 1911, appearing as Waltraute, Flosshilde, and the Second Norn. She made her U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 13 November 1911 singing Amneris on opening night with Emmy Destinn as Aida, Enrico Caruso as Radames, Pasquale Amato as Amonasro, with Arturo Toscanini on the podium.  A few days later she sang Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde with Olive Fremstad as Isolde, Carl Burrian as Tristan, and Toscanini again conducting.  She sang 14 roles during her first season, among which was her first appearance anywhere as Kundry, on 1 January 1912, substituting for Olive Fremstad at a purported hour’s notice. She continued to perform at the Met for an additional 18 seasons until 1930 (17 February as Amneris), and was untouched by the Met’s boycott against German artists during the First World War despite her parents being Austrian.  During her tenure at the Met, she took part in many new productions and revivals, notably Fidelio, Samson et Dalila, Le prophète, and Jenu˚fa. had a photographic memory, and her musical knowledge and ability were outstanding. In addition to her Edison discs, Matzenauer recorded for HMV, Columbia, Pathé, and Victor.

CARMEN MELIS [soprano] Cagliari, Sardinia, 1885–Longone al Segrino, Italy, 1967. Melis’s original studies were in Milan and then in Paris with Jean de Reszke. She marked her stage debut as Massenet’s Thaïs in 1905, and she gained much attention for her portrayal of Mascagni’s Iris at the Teatro San Carlo in 1907. She next toured Russia, and in 1909 made her American debut as Tosca with Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera. This was followed by seasons with the Boston and Chicago companies. In 1913 she portrayed Minnie in the Paris Opéra premiere of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, sharing the stage with Caruso and Ruffo. She debuted at the Teatro Colón in 1917. Her career flourished through the 1920s at the Teatro Costanzi and La Scala, as well as in guest performances at various Italian houses and in 1929 at Covent Garden. In 1924 she was in the La Scala world premiere of Giordano’s La cena delle Beffe and in 1929, she recorded a complete performance of Tosca for the Italian Gramophone Company. She later taught, among her most prominent pupils being Renata Tebaldi. While Melis made several groups of records beginning in 1906, her largest output was of cylinders and discs for Edison, 1910–1913. A quantity were issued, but a number of effective performances were withheld from publication.

ROSA OLITZKA [contralto] Berlin, 1873–Chicago, 1949. Olitzka studied singing with Julius Hey in Berlin and with Desiréé Artôt de Padilla in Paris. In 1892 she made her operatic debut in Brünn, sang the role of the Page in Les Huguenots at Covent Garden (1894), joined Walter Damrosch’s German Opera Company in New York soon after, and was a member of the Metropolitan from 1895–1901. During this time, she traveled to St. Petersburg (1898), where she appeared at the Imperial Opera with great success. Although her chief roles were Wagnerian, she also sang in Faust, Les Huguenots, and in the first Metropolitan performance of The Magic Flute (30 March 1900). She was among the contraltos engaged for the opening season (1910–1911) of the Chicago Grand Opera Company. Olitzka recorded for G&T and American Columbia. Olitzka’s published Edison recordings include a number of two-minute cylinders and one Diamond Disc.

MARIE RAPPOLD [soprano] London, 1873–Los Angeles, 1957. Having appeared on stage in London as a child, Rappold later studied voice in New York with Oscar Saenger after her parents had emigrated to the U.S. Her debut was at the Metropolitan Opera as Sulamith in Goldmark’s Die Königin von Saba in 1905, and she performed an additional 23 roles, including Elsa, Euridice, Desdemona, Leonora in Il trovatore, and the Woodbird in Siegfried. She left the Metropolitan Opera in 1920. During the 1920s she appeared in Havana with the Chicago Opera. Rappold was an exclusive Edison artist, having begun with cylinders in 1906 and continuing on cylinders and then discs as one of Edison’s most popular sopranos. Her recorded repertoire ran the gamut from popular songs of the day and concert literature, through arias and duets from Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini operas. A surprisingly small number of her records are among the unissued Edison discs.

DOMENICO VIGLIONE-BORGHESE [baritone] Mondivi, Italy, 1877–Milan, 1957. He made his debut in Lodi, 1899, as the Herald in Lohengrin and appeared in various Italian houses through 1901. He then gave up his career and emigrated to the U.S. where he worked in San Francisco as a dock and railroad worker. He continued vocal studies and was heard by Caruso, who recommended the baritone to a touring troupe featuring Luisa Tetrazzini. Having great success with this company in the 1905–1906 season, he returned to Italy and, in 1907, made a second debut as Amonasro in Aida in Parma. He was so successful that he was soon appearing regularly at the Teatro Costanzi and at La Scala. While he was notable as Iago, Barnaba, Tonio, and most of the more dramatic Italian roles, he excelled as Jack Rance in Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, a role he had created for Italy at the Teatro Costanzi in 1911. His career continued until 1940. Viglione-Borghese’s records were for Fonotipia around 1914 and for Polydor a decade later, but his earliest recordings were 1911 Edisons that were all unpublished.

FRITZ VOGELSTROM [tenor] Herfort, Germany, 1882–Dresden, 1963. Despite a childhood involvement in stage activities, Vogelstrom planned on a career in business. His voice, however, was discovered while he was singing in an amateur male quartet. His first operatic appearance was in Mannheim, 1905, as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. He became most closely identified with Wagner and appeared in several Wagnerian roles at Bayreuth early in his career. From 1912 through 1929 he was a leading tenor in Dresden, participating there in the house premieres of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1912) and Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919). He was a guest in many German and Austrian houses, as well as at Covent Garden. After retiring, he taught. Vogelstrom was an energetic recording artist, having graced several labels, including Pathé, Parlophon, and Homocord. His Edison records, perhaps the most representative of his actual voice, were never published.

EDYTH WALKER [soprano/mezzo-soprano] Hopewell, New York, 1867–New York, 1950. Walker studied with Aglaia Orgeni in Dresden after years of teaching school and singing in a church choir. Her operatic debut (1894) was as Fidès in Le prophète at the Berlin Opera and at the end of the season she became a member of the Vienna opera, singing leading contralto roles and coaching with Marianne Brandt. In 1896 she sang Magdalena in the Vienna premiere of Wilhelm Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann and sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival (1901). She appeared throughout Europe before making her Metropolitan Opera debut (1903) as Amneris in Aida. Her roles ranged from Brünnhilde in Die Walküre to Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. As Leonora in La favorita (1905) she sang with Caruso, Scotti, and Plançon, which was one of her greatest achievements. After three seasons singing both soprano and mezzo roles, she terminated her contract with the Met to pursue European engagements. In 1908 she sang Ortrud (Lohengrin) and Kundry (Parsifal) in Bayreuth, and in the same year appeared as Isolde in London. She created Klytemnestra in the first London performance of Elektra at Covent Garden (1910), and in 1912 she joined the Munich Royal Opera and remained there until 1917. She then moved to Scheveningen, Holland. After retiring, she taught at the American Conservatory at Fountainbleau (near Paris) from 1933–1936, and subsequently gave private lessons in New York. She remained unmarried throughout her career, maintaining the view that an artist “should be wedded to her art.” Apart from tests for Edison in 1911, Walker recorded exclusively for the Gramophone Company from 1901 until 1910.

CAROLINA WHITE [soprano] Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1885–Rome, 1961. White began vocal studies at the age of 17 as a pupil of Weldon Hunt in Boston. She furthered her studies with Sebastiani and Roberti in Italy (1907), and with Paolo (Paul) Longone, whom she married and subsequently divorced. Her stage debut was as Gutrune in Götterdämmerung at the Teatro San Carlo, 1908. She appeared with the Boston and Chicago Operas from 1910–1914; she portrayed Minnie in the Chicago premiere of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West (15 days after the Met world premiere), and the title role in the American premiere of Wolf-Ferrari’s The Secret of Suzanne. Other roles she took included Elsa, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Salome in Massenet’s Hérodiade, Barbara in Victor Herbert’s Natoma, and Maliella in Wolf-Ferrari’s I gioielli della Madonna. While in Chicago, she complained of being overworked and underpaid, so in 1914, despite excellent reviews and not yet having reached 30 years of age, she left the operatic stage in favor of vaudeville. Her career slowly faded, one momentary flicker having been as Caruso’s co-star in his 1918 silent film, My Cousin. Her work in this film demonstrates a charming personality and considerable beauty. What became of her after 1918 isn’t known, other than that she died in Rome in 1961. While White made some records for Columbia (1911–1914) the only Edison recording published was a 1910 cylinder. A group of discs were made the same year, but all remained unissued.

We are pleased to present here a collection of 36 rare and unpublished disc recordings made almost a century ago under the supervision of Thomas A. Edison, the inventor of the phonograph. The sound archive at the Edison National Historic Site houses a collection of several hundred original test pressings of Edison disc recordings that for one reason or another were never released to the public. From this collection, we have chosen recordings based on the merit of the singing and the reputations of the various singers. Some are well known names such as Lucrezia Bori, Emmy Destinn, Frieda Hempel, and Emmi Leisner, while others were not so prominent but had substantial careers. In several cases, these Edison recordings are the only examples of their voices. We hope that the biographical sketches of the singers included here will provide informative reading as you listen.

Aside from the musical content of the recordings, what makes them so enjoyable is the sheer superiority of sound that Edison was able to achieve given the limitations of the acoustical recording process. Many of these discs were recorded between 1910 and 1913 when Edison was beginning to experiment with disc-recording. He made certain that every aspect of his recording technique was kept absolutely secret with no paper trail. Only Walter Miller, the head of the recording division, understood the entire process. Even today, no one really knows how Edison achieved a sonic clarity which was in many ways superior to the recordings of his competitors. His process was capable, for example, of reproducing sibilant sounds such as “s” and “ch”, which are almost always lacking on acoustic recordings. Edison was not as successful in capturing lower frequencies, thus his recordings tend to lack the depth sometimes heard on Gramophone Company recordings from the same period.

The Edison Company made disc recordings for nearly three years before any were published. In fact, out of the first 1000 disc recordings made by Edison, fewer than 25 were ever sold to the public. Why were so many records rejected? There are several reasons for this but they all center upon Edison’s personal involvement with the disc-recording project. Here it might be helpful to mention a few facts concerning Edison and his favorite invention, the phonograph.

In 1877, Thomas Edison was working under contract to the Western Union Company attempting to develop an alternative to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone that would circumvent Bell’s patents. The phonograph was actually an inadvertent byproduct of Edison’s experiments with sound transmission. His initial experiments used strips of waxed paper to capture sound vibrations, but his first recordings that could be played back were made on a rotating tinfoil cylinder with the embossing stylus making vertical vibrations. It is not a well known fact that Edison also conceived the idea of recording on to a tinfoil disc but did not pursue this option. After a flurry of initial publicity, Edison decided to put the phonograph aside since investors were eager for him to put his energy toward developing the incandescent light bulb. He saw this as an irresistible business opportunity, and he formed the Edison Electric Light Company. It wasn’t until January 1886 that he was able to resume work on the phonograph and thus, nearly a decade of potential sound documentation was lost to history. In the mid-1880s, Chichester Bell, a cousin of Alexander’s, and Charles Sumner Tainter began making improvements to the phonograph, which gave Edison added incentive to resume work on his invention. The tinfoil cylinder was replaced by one made of wax, which permitted the grooves to be cut into the surface. This improved cylinder could be played back numerous times and could be preserved for posterity. During the next several years, Edison dispatched agents to secure recordings of important celebrities in order to publicize his amazing invention. Thanks to them, we can hear recordings of such notable historic figures as Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Henry Irving, Florence Nightingale, P. T. Barnum, Arthur Sullivan, and even a few bars of Johannes Brahms at the piano. Recordings of pianist Hans von Bülow, conductor Theodore Thomas, and soprano Lilli Lehmann were also made but none of these has so far been found. This effort to gather important celebrity recordings was short-lived since Edison viewed the phonograph mainly as a dictation device to aid in business. There were, however, a few forward looking individuals who acquired phonographs from Edison and began making their own celebrity recordings. Notable among these were Henry Morton Stanley in England, Gottfried Ruben in Denmark, and Julius Block in Russia. It wasn’t until the late 1890s that Edison formed the National Phonograph Company and began issuing cylinders with musical content. Completely ignoring the possibility of recording great operatic singers and instrumentalists, Edison confined his repertoire to popular ditties and comic sketches. In those early days, there was no way to mass-produce cylinders except by recording the same selections over and over again. Additional copies could be rerecorded from one machine to another, but the process was extremely time consuming and yielded poor results.

Meanwhile, the 1890s saw the introduction of Emile Berliner’s gramophone, which recorded on to a flat disc with the cutting stylus making grooves with lateral vibrations. This system had several advantages over the cylinder, foremost of which was the ability to press multiple copies from a master disc. Berliner’s first discs were vastly inferior to phonograph cylinder recordings, but by 1900, such significant improvements in the recording and duplication process had been made that the gramophone began giving the phonograph serious competition. During the early years of the new century, the disc format increased in popularity and the major disc companies in Europe and America began recording many of the major operatic celebrities of the day. Not only could discs be mass-produced in whatever quantity was necessary, but the disc also had the advantage of a greater time duration. By 1903, the 12-inch disc had been introduced, which could hold four and a half minutes of music, compared with the two-minute limit of a typical cylinder. Edison solved the problem of cylinder duplication in 1902 with his “gold molded” cylinder and in 1905, he finally began producing two-minute operatic cylinders. Even though many of the big names had already signed contracts with disc companies, Edison managed to procure the services of some important singers such as Mary Garden, Florencio Constantino, Antonio Scotti, Mario Ancona, and Anton van Rooy. In an attempt to catch up to the disc companies, Edison introduced a four-minute cylinder in 1908 and within two years, he had added more name singers to his roster–Carmen Melis, Lucrezia Bori, Blanche Arral, Marie Delna, and Leo Slezak. These cylinders were the same size as the two-minute variety but with a greater number of grooves per inch thereby allowing for longer duration. Edison introduced a new line of phonographs that would play both two- and four-minute cylinders as well as an adapter for retrofitting existing two-minute machines. The new cylinder did not score an immediate success, however, since it proved to be extremely fragile and tended to wear quickly. The Edison Company continued to promote its new cylinders but it was becoming evident that the disc had gained ascendancy.

For some time, Walter Miller, director of Edison’s recording division, had been urging him to enter the disc market, but Edison had staunchly refused since he believed his cylinder to be the superior recording medium. While Edison was in Europe in 1909, Miller conducted some disc-recording experiments on his own, and when Edison returned, Miller finally convinced him to implement plans for a disc-recording project. Edison, now in his middle 60s and almost completely deaf, suddenly became keenly enthusiastic about developing his own brand of disc record. During the next five years, he invested an estimated two million dollars on research and development and began immersing himself in every aspect of the project. Edison’s discs were vertically cut and used the same size groove as the four-minute cylinder. This system gave Edison a potential advantage over his competitors since it allowed more time to be recorded per side, over four minutes on a ten-inch side and over seven minutes on a 12-inch side. Between 1910 and 1912, hundreds of discs were recorded, mostly ten-inch but some 12-inch sides as well. A seven-minute disc could have been a strong selling point for Edison over the competition, but oddly, Edison chose to issue only ten-inch discs. Thankfully however, some of the 12-inch masters were pressed for audition purposes and we are pleased to include some of these in this volume.

During these first years of disc-recording, Edison became increasingly interested in the musical content of his new recordings, despite the fact that he had little knowledge of music and no musical ability. In 1910, he purchased a set of the Grove Encyclopedia of Music and embarked upon a self-education program by reading up on all manner of musical subjects. He held strong and often eccentric opinions on music and especially on singing. He felt that only certain types of voices were appropriate for phonograph recording, with a particular distaste for what he called “tremolo.” He was extremely critical of many of the singers who made records for his company, and was reluctant to publish records which he personally disliked. An Edison representative was dispatched to Europe for the purpose of auditioning singers for the new label. Several hundred-test cylinders were recorded for Edison and his team to hear but despite the fact that many were excellent, none of these singers was chosen to record for the company. The best of these test cylinders can be heard on Marston’s The Edison Voice Trials (52025). Another example of Edison’s prodigious waste of talent and money is the acclaimed soprano, Aino Ackte. Edison published only one side out of the 30 recordings that she made for the company. It is a remarkable performance of the “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s Otello, beautifully sung and quite different from any other on record. Ironically, Edison’s dislike of so many of the voices he recorded may be the reason for the existence of the test pressings at the Edison archive. A case in point is Edith Walker’s recording of Brünnhilde’s Battle Cry from Die Walküre (CD 2 Track 15). After auditioning this recording, Edison disliked her voice so much that he considered the master to be expendable and used it to make an extra thick experimental pressing which he hoped would reduce acoustical resonances.

Edison was also often bothered by the sound of the orchestral accompaniment. He had the idea of using a harp combined with a few strings and perhaps a woodwind instrument such as a clarinet. Just imagine how difficult it must have been for the musical director to reduce operatic orchestral score to six or seven parts. Consequently, on some of the earliest recordings, the accompaniments are almost inaudible in places. It seems likely that his strange opinions may have resulted from his hearing deficiency and it would be fascinating to know exactly how much Edison could actually hear at this point in his life. As the years passed, he seems to have given up on the harp idea and permitted the musical decisions to be made by others more qualified.

Late in 1912, Edison introduced his first disc phonograph and the initial offering of his “diamond disc” records. These discs bore etched rather than paper labels and were composed of two celluloid discs laminated on both sides of a thick center core made of compressed wood shavings. Edison was convinced that a thick disc would help to deaden undesirable resonances. These first Edison discs played quite smoothly with little surface noise but within a year or so, customers complained that the edges of the discs were curling away from the core making them impossible to play. A new formula was developed, which proved to be more stable but the resultant discs were quite noisy compared to the first issue. During the 1920s, the etched label was replaced by paper and the pressing material was greatly improved. With the advent of electrical recording in 1925, Edison was unwilling to experiment with the new technology and stubbornly continued recording and issuing acoustic discs and cylinders. It wasn’t until late 1927 that Edison finally adopted electrical recording, and in October 1929, the record division of Thomas A. Edison Inc. went out of business.

Since 1956, Edison’s laboratory and home in West Orange, New Jersey have been designated a National Historic Site under the aegis of the United States National Park Service. There, much of the equipment that Edison himself used for research and experimentation still exists and every effort is being made to restore all of the buildings to their original state during Edison’s time. Housed at the Site are the Edison paper archive, comprising approximately five million documents. The most relevant of these are being microfilmed and gradually will be available through the Internet. The most important documents, together with commentary and analysis, are also being published in book form.

The Edison National Historic Site also contains a large collection of Edison’s cylinder and disc recordings as well as phonograph related artifacts. The Site has made it possible for us to issue important Edison recordings. Gerald Fabris, curator of the Edison museum and sound archive has taken great care to provide us with state of the art transfers using first-rate equipment. A great deal of experimentation has gone into the proper choice of styli to be used, which has made a tremendous difference in achieving optimum sonic reproduction. In the remastering process, I have taken care to reproduce each recording at score pitch except for two recordings by Lucrezia Bori, which were transposed down a semi-tone and duly noted in the table of contents. I have applied just enough digital processing to reduce the high level of surface noise found on many of these discs, but never so much as to interfere with vocal timbre and nuance. I have also made every effort to reduce the mid-range hum that is prominently audible on some of the earlier recordings.

Over the next few years, the Edison National Historic Site will continue to make digital transfers of their archived material. We are keenly enthusiastic about this project and as additional Edison material becomes available, we look forward to producing further offerings in our Edison Legacy series.

For further reading on this subject I recommend an article titled, “Edison and the Diamond Disc,” by Angus Joss, American Record Guide, vol. 14, no. 4, December 1947, pp 99 – 103 and vol. 14, no. 5, January 1948, pp 139 – 143.