Opera Stars of the Edwardian Era

In the Metropolitan Opera House - scene from Die Meistersinger. (1898)

The Edwardian era was the apex of the Golden Age of Opera, which roughly dated between the 1880s and the early 1930s. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life crammed into opera houses across the globe to weep and clasp their hands to the thrilling sounds of top opera stars, and the top Edwardian hostesses vied for their services in their homes–at any cost. Luckily for us, many of their voices were preserved on a newfangled invention: the phonograph (or gramophone). Here are a few selections.

Pol Plançon (Bass)

– “Elle ne m’aime pas” From Verdi’s Don Carlos

Enrico Caruso (Tenor)

– “O Sole Mio” music by Eduardo di Capua and lyrics by Giovanni Capurro

Victor Maurel (Baritone)

– “Era la notte” From Verdi’s Otello

Eleonora de Cisneros (Mezzo-Soprano)

– “Ah, quel giorno” From Gioachino Rossini’s Semiramide

Nellie Melba (Soprano)

– “Ah, Fors E Lui” From Verdi’s La Traviata’

Ada Crossley (Contralto)

– “Caro mio ben” (Tommaso Giordani)

Lillian Nordica (Dramatic Soprano)

– two versions of “Suicidio!” from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, the first recorded in 1906 (unpublished, later released as a dub on IRCC) and the second in 1911, both for Columbia Phonograph Company.


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3 replies on “Opera Stars of the Edwardian Era”
  1. says: Cynthia White

    I know these recordings were made during the very early years, but I’m not as crazy for some of the voices. Guess we have come a long way with vocal coaching/training and with the whole process of capturing the best performances.

  2. says: Jean Collen

    Thank you for this interesting post. These recordings were made in the pre-electric era, when a singer had to do the entire aria in one take. I think singers in the Edwardian era could compare favourably with today’s singers but the reason singers sound better today is because recording techniques are far more advanced today.

  3. says: hels

    “Vied for services in their homes”?
    Does that mean that opera stars would hire themselves out by the hour/evening, to sing at private dinner parties?
    How would a hostess go about getting a Caruso or a Melba to come?

    My mind is racing with new ideas 🙂

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