From a vault in Paris: The sound of opera in 1907
By Alan Riding / Herald-Tribune / Feb. 16
PARIS: On Dec. 24, 1907, a group of bewhiskered men gathered
in the bowels of the Paris Opera to launch a project which,
by definition, they could never see to fruition. First, 24
carefully-wrapped wax records were placed inside two lead
and iron containers. These were then sealed and locked away
in a small storage room, with instructions that they remain
undisturbed for 100 years.
The man behind this musical time-capsule was Alfred Clark,
a New Yorker who headed the London-based Gramophone Company
and provided the records. And, in truth, once the ceremony
was over, he had achieved his primary objective of drawing
attention to his company and to the new flat disc records
that it was promoting to compete with better known cylinder
"I know of no other case where a commercial firm has obtained
so much free publicity as we have," he wrote to a colleague
two days later.
The Paris Opera displayed a more elevated sense of history.
Through this selection of opera arias and instrumental
pieces, it announced, future generations could discover the
musical taste and the quality of sound recording of the
early 20th century.
French officials also predicted radical changes in recording
technology. So, in 1912, when they added 24 records and
two more containers to the trove, they included a new
hand-cranked gramophone, along with instructions on how it
worked and a score of spare stylus needles.
The 100 years were up more than a year ago and, after lengthy
examination, cleaning and digitizing of the records, EMI,
the heir to the Gramophone Company, is reissuing them in
three CD's. The collection will be released in France later
this month as "Les Urnes de l'Opera" and in the United
States in early April with the English subtitle, "Treasures
from the Paris Opera Vaults." <snip>
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