Operatic Cylinders from the William R. Moran Collection


Collector and discographer William R. Moran was not interested in cylinders in particular, but because of his interest in opera he assembled a fine collection of operatic cylinders, many of which are quite rare and have never been issued in any other format. Some, including the rare Mary Garden cylinders, are believed to have been from the collection of the brother of singer Jean Périer (Debussy's first Pelléas) and found their way to Mr. Moran's collection through William Hogarth of Australia. A selection of 35 operatic cylinders from Mr. Moran's collection are gathered together for this playlist, featuring some of the most well known voices of the day and giving a broad representation of the typical operatic repertoire of 100 years ago, which remains largely the same today.

These cylinders date primarily from 1906 to 1913, a brief period from shortly before the four-minute cylinder was introduced (which was much more suitable for opera) until the gradual decline of cylinders in the teens as discs became more popular. While opera singers that recorded primarily on cylinder are much more obscure than their counterparts who recorded on disc, some do not deserve this status. Singers who also recorded on disc, such as Leo Slezak and Antonio Scotti, are still well known today.

—David Seubert, UC Santa Barbara, Curator/Performing Arts