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date: 22 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers three moments in the long relationship between sound recording and operatic canon. In the first, around 1902, the American Victor Talking Machine Company used the acoustically-recorded voice of the tenor Enrico Caruso to help “canonize” (or lend respectability to) what was then a very new form of entertainment. In the second, in the 1920s, Victor and its rival Columbia exploited the new techniques of electrical recording to make recordings of Wagner, and these and other recordings were marketed as part of a larger canon of classical-music “Masterpieces.” In the third, around 1952, newcomer EMI used tape and LP technology to produce one of the first large bodies of complete opera recordings, many of them featuring the soprano Maria Callas and an expanded Italian canon, from Pergolesi to Menotti. This chapter is paired with Hugo Shirley’s “Opera on film and the canon.”

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