The Voice | The Recorded Voice | Modern Era | Opera
The advent of recordings certainly made opera accessible to many more people than ever before, and Enrico Caruso (1873–1921) was single-handedly responsible for the proliferation of his art via this medium. By the end of his life, he had made over 250 recordings. When the film world finally developed talkies, opera once again stepped to the fore, both to entertain the uninitiated and also to record for posterity the performances of renowned artists; some at the height of their career, others clearly on the decline. While singers such as Leo Slezak (1873–1946), Beniamino Gigli (1890–1957) and Ezio Pinza (1892–1957) were featured on film and achieved fame thanks to their exposure in the popular arena, other opera luminaries were the subject of newsreels and popularized on the radio. Meanwhile, artists such as Maria Callas (1923–77), Herbert von Karajan and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915–2006) also owe their fame in part to exposure through recordings – not of stage performances, but those conceived to encapsulate a presence and artistry.
Ultimately, recordings shifted from being historical documents to being an art form unto themselves. At the centre of this revolution was EMI record producer Walter Legge. Consequently, today’s operaphile has an extensive catalogue of recorded works from which to select, whether purchased for historical, educational or entertainment purposes.
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