Music: Voices from the Past

It was just after the turn of the century, in the golden age of U.S. opera. On the stage of the Metropolitan the great Australian-born Soprano Nellie Melba was singing Marguerite's spinning-wheel aria in Gounod's Faust. In midphrase Nellie was interrupted by the clatter of half a dozen wax cylinders which smashed down one after the other from the fly floor high above the stage. There, in brown suit and wing collar, crouched a spidery little man over an Edison cylinder gramophone with a horn almost as big as he was. Although he lost...

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