The Mapleson Cylinders - Program Notes
by David Hamilton
In the following notes, the headings identify each selection with the words of the original libretto, even when the recording is sung in a translation; this is to assist listeners working with scores in the original languages. (The librettos themselves give the texts as sung.) Words before the beginning or after the end of the recording are bracketed. Following the identification of the selection are listed the performers; solo singers are listed if their roles are specified by the score as taking part, although in ensemble passages they may not be individually audible or identifiable. Standard abbreviations for vocal ranges are used: soprano (s), mezzo-soprano (ms), alto (a), tenor (t), baritone (b), and bass (bs). The heading concludes with the date of the performance recorded.
As suggested in the essays above, the dating and ascription of some of the cylinders is problematic. In the following notes, below the date of the recording, in brackets, is indicated the evidence for that date. There are three basic forms of direct evidence. "Snake" means that a printed cast list (from the long sheets on which the Met formerly published its weekly programs) is attached to (or enclosed within) the cylinder container; sometimes these also have annotations in Mapleson's hand. "Slip" refers to the handwritten slips that Mapleson sometimes inserted inside the cylinders. "Glackens" refers to the Glackens/Bishop inventory of the cylinders held by Seltsam, and is followed by the item number in that list. Unless otherwise qualified, the presence of one or more of these terms indicates that such a source confirms the date given above. On occasion, the evidence for dating involves Mapleson's recording speeds, details of which will be found in the table in Appendix A below; it was noted, during the re-recording and pitching process, that cylinders from the same performance were often -- though not invariably -- recorded by Mapleson at the same mandrel speed. When the reasoning behind an ascription is complex, and when the ascription remains conjectural, more extensive details are given. As will be seen, only a handful of ascriptions are significantly problematic. The present ascriptions represent more than a year of second and third thoughts, based both on repeated listening in connection with preparing the disc masters and on considerable supplementary research. The inevitable typographical errors that crept into the initial publication of detailed findings in the 1982 and 1983 Recorded Sound articles have been carefully corrected.
It was initially planned to reprint translations from librettos of the Mapleson period, but this finally proved unsatisfactory. The old librettos often omit passages included in the recordings, and the translations were often very far from the literal (the chorus from Ero e Leandro was simply bowdlerized!); a few of them have been retained, others modified or replaced by fresh translations. However, we consider that the primary purpose of the texts presented here is to assist listeners -- especially those without access to scores -- in following the recordings. We assume that most listeners to the Maplesons will already be conversant with the stories and librettos of works such as Aida, Carmen, and Faust, though for the relatively unfamiliar works we have provided more detail. Thus, in the librettos we have sometimes summarized inaudible subsidiary parts in ensembles, concentrating on giving the words that belong to the most audible lines. Especially in less familiar works and/or dimmer recordings, complex text repetitions have been written out. A particular effort (not entirely successful) was made to locate the Italian words sung by the chorus in French and German operas; these do not always correspond to what is sung in every detail (no doubt because of the continuing ad hoc modification that translations undergo in opera houses), but they serve to demonstrate convincingly that Italian, not the original, is being sung. What follows might thus be more accurately described as "road maps" than as straightforward librettos. Words omitted at the beginnings and ends of recordings are bracketed; when several cylinders cover the same ground, arrows indicate starting and stopping points. Asterisks indicate performance cuts (musical cuts that involve no textual omissions are noted in the synopsis preceding the libretto); related but discontinuous segments within a band are indicated by letters: (a), (b), etc. (When the omissions are very brief, the libretto runs continuously, brackets indicating the lines missing in the recording.)
Needless to say, these notes rely enormously on the documentation accumulated by David Hall during the original transfer project, and on generous advice from him and from John Stratton during all phases of the preparation of the disc edition.