Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The first recording made of the Sextet from the opera Lucia in 1908...It was unlike any record issued before.. It cost more than any other

On the back of the record it has this tag that states the record sells for $7.00

See the translation "What Restrains Me" This is the record in its first printed form. It is a 1908 pressing. To think how much this record sold for. It is beyond belief.

In 1903 when the Victor Talking Machine Company decided to do celebrity recordings. They came with quite a price. In the case of their top singers the records would have a price of $2.00 for a 10" one sided Red Seal record and $3.00 for a 12" one sided record.

(See a story on this blog on first of these records in 1903 here from November 2006)

These were amazingly expensive prices! In 1906 the company issued it first duet recording between Caruso and Scotti. It brought about a dilemma..How much do we charge for 2 singers? It was decided to charge $4.00 for 2 great singers on one 12" record.

In 1907 Nellie Melba the world famous soprano made a duet with Caruso. Now Melba's records had always sold for $5.00.

(You will see a story on her label in this blog from November 2006)

So how much can you charge with Caruso? Well they stuck with $5.00 as that was a princely sum in those days.

Later that year the Victor company recorded the Quartet from Rigoletto. Now they had a bigger problem? How much do we charge for 4 singers on the same record? They settled on the amazing price of $6.00!!!
The public looked on in amazement at these crazy prices..But what was more, the public was actually paying them!

Finally in 1908 they recorded the Sextet from Lucia. Once again the powers that be made some radical choices. Since it was a Red Seal Record and contained the voices of 6 great singers, there was no choice to ask nothing less than $7.00 for the record!!!!!!! Now in the transposing of inflation and the value of the dollar that adds up to around $379.00 for a one sided record that played for 4 minutes!

What an amazing price. Everyone said it would never sell..But it turned out to be one of the great sellers for the company. It brought everyone out to look at a record that could cost so much.

One has to recall that $7.00 was the average salary for a weeks work in 1908. So the Victor Company was selling a record that cost a weeks salary. Well the record as I mentioned sold quite well as it had an air of the snob factor.

One great joke did come out of this recording. It came from the record catalog. It seems the translation of the sextet was just too good to not use in a joke. Here is how it was listed in the Victor catalog.

96200 Lucia Sextet Chi mi frena (What Restrains Me) $7.00

What restrains me....$7.00 does!!!

It seems it did not restrain too many, but it was the first record of the sextet and it led the way for the next 10 years of outrageous prices for records by Victor. It was not till 1922 that Victor killed the one sided celebrity record. By then the Sextet was selling for 2 dollars with the Rigoletto Quartet on the other side.