The Mapleson Cylinders are a group of more than 100 phonograph cylinders recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera, primarily in the years 1901–1903, by the Met librarian Lionel Mapleson (a nephew of impresario James Henry Mapleson).
The cylinders contain short fragments of actual operatic performances from the Italian, German and French repertoires. Despite their variable quality of sound (some are quite good while others are nearly inaudible), the cylinders have great historical value thanks to the unique aural picture they document of pre-World War I singers in performance at an opera house with a full orchestra. Other contemporary recordings only capture singers as recorded with piano or a tiny orchestra in a boxy commercial recording studio. The Mapleson cylinders also feature the only recordings known to exist of a number of famous singers and conductors who were never recorded commercially. They include legendary tenor Jean de Reszke, soprano Milka Ternina, and conductor Luigi Mancinelli.
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