La Valkyrie in Paris

M. Delmas & Miss Bréval in the Valkyrie at the Opera: the theater of Cappiello

Caricatures of Lucienne Bréval and Jean-François Delmas in their costumes from La Valkyrie.

Théâtrophone Program for November 12-14, 1904 (p. 4)<br />

Page 4 from the Thêâtrophone program from the week of November 12th, 1904. Notice that on Monday the 14th La Valkyire is playing at the Opéra.

An important aspect of the théâtrophone to understand is the consumer who used it. The cost of installing a théâtrophone was not inexpensive; one would have to buy not only the console with which they would choose what line to listen to, but also front the cost of installing the wires that ran from the transmission station to their home. This made the actual pool of consumers who could afford such a luxury very small. In fact, it is quite safe to assume that someone who had that sort of money was also someone who regularly attended the opera, as it was the social event above all others. So when consumers tuned into an opera performance from their homes it was more than likely that they had attended a performance of the opera previously. This becomes an important factor when trying to recreate the experience of listening to the théâtrophone broadcast of La Valkyrie (sometimes spelled La Walkyrie) in 1904. 

 It was not until 1891, a full 30 years after the Tannhauser incident, that Wagner’s operas were finally produced on France's national stage. It began with Lohengrin, quickly followed by La Valkyrie (a French translation of Die Walküre) in 1893. This trend continued for quite some time; the last opera to be added to the repertoire was Tristan in 1904. Once the operas had been performed they joined the regular repertoire of the Opéra and were worked into normal seasons just as any other work would be. That being said there would not have necessarily been a plethora of performances of La Valkyrie before 1904 with which the French people could have become familiar with the full opera. However, this was not the only way in which Parisians consumed Wagner’s music. Beginning in 1876 the Bayreuth Festival was founded and quickly became a sizable social event for French musicians and upper-class citizens. The festival was Wagner’s own, the productions his own creation, giving the audience the most authentic experience. Parisians also had a multitude of ways to consume Wagner’s music in their own city as well. Wagnerite salons and department store orchestras often played orchestra excerpts from his operas on a daily basis. Thus the strong possibility exists that even if a théâtrophone owner had not seen the 1893 production at the Palais Garnier that they still would have been familiar with the music and possibly the singers. 


Spotts, 1996.