The Victrola at Wanamaker's 1910 "Parsifal" Lecture

Famous Opera Voices Illustrated with Lantern Slides


By Doug Boilesen 2024

In the Egyption Hall at Wanamaker's Department Store in New York City a lecture was given on "Wagner's consecrational musical play, Parsifal." "The opera was illustrated with lantern slides and the voices of world famous singers reproduced through the medium of the Victrola and accompanied by the organ, piano, and violin. A large and representative audience was present and became most enthusiastic over the lecture."


The Talking Machine World, March 15, 1910


Wanamaker's Egyptian Hall in Philadelphia, postcard 1911 (Note: I continue to look for a picture of the Egyptian Hall in Wanamaker's, NY).


Although The Victor Book of the Opera didn't begin publishing until 1912 its section on Wagner's "Parsifal" is a good example of how the story in the opera's drama and its music might have been heard in the lecture by the Rev. Henry R. Rose at Wanamaker's. Illustrations similiar to the ones below may also have been used as lantern slides for the lecture.

Since this was a lecture that used a Victrola for phonograph music it's highly likely that the respective songs from "Parsifal" in the lecture would have been records from the Victor Talking Machine Company (which Wanamaker's would have been selling in 1910 as they were an important account for the Victor Talking Machine Company).


The Victor Book of the Opera for 1912




LISTEN to Mme. Matzenauer's "Ich sah' das Kind" Victor Record 88364, 1912 (Library of Congress). (Note: I have not located a record with this title by Victor prior to 1912 but have neverthless used Matzenauer as an example of famous opera stars who could have been featured in the lecture).



Act 3 (Char-Freitags Zauber) by Herbert Witherspoon, Victor Record 74144, 12-inch, $1.50 (listed in Victor New Records Catalog for January 1910)


LISTEN to Victor Record No. 74144 (Courtesy of UC Santa Barbara Library DAHR)



Victor Record 31242 12-inch and Victor Record 31735 12-inch (listed in Victor New Records Catalog for January 1910)


Read the entire section on "Parsifal" in The Victor Book of the Opera for 1912.


Wanamaker's carried other phonograph's besides Victor's as seen in the following page from their Department Store 1910 Spring Catalog.


Phonograph's page from Wanamaker's Department Store, Spring Catalog 1910. (The Smithsonian, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia, PA. 1910).