The Victor Book of the Opera

Featuring Geraldine Farrar in Victor's 1921 Edition


The Victor Talking Machine Company published The Victor Book of the Opera from 1912 - 1976.

The 1921 edition used in this gallery included the "Stories of Seventy Grand Operas." Geraldine Farrar is used as an example of how opera recording stars were featured in promoting opera, opera records and the respective Victor recording artists.


Illustration from a 1923 Victrola magazine ad for the Victor Record Catalog.


The foreward to the 1912 first edition of The Victor Book of the Opera exemplifies how the Victor Company combined its advertising and the 'education' of the public by publishing their book of opera stories with its illustrations, descriptions and record catalogues.

“During the recent season several hundred performances of grand opera, at an estimated cost of millions of dollars, were given in the United States. This great outlay for dramatic music alone would not have been possible had it not been for the increased interest aroused in opera by the widespread distribution by the Victor during the past ten years of hundreds of thousands of grand opera records, at varying prices… For every person who cannot attend the opera there are a hundred who cannot. However, many thousands of lovers of the opera in the latter class have discovered what a satisfactory substitute the Victor is, for it brings the actual voices of the great singers to the home, with the added advantage that the artist will repeat the favorite aria as many times as may be wished, while at the opera one must usually be content with a single hearing…”

The shrewdness of The Victrola Book of the Opera publication was observed in a review of the 1924 edition by William Braid White for Talking Machine World and quoted here by Allan Sutton from his 2008 work Recording the Twenties: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1920-29.

“Here is something which even the veriest moron can understand, but which is not unworthy of the attention of the most learned music lover. Every sale of this book, in fact, means that one more man or woman has been started on the way to become an enthusiastic buyer of Victor Records. The Victor Book of the Opera is not only a fine piece of artistic propaganda, but a very shrewd piece of publicity; and the best of it is that every party to it reaps a profit from its existence.” (Courtesy of Library of Congress and Allan Sutton, Mainstream Press).

Foreward from the 1913 edition The Victor Book of the Opera.

"This Book the First of Its Kind" -- "we think that in no other book on opera can be found all of these features," i.e., the nine listed features including "more than five hundred portraits and pictures, making it the most completely illustrated book on opera ever published."


An Interactive "The Victrola Book of the Opera"

The Library of Congress has published an interactive edition of 1919 The Victrola Book of the Opera which has links for to nearly every song in the book.


This 1919 edition of the Victrola Book of the Opera describes more than 110 operas, and is reproduced as an interactive digital facsimile. It includes plot synopses and lists of recordings the Victor Talking Machine Company offered in 1919. In addition to reading the original text, you can listen to nearly every recording listed in the book and even compare different interpretations of the most popular arias of the period. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)



The Internet Archive has also published the Victor Book of the Opera series starting with the 1912 edition.


Geraldine Farrar, 1921

Opera stories, illustrations and the marketing of the respective Victor Opera Records appeared in The Victrola Book of the Opera. The following examples feature Geraldine Farrar as seen in Victor's 1921 edition of the book.

La Bohême by Puccini

La Bohême, Act III, p. 26


La Bohême pp. 30-31



Carmen by Bizet

Carmen p. 38






Faust by Gounod

Faust, p. 98


Faust, p. 111


Faust, p. 113


Madame Butterfly by Puccini

Madame Butterfly p. 209


Madame Butterfly p. 211


Madame Butterfly p. 211


Madame Butterfly p. 212




Manon by Massenet

Manon, p. 220


Manon, p. 226


Mefistofele by Boito

Mefistofele, p. 252


Mefistofele, p. 255


Pagliacci by Mascagni

Pagliacci, p. 288


Rigoletto by Verdi

Rigoletto, p. 336


Romeo et Juliette by Gounod

Romeo et Juliette, p. 350


Romeo et Juliette, p. 354



Tannhäuser by Wagner

Tannhäuser, p. 382


Tannhäuser, p. 386



Tosca by Puccini

Tosca, p. 395


Tosca, p. 397


La Traviata by Verdi

La Traviata, p. 398


Werther by Massenet

Werther, p. 425


Zaza by Leoncavallo

Zaza, p. 433



Victor published monthly record catalogs which included opera records but The Victor Book of the Opera was targeted for potential opera lovers listing Victor records available for purchase for every opera in its book.

"The music of all the world is in the Victor Record Catalog." 1923


The Columbia Graphophone Company did not offer anything comparable to Victor's Book of the Opera. Like Victor and other record companies Columbia had record catalogs and called their Columbia Records catalog an "encyclopedia of the world's best music, new and old." Every page was said to be full of fascinating suggestions with "all the joy of anticipation."

Columbia's "big message for music lovers"? "All the music of all the world is yours on the Columbia Grafonola."