American in New York opera’s golden era
The author’s discovery of Orville Harrold took a long time, despite Orville being a first cousin to the author’s grandfather. Their respective fathers were brothers John and Jonathan Harrold, both having wives named Emma, who shared for a period a side-by-side duplex on South Madison St. in Muncie, Indiana. (Mail got confused here.) Yet, scant lore along this family branch had left unclear what Orville had accomplished. Meanwhile, six decades had nurtured personal suspicions that few mothers’ children were among the most brilliant born, and that rarely did ancestral family heroes own castles or save America. There was thus no headlong rush toward disappointment.
A glimmer appeared one Sunday evening in 1985, as the author’s sister listened to NPR while driving toward Chicago. An operatic piece was described as having first been performed in New York during the early 1920’s, with principal tenor Orville Harrold. There was even a brief discussion of him. Life’s diversions continued into the internet era, until a chance encounter during vacation sparked idle online digging. While he had not saved America, encouraging results suggested that Orville had journeyed from mid-west garage band to lead tenor of the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Skeptic’s questions remained as to how this could have happened, and whether the guy was for real. A country lad from 19th century Indiana would likely wile away his life without becoming operatic. Indeed, Orville never attended an opera until several years after he was married. While such a mid-life turn seemed improbable, Orville Harrold was no fluke, fad, or fraud. He was involved continuously with music, from a young age, where trained ears recognized and coached vocal talent and musical aptitude. From the time he first encountered opera’s outermost fringe, neither side could resist their gravitational attraction. Mutual desire gradually and inevitably coaxed their worlds to merge.
Opera is abstruse to many of us. It can simultaneously seem stilted and pretentious, yet appear a corny and melodramatic men-in-tights pageant that is difficult to take seriously. Despite either view, opera is a refined vocal art having well-established standards of excellence. Music being an ancient human expression, there have long been trained musicians who understood what they were hearing, and who were an integral part of even a rudimentary education. Among the early outsiders to encourage Orville was a music educator out in Kansas. There was a chance that Orville must have offered something genuine.
While starting late, Orville arrived at an opportune time for an American in opera. There was luck in the timing, but the talent was innate and he was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed. There were costs to such upheavals, and along the way he required sponsors, mentors, and saviors. Subsequent trials and triumphs were akin to some operatic sagas. Over it all, he seemed to maintain a practical optimistic outlook and an enjoyment of life. He remained a friendly plainspoken mid-westerner of affable character.
Stories of Orville’s upbringing and experiences, from various interviews, newspaper sketches, and obituaries, likely merge fact and fiction. As an old Indiana farm boy Orville maintained a simple persona, as an entertainer he appreciated a good story, and as an opera performer he lived with drama. While his stories made good press, they likely mirrored real events in his life, or in lives close to his. Also, the majority of interviews and memoir articles were published during the 1920’s, well after many of the reported events, so that there may have been some distortion over time and retelling, plus confusion regarding exact dates and sequences. The author has endeavored to present a reasonable and factual accounting, without assuming that recorded stories are completely correct. The intent is a realistic presentation of Orville’s life and career, which is amply fascinating without fiction, glorifications, or apologies.
Opportunities have certainly been lost to delays in starting this. Orville’s older daughter, Patti, lived to 100, dying in 1999. His son, who traveled some with him, would also have been available, and his grandchildren have dispersed some excellent records in recent years. On the other hand, Patti may not really have been accessible, and in any event, the author may well have never found the family before the internet era. Twenty-first century internet has been indispensable in building even an incomplete chronology of Orville’s life, and filling in information regarding surrounding people, places, and events. While numerous of his 78 rpm Victor recordings survive, and even some of his earlier cylinder records, few of us are equipped to play them. Far more convenient are modern digitized recordings that can be down loaded online. It is only through recently available resources that a full and colorful picture of Orville Harrold’s worlds has been possible, and the intent is for this story to likewise be freely available on the web.
A fortunate turn, for which the author is immensely appreciative, is that Orville’s grandchildren have been open and generous in sharing information, data, and recollections. These include photos, letters, playbills, items from the scrapbook and photo album of Orville’s first wife, Effie Kiger, and items from the scrapbook of Orville’s daughter, Patti Harrold. Patti’s scrapbook is actually that of her father’s, which became somewhat sketchy after about 1917. The grandchildren have provided irreplaceable family insights and lore that would otherwise have been lost, and when the following refers to family lore it is from this source. A host of information and insights also came from Nancy A. Locke, granddaughter of Orville’s second wife, Lydia Locke. Nancy had fortunate access to another trove of family information that provided many important facts and pointers. Finally, thanks to William T. Martin, who encouraged the author that Orville’s career was worthy of researching, and added a number of valuable clues on where to look.
The following provides references only for data related directly to Orville and his personal circumstances, and not for general history, period background, or even family genealogy, which is surprisingly web accessible. General background is easily verifiable, and records from several family branches corroborate the genealogy. New York Times articles are from the Times online database. Unlike reviewing hardcopy or newspaper microfilms, this is researched using key words, so that NYT references do not mention page and column for the articles. Some newspaper articles and items from family scrapbooks are not directly identified or attributed, although dates can be reasonably well inferred by context. This is especially, and frustratingly, true for Patti’s scrapbook from her father, for Orville virtually never retained the publisher and date of newspaper clippings, being as he was already personally familiar with them.
Orville’s life evolved from mid-west small-town culture to world-capital grand opera. While these are seemingly polar opposites, his hometown was not so isolated or primitive as might be imagined. First is to clarify what is meant by mid-west. Where the old National Road leaves Wheeling, West Virginia and crosses the Ohio River, it leaves behind Pennsylvania’s mountains and enters a broad expanse of flat lands extending to the Rocky Mountains. For purposes here, the mid-west starts at the Ohio River, where begins a vast farming region that cultivated a host of small towns. With the land primarily for farming, towns were spaced according to how far farmers could conveniently travel, and were only large enough for commerce to support their limited region.
Bountiful agriculture assured that these towns were generally prosperous, with active economies and attractive residences built by both townspeople and retired farmers. While many in America’s westward migration preferred river routes, at least to the Mississippi, the National Road (essentially 20th century Route 40, paralleled later by I-70) was the primary northern land route, starting at Cumberland, Maryland and connecting state capitals of Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana on its way to Vandalia, Illinois. A primary conduit for westbound caravans of Conestoga wagons, the road was a source of commerce, cultural exchange, and new residents. Adjacent towns filled with a spectrum of cultures, and over the 19th century accumulated a variety of industries, such as producer gas plants for street illumination and a myriad of manufactured products ranging from apple peelers to windmills. The growing railroad network provided additional industry, exchange, growth, and communication.
The 1840’s saw a rush of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of 1843, and after 1850 came Germans fleeing restrictive regional monarchies and military conscription in armies-for-hire. Midwest farming towns thus had significant German populations, where schools were conducted in German in the morning and English in the afternoon, which stopped only at WWI (Lawrence Welk had an accent because he was born in Strasburg, North Dakota, speaking only German until age 21). In addition to the modern image of Santa Claus, Germans brought machine trades and a variety of traditional clubs and societies. Not limited to farm towns, many large mid-west cities were highly German, boasting industry, sausage and meat packing plants, and breweries. Cincinnati was known as “Porkopolis” and had five breweries into mid-20th century: Bavarian, Burger, Hudepol, Schoenling, and Wiedemann. Similar to cattle drives, Indiana farmers gathered for annual hog drives down to Cincinnati. Some Hoosiers went there for opera.
Rural 19th century life followed ancient rhythms that nudged people toward adult roles at a young age. With a life expectancy below fifty years, independent youth were often earning their way before they might have graduated from high school, which many never did. They could have considerable freedom by mid-adolescence, choosing their own direction with income from agriculture or urban factories. Financial pressures from significant depressions in the 1890’s and 1930’s, plus major upheavals from two world wars, continued to push young adults out into the world into mid-20th century, and carried many young Americans across the country and around the globe, just as they brought may refugees to America. Orville was a wandering offspring of these cultures and attitudes, which was reflected in how he approached his life, family, and children.
Located just northeast of Indianapolis, Muncie, Indiana was typical of mid-west towns. Adjacent to the National Road, it benefited from a cultural mix and ample exposure to social influences flowing through the region. In addition to being near the state capitol, its agriculture and industry supported an active economy. Among its principle manufacturers was the Ball Jar Company, maker of fruit canning jars, and source of the family fortune associated with Ball State University. After 1900 the region became part of the industrial infrastructure feeding the growing auto industry, having numerous automobile component suppliers and entire major auto assembly plants. Victorian America was becoming modernly mobile for the adventurous and the talented. Orville was both, and even in small-town Indiana was exposed to other like spirits who clearly emboldened him.
Orville’s youth had available only printed media, and predated ready availability of recorded music. But, many communities had a theater, frequently called an opera house, visited by the adventurous and the talented. Traveling performing troupes were common, and even traveling marionette shows presented popular plays. Summer tent shows and Chautauqua sites offered entertainment, music, and informative speakers. Such events expanded along rail routes into the 1920’s, aided during the 20th century by regional transportation via electric inter-urban lines. In addition, many communities were exposed to international culture through American melting pot effect.
Beyond that, lacking mass media and having limited in-home entertainment, personal daily life was enriched through local clubs and organizations. People have always gathered, socialized, and shared. There were numerous political, social, service, business, and fraternal organizations, plus clubs of all varieties and inclinations: athletic, literary, horticultural, artistic, theatrical, and certainly musical. Many would present for the entertainment, edification, and amusement of the public. Orville experienced music throughout his early life, in the home, in community choirs and choruses, and beyond. He knew something of opera by early adulthood.
Opera is two hours of full-throttle high-volume vocal power, rising over a full orchestra. It is essentially artistic shouting, akin to cultivated hog calling and yodeling, but possessing tonal quality, sustained perfect pitch, vocal agility and ornamentation, sweetness, artistic modulation, and a host of other qualities. Some scores are especially challenging, with runs, trills, octave changes, and a wide range of pitch. Whilst shouting, there are lyrics to be enunciated with clear diction, in one of several languages, rarely English (typically Italian, French, or German). The singer is also moving about and performing in a theatrical production, while shouting artistically. It is dramatic physical art. The opera singer’s week is something like yelling through college football on Saturday, and pro ball on Sunday. Voices can be damaged, they can be repaired, and they are prey to all manner of irritation, faults and disturbances, sickness, and fatigue.
Far beyond merely singing, opera requires skills obtained only by long hours of coaching and practicing. Lois Ewell, who sang opposite Orville at the Century Opera, described her New York voice teacher spending an entire year focused on perfecting six important tones to be produced properly, rather than from the throat. In four years of training with this coach, he had her sing only one full song, and that solely for teaching a specific point. This was four years of practice and drills in preparation for international grand opera. Felice Lyne, with Orville at the London Opera, described that she still felt unable to produce sufficient vocal power after several years working with one Paris instructor, so spent months seeking another coach who brought her voice to greater stage presence. Like Orville, these singers had unusual inherent talent and musical intelligence, which still required tremendous practice and development to reach a high level of operatic quality.
Opera presents life in song, with characters continually conversing and interacting through music. While this may seem corny and contrived, most theater (live or recorded) is artificial and corny drama, separated only by degrees. (Modern drama relies heavily on the illusion that realistic presentation implies realistic content.) Music is inherent in human emotion. Besides singing in the shower, we sometimes literally “burst into song” over events and occasionally “sing the blues”, while wailings of anguish or ecstasy are operatic at face value. Opera extends the metaphor, with people’s interactions literally harmonizing, and expresses the range of human feeling through vocal musical interpretations of passions and emotions. (Heavy leaning toward the emotional pushes opera toward the sappy end of entertainment.) At a lower level, classical cartoons employ classical music for similar effect. Music can express joy and tears; music can evoke joy and tears. The interaction is both metaphorical and real, opera striving to combine the metaphorical and real for evocative emotional impact.
There are jobs, careers, and passions, and it can be both productive and satisfying when these combine. Careers in the arts are frequently pure passions, pursued and practiced passionately. Such a course tends toward spontaneity, emotion, originality, sudden changes, instability and unpredictability, tempestuous relationships, and dependence on the passions of patrons and audiences. Opera ebbs and surges through a world of emotional and dramatic expectations. To support large theaters, orchestras, and casts, opera consumes substantial money, managed and spent passionately, which can be a risky combination. The art world lives the drama it endeavors to convey.
Artists are risk takers, presenting their work and themselves to be critiqued by the knowledgeable and assessed by the masses. Few of us would risk such exposure, performing artists risking the most personal exposure of all. While public speaking is a universal fear, performing artists seek the stage to present their voices, expressions, movements, and bodies for public review. They endure competitive and dismissive elders, failed auditions, publicly humiliating reviews, or simply anonymity. Even with success, they can rapidly pass from favor as a fleeting fad. Successful artists combine passion and talent with durable boldness, in which some combination of courage and spontaneity spurs them to leap, risk, and change. As already said, the art world lives the drama it endeavors to convey, and Orville was a performing artist who spent much of his life striving, changing, and working amid an art world rife with mercurial personalities.
Opera is an import, of limited demand, but of limited supply. As a European tradition, it arrived here with Europeans before the Revolution, and while it was performed here, Americans were a long time getting into the game. American composers and performers had limited presence before mid-19th century. By then, completely original American operas began appearing, primarily in eastern centers, but also in Chicago and other mid-western cities. Scott Joplin’s A Guest of Honor debuted in St. Louis in 1903. Still, a respected opera playbill read like an Italian menu. (Literally, in the case of chicken Tetrazzini, named after an Italian operatic soprano, and apparently created in San Francisco where she lived for many years.) Legitimate opera required cultivated European talent, to be appreciated by a cultivated audience.
With the Victorian rise of industrial wealth, New York City nouvelle riche lacked sufficient operatic venues, as the venerable Academy of Music would not admit them to its circle of the socially elite. The new elite families, including Roosevelt, Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Astor, thus opened their Metropolitan Opera House in 1883. By 1886, opera was discontinued at the old Academy of Music, and in 1914 its theatre on East 14th was demolished to build a Con Edison plant. The Metropolitan Opera quickly ascended to the lead of American opera, becoming known simply as “the Met”. Enrico Caruso began his stellar career with the Met in 1904, and soon the Met was presenting American works under the 1908-1935 reign of general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza, previously general manager of La Scala in Milan, where Caruso had previously sung. By his second season Gatti-Casazza had debuted an opera in English, by a Boston composer, followed by a string of other home-grown works. In 1920, Gatti-Casazza debuted Cleopatra’s Night, with Orville Harrold as lead tenor. The fifth opera by American composer, Henry Hadley, this was possibly the source of the selection heard on radio by the author’s sister.
Inflation of the dollar is a final area in acclimating to Orville’s worlds. In the early 20th century, as Orville grew into adulthood, the average daily industrial wage grew from about $2 in 1900 to $3 at the beginning of WWI in 1914, which would be around $800 income per year. With Orville making about $10 per week in 1905, which was likely a six-day workweek, he was making very close to average wages. There has been about 50X inflation since that pre-war period, so that the $800 annual income is equivalent to about $40,000 now. A sum of $10,000 was very substantial then, approaching a half million dollars today. Average wages doubled from $3 to $6 per day during the WWI years. Moving into the “Roaring 20’s”, wages settled back a little from wartime inflation to about $5-$6 per day, or $1500 per year, still equivalent to today’s $40,000.
Orville could make higher than average wages on the New York stage, if he could stay employed, but New York was an expensive place to live and theater opportunities could be sporadic. A prominent operatic tenor was more exotic, potentially earning very attractive wages, but opera was of limited demand and employment could again be spotty and undependable, which was Orville’s situation during the mid-teen years and WWI. Yet, while scrambling for employment during those times, he had a half-year period during which he reportedly earned the equivalent of over a million dollars. Later, during his peak opera years, Orville earned the equivalent of today’s upper six-figure income.
In Anglo-Saxon tradition, the Harrold name appears in both English and German families, sharing a range of spellings (Harold, Herald, etc.). Orville’s particular lineage arrived in America with Richard Harrold in 1681, among Penn’s followers to Philadelphia. They were thus English-born Quakers (Society of Friends), some of Orville’s relatives continuing to be so into modern generations. Richard Harrold and his offspring continued an associated with three other families (Beals, Beeson, and Mills) that have intermingled down through the Indiana lineage to the present.
The original group arrived from England between 1681 and 1701, including a Sarah (Harrold) Mills, who was likely an aunt or cousin of Richard’s. Richard Harrold married Mary Ann Beals in 1710 at the Concord Meeting House (of Friends) in Nottingham, Pennsylvania. Mary had been born there to John Beals, the original Beals immigrant. Most Indiana Harrolds can trace their way back to those original Harrolds and Beals by at least one path, and probably several. Two of Richard’s and Mary’s daughters married two Mills brothers (sons of Sarah Harrold Mills). In the next generation, four Harrold brothers and sisters married four Beeson brothers and sisters (descendents of Sarah Harrold Mills through Mary Mills).
Orville Harrold’s grandparents, Miles and Malinda Harrold, were both descendents of the original Richard and Mary, and were descendents of John Beals by two independent paths. Orville and his first wife, Effie Kiger, were both great grandchildren of Catherine Harrold and Valentine Gibson, by two independent paths. There appear to be at least three marriages between Gibsons and Kigers. Catherine Harrold and Valentine Gibson were both descendents of the original John Beals by independent paths. These families braided together over eight generations. Every generation contained brothers named John and Jonathan. In Orville’s lineage, only his grandfather Miles, and the original Richard (son of a Jonathan), were not named John or Jonathan.
Little of all that is remarkable; close groups have maintained intertwining families since the beginning of history, and Quakers tended to marry within meeting. In this case, the intertwining continued over a long-term migration from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, up through Tennessee and Kentucky, on into Ohio and Indiana. That migration occurred over several generations, creating periodic separations that later converged in Indiana. The ultimate attractor was America’s Northwest Territory, comprising Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In addition to supporting land grant colleges through leases on government lands, the Northwest Territory charter banned slavery, which philosophically attracted southern Quakers to fresh new farm country. While Quakers occasionally held slaves, Quakers were generally opposed to slavery as an affront to intellectual freedom, so that many left southern states during the early 19th century.
Two different traditions relate how Richard Harrold arrived in Pennsylvania. One is that he came with his father, Jonathan, while surviving details make more believable that he arrived at Salem, New Jersey aboard the ship Henry and Ann with John Mills Sr., who was married to Sarah Mary Harrold. While Richard was likely an infant or toddler then, he reportedly sawed lumber for Philadelphia homes with John Mills before marrying Mary Ann Beals. Richard and Mary died in northeast North Carolina.
As prime Pennsylvania land became increasingly scarce, Quakers moved to the Cane Creek section of Rowan County, in eastern North Carolina. This became the largest Quaker settlement in the state, Beeson, Harrold, Mills, Gibson, and Hiatt families being there by 1752. While Jonathan-1 and Catherine Hiatt were born in Pennsylvania, they married at Hopewell Meeting, Virginia, in 1745, and owned land thereabouts, before arriving in North Carolina in 1752. By 1770, Jonathan-1 and a Valentine Gibson (two generations previous to the Valentine Gibson mentioned above) were both Rowan County “Overseers”, being minor officials in charge of local roads. They were joined in North Carolina by Macy, Starbuck, Coggeshell, and other families from Nantucket, where limited family stocks had resulted in their “breeding idiots”. Joining Deep River Monthly Meeting by 1785, these new families are thus marrying later with Harrolds in Delaware County, Indiana. As this original Rowan County was huge, Jonathan-1’s grave has successively occupied Surray, Stokes, and presently Forsythe Counties.
Meanwhile, Jonathan-2 and his future wife, Charity Beeson, had both been born in Virginia, before marrying and raising their family in North Carolina. This North Carolina generation, including Jonathan-3, constituted the beginning of the northern migration, which became so extensive that several monthly meetings were discontinued. Their children were born in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, many eventually joining the White Water Monthly Meeting in Wayne County, Indiana. The family of Orville’s first wife, Effie Kiger, was intermarrying with Gibsons no later than this migration period. By the 1820’s, most of these families were living in Indiana. Orville Harrold, Effie Kiger, and the author’s family were born in Delaware County, Indiana, among the farms south of Muncie.
At about age ten (ca. 1920), the author’s father heard Orville sing at a relative's house in Muncie. Father lived adjacent to an electric "traction" line running from Muncie down to New Castle, where the Maxwell Automobile Co. had built in 1907 what was then one of the largest car manufacturing plants. He walked up the line from his farming village of Oakville to pick up a young girl relative on a nearby farm, and then they rode on up through Orville’s village of Cowan to Muncie, where she played piano for Orville's singing.
The question lingers of whether Orville is related to 20th century opera composer, Jack Beeson, born in Muncie, Indiana. A connection is likely, and clues probably reside in William W. Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, published in 1936.
This question also regards a New York singer and voice coach named Jack Harrold, who died in 1994. He sang with the New York City Opera, and in Broadway musicals, The Unsinkable Mollie Brown and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It was stated during his lifetime, and in an obituary, that he was the son of Orville Harrold. Jack Harrold was born to a New Jersey postman, where Orville never lived, and even himself declared that he was not related to Orville. (stated in a phone conversation with Orville’s granddaughter, and any possible family tie would go back many generations)
While early Quakers were rigid about maintaining life and family within meeting, Quaker thought is based on knowing from within, so that Quakers tended to become increasingly freethinking and non-dogmatic, blending through marriage and assimilation. Orville’s family were practicing Methodists. Orville seemed to have little sense of his genealogy, perhaps relating mostly to his mother’s maternal family, which had a musical tradition.
John William Harrold married Emily Chalfant in 1872, owning a farm on Richmond Road in Cowan, Indiana, just south of Muncie, on land that apparently came down from his father, Miles Harrold. Orville was born in their brick farmhouse on November 17, 1877, which is the date that Orville used on official documents. (An incorrect year has seeped into numerous references.) He was their only surviving child, and there is no indication that he had a middle name or initial. (A two year old son, Chad (6/16/74-2/18/76) had died about a year and a half before Orville was born.) Farming was tremendously hard physical work before engines came to farm equipment in the 20th century. At the least, Orville learned early of disciplined labor and long hours, becoming physically fit, which he valued throughout his life. According to a later interview with his father, both family sides were musical, Orville’s mother’s maternal family (the Jacksons) apparently having excellent voices1. Orville’s grandmother had been an able singer, and at age 65, his mother could hit a clear high C with an exceptional voice. Orville’s father was also a singer and church chorister in the village2, and Orville was present for family choir practices, his father claiming that by age three Orville had learned the hymns and could sing them at home. It was also claimed that by age five Orville sang songs for patrons in local stores3.
One early trauma for young Orville was apparently that his pet dog was found to be the culprit who was killing chickens on the farm, for which the dog was destroyed3.5. According to his wife of later years, Orville always maintained a fondness for small animals. He had dogs in his life whenever possible, even with his second wife in New York City, and in his retirement wrote children’s verse centered around an adventuresome rabbit.
The family moved to Lyons, Kansas when Orville was nine, the child’s first great adventure4. While a small random town, Kansas was booming during the late 1880’s, and Orville’s father managed a livery in Lyons, the connection being “a sort of distant relative” named Lee Stanford5. The family had relocated to larger Newton, Kansas by 1891 or 1892, when Orville was about thirteen, exposing him to new opportunities. A school music supervisor there was Mrs. Gaston Boyd, an English lady who had graduated from the Boston Conservatory6, one of the first conservatories to admit women. Local lore claims that she passed by young Orville on the street as he was shooting marbles and singing taunts at his companions7. Taking the boy in hand (at least figuratively), she gave him singing lessons and encouraged him to participate in choral activities.
In 1893, Orville placed in a group of combined Kansas choruses that performed at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. More than just getting out of Newton, singing had earned a trip to a major city and a world fair, having a mile-long cultural bazaar called the Midway and Mr. Ferris’s huge new wheel-shaped ride. Orville gained special mention there from choral director, Professor Frederick Archer8, and was recruited to join the choir of Grace Church in Chicago (which his mother refused). This judge appears to have been Frederic Archer, founding conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1896, who is known to have played organ at the Columbian Exposition9. Archer was succeeded, after a few years at Pittsburgh, by a rising Victor Herbert.
Mrs. Boyd also encouraged Orville to participate in regional singing festivals, including the State Jubilee competition in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas. He finished prominently in one of these, receiving his first newspaper notice for his nascent talent. This was in May of 1894, after the economic crash of 1892, being his last year in Kansas. His voice was changing then, presenting a period of musical limbo (though by no means an absence of music), but his voice had earned him notice, and a glimpse of the larger world to be considered and sought.
At that time, Orville also sang with a Newton, Kansas group who fancied themselves as the Pumphouse Gang, as the father of one allowed them to use the basement of the town pumping station. They sang and played a variety of instruments, and others would occasionally drop in, such a fellow announcing one evening that they would soon hear news of him. The group later learned that their acquaintance was Emmett Dalton, youngest and only surviving of four Dalton brothers after their much publicized shootout while simultaneously robbing two banks in Coffeeville, Kansas, near the Oklahoma border. The Pumphouse Gang reportedly visited Emmett in jail at Coffeeville, moving from there down through Oklahoma and Texas, playing at barrooms and local spots, passing the proverbial hat10. The Coffeeville shootout occurred on October 5, 1892, when Orville was approaching age fifteen, raising the question of whether he really went with the group, or was simply around when the event occurred. But, Orville was a free-flying and unmotivated student who may have trekked off for a period. Another version of Orville’s wandering is that he ran away from Kansas in 1894, at age sixteen, for the family had lost everything there during the depression11. Whatever actually happened, the later Kansas period is when he reportedly played music with a group of wandering companions, sometimes traveling by railroad boxcar, and independently wound his way back to Indiana by the same mode of transportation, where the family joined him within a short time12. Corroborating at least a fragment of the legend, Orville told a Hutchinson, Kansas audience in 1913 that he had once nearly broken his back hopping off a train in the local rail yard12.5.
Back in Cowan, Orville remained unsettled and unfocused during adolescence and early adulthood, although never far from music. He led something of a Bohemian lifestyle, with a roaming disposition, but was affable and well liked. He described another brief adventure after his return to Indiana, during which he played clarinet in a local country band. With the outbreak of the Spanish American War, the band traveled to nearby Indianapolis in order to enlist in the army as a group, and as a band, arriving complete with instruments13. This quite confounded the enlistment office, which concluded to house the band overnight in their stables, sleeping as best they could on straw and saddles. As many of the youth had never spent a night outside their beds, they reconsidered their quest and began slipping away under cover of darkness. The only three remaining by morning struck out for home, Orville having concluded that he would be dismissed in any event for being under enlistment age.
Orville worked at odd jobs in Cowan, and according to family lore, sometimes plucked chickens at the Neil Barefoot farm. A later article reiterated that he worked at poultry packing, and that he sang during this period in a Cowan barbershop group called the Chicken Pickers’ Quartette13.5. Orville’s parents arranged for him to learn violin, which he later taught in Muncie14. He extolled the violin as excellent training for a singer, being a fretless instrument that forced the musician to constantly be attuned to pitch and strive to control it15. Once in Muncie, Orville was again singing in church choirs, his voice settling into a high tenor. His mother reportedly wanted him to be an evangelist, but he got no closer than the choir at the Jackson St. Christian Church. He did not graduate from high school, but worked at a variety of minor jobs, including the shipping department of the Ball Jar Company. He was also commuting by train to Indianapolis to play violin in an orchestra, but as his associates there were more impressed by his voice than his violin, he found himself becoming a popular singer in Indianapolis German social clubs16.
Orville worked for some time as a Muncie grocery clerk, which was something of stability for him, so that on October 22, 1898 he married Euphamia Evelyn “Effie” Kiger (1878-1963). She was a childhood friend from Cowan, and an energetic outgoing woman who had perfect pitch and played piano by ear. She was a hometown sort of girl who likely found an attractively exciting character in long-haired Orville. Orville taught violin, while Effie taught piano, and would play while Orville sang, for he was known as a natural voice who would sing on about any occasion, to the extent that his last wife scolded him for giving away his talent.
Various characters wandered through 19th century Indiana, spreading their messages and goods. Most famous was John Chapman, known simply as Johnny Appleseed. As rustic was a homegrown Indiana character named Ginseng Johnny, who, along with his brother, gathered wild roots and herbs that were sold for their healing powers. A more refined sort was Alexander Ernestinoff (1853-ca.1930), who spread music throughout central Indiana. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, he graduated from Conservatory of Music there. Having a fine voice, he was pursuing a music career in Berlin when several Americans recruited him to New York to lead a German opera company for a complete tour of the United States. Having met his wife in New York, he relocated again in 1876 to take charge of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, also leading there several German choruses. From this, he was engaged in 1881 to lead the Indianapolis Maennerchor, still extant as a fine men’s chorus. Ernestinoff spent the next forty years cultivating music and music education throughout the region, forming and directing the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, as well as numerous area choruses and local choral events. No isolated mid-westerner, Ernestinoff was known in American music circles, especially among German clubs, singing organizations (Lyra Society and Music Verein), and opera performers.
When he married, Orville was participating in Ernestinoff-led Muncie choruses, where Ernestinoff would certainly have recognized Orville’s talent. Orville’s passion was obvious when Effie had their first child, in 1899, naming the girl Adalene Patti Harrold, a variation on the name of Italian (but American reared) operatic soprano, Adelina Patti, who had rivaled Jenny Lind as one of the most famous 19th century singers. (Adelina is a form of Adele, or Adela.) This subject gets confusing. Adalene is the name that Effie wrote in the family bible, that Patti, herself, used on legal documents such as passports, and that Orville wrote on photos of her. She went briefly by Adelina when first working in New York, and all manner of other spellings appeared in newspapers throughout her life. Mercifully, she went simply by Patti for nearly all of her years. A second girl was named Marjorie Modjeska Harrold, after the Polish-born dramatic actress, Helena Modjeska, and their son was Paul Dereske Harrold, after Polish-born Paris opera tenor Jean deReske. Effie complained that she could not pronounce her own children’s names.
Sometime after the birth of Orville’s daughters, Ernestinoff took him for two days to Cincinnati for performances by the New York Metropolitan Opera of La Giaconda and Parsifal17, his first real experience with grand opera. By one account, not necessarily to be believed, he heard Caruso sing on that occasion, to which he responded, “I can do that17.5” The other two children followed in 1901 and 1903, along with a pit bull terrier named Moses (commonly known as “Mose”), shortly after which Orville was an officer, and Ernestinoff was director, of Muncie’s newly formed Apollo Club, a men’s chorus in which Orville's father sang baritone18. The Apollo Club practiced weekly, and gave occasional performances at the Wysor Grand Opera House, where Orville was groomed as a soloist. Ernestinoff was coaching Orville, but Orville was of a roving disposition and was resisting persuasions to settle down. On Monday, May 16, 1904, the club presented an afternoon recital, at which Orville sang the finale from the early Wagner opera Rienzi, and for which Ernestinoff had arranged a performance by well-known Metropolitan Opera contralto, Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink. (She was still singing occasionally with the Met when Orville arrived there fifteen years later.)
After hearing Orville, Mme. Schumann-Heink proposed that he study in Germany for two years to complete his musical education, for which she would arrange employment in order that he could support his family there18.5. The event made news around town, sparking public speculation regarding what he would do. One newspaper later reported that Mme. Schumann-Heink occasionally made such offers, but that little really came of them19. Even if a genuine opportunity, it would have entailed a myriad of practical difficulties, for while probably hearing German language regularly, the family was unlikely to cope with sudden total immersion. More restrictive, Effie would not have considered such a trip, whatever Orville’s thoughts. She never wanted to leave Muncie, and never did. Orville stated years later that Mme. Schumann-Heink may as well have advised the postman to purchase a steam yacht20, and the offer was never acted upon. Orville might have had the itch in 1904, but Germany was too far, too complicated, too soon.
After beginning as a gospel singer and becoming popular entertainment at local clubs, Orville suddenly had elevated credibility and determined desire. Having been taking singing lessons with a Muncie vocal teacher named Harry E .Paris21, who had arrived from DePauw University in the 1890’s, Orville began training seriously in Indianapolis with a Mrs. Ida Gray Scott21.5, and with Ernestinoff. The latter advised him to get in front of audiences at every opportunity22, and encouraged him to go to New York by any possible means, for any significant vocal career was going to happen outside of Indiana. No huge move was planned immediately, and Orville and Ernestinoff were pictured in the newspaper, together with Apollo Club officers, nearly a year after the Schumann-Heink encounter. Life went on while dreams gelled into plans. Orville worked during this period as shipping clerk for the Muncie Casket Company, known around town for singing while he delivered coffins. He was making $10 per (six-day) week, a reasonable income in that day23. (Henry Ford advertised paying $2 per day at his River Rouge plant, about a decade later, but few workers really received that much.)
Ernestinoff had an opera background and was influential in regional cultural affairs. Indianapolis hosted an immense German singing festival in 1908, with Ernestinoff as choral director, and attended by Mme. Schumann-Heink among other German opera performers. While it is presumptuous to suggest that he had arranged the 1904 Muncie engagement solely to connect Mme. Schumann-Heink with his top pupil, he likely made an effort to bring them together. He may well have sought a higher opinion of Orville’s talent, as well as an impetus to get Orville focused on his potential future. Ernestinoff later arranged for Orville a concert, with orchestral accompaniment, at Indianapolis’s German House auditorium, in which an aria from Gounod’s Queen of Sheba carried him progressively from high A to high B to high C. The audience responded uproariously, and Ernestinoff declared that Orville could reach high D with equal ease24. It was probably through Ernestinoff that Franz Van der Stucken, chorister and director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, provided Orville a letter of introduction to Madame Cosina Wagner (widow of the German opera composer) at Bayreuth25.
The Muncie meeting between Orville and greatness also attracted a business manager and patron. Doctor James M. Quick, local physician and Treasurer of the Apollo Club, financed Orville’s singing lessons and organized concert engagements through Indiana and Ohio during 1905 and 1906. Orville reportedly overshadowed a polished Chicago tenor named George Hamlin at a meeting of the Indiana Music Teachers’ Association26. (Hamlin was a touring concert tenor whom Orville would meet again in New York during WWI.) The arrangement with Dr. Quick was a business contract, in which the doctor would help support Orville and send him to New York to become an income-producing singer, after which Orville would split his first five-years of proceeds27. A winter concert tour netted $35 (three week’s pay), funding a trip to New York City, and perhaps costing Orville his job28. The arrangement with Dr. Quick indicates that a major decision had been made regarding Orville’s future. Orville and Effie must have discussed how any such future might play out, and events brought the momentous departure in early 1906, when Orville was twenty-nine.
As a brief aside, the above mentioned George J. Hamlin was another interesting regional tenor. Born in Elgin, Illinois, he was the son of John A. Hamlin, who with brother, Lysander, made and sold Hamlin’s Wizard Oil. This was a liniment for rheumatic pain, which they distributed through traveling minstrel shows. They managed classic “snake oil” medicine shows in horse drawn wagons, in this case producing musical events and distributing songs and sheet music. Several noted Indiana troubadours, James Whitcomb Riley and Paul Dresser, had gotten starts in Hamlin traveling shows. This rough sounding business was sufficiently lucrative that young George was educated at Andover Academy (now Philips Andover), and trained with George Henschel (English baritone, pianist, and first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) likely either in England or at the Institute of Musical Art (now Juilliard). Around the turn of the century George Hamlin toured Europe for several years, a bit before meeting Orville. Hamlin later sang with the Chicago Opera Company before migrating to New York during the teen years.
Economic growth after 1900, including rising automotive industry, brought stability to Muncie and to Orville’s family. No longer farming, his father had an in-town home on Beacon Street, and had become a machinist at Warner Gear, where several other Harrold relatives also worked. Many small automobile makers of the period manufactured mainly bodywork, relying on outside suppliers for engines, transmissions, clutches, axels, electrics, and all manner of other components. Warner Gear produced gearboxes, often coupled to Borg & Beck clutches from Illinois, so that the two later merged to form automotive transmission giant, Borg Warner. New prosperity and growing optimism likely added to the climate in which Effie and Orville decided on his departure for New York.
Effie and Orville were both children of Cowan, Indiana farms, but Orville reveled in singing, socializing, and large adventures. While Music may have helped unite them, it was now prying them apart. Orville had been born with unique vocal talent, which he readily enjoyed, but he also enjoyed being freewheeling and unconstrained. Like many of us during youth, he probably had little appreciation of his individuality. His ability had simply always been there, and was perhaps even common, for all he knew or cared. Beyond that, his intellectual capability had scarcely been explored. While surviving by his wits, he had not seriously attempted academic study. But, his voice had repeatedly attracted attention, eventually from a high level, gaining his interest and establishing his image in the community. Convinced by the consensus around him, his talent grew to define Orville and drive his passion. Singing had repeatedly created opportunities, sending him to Hutchison (Kansas), Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, tempting him with Germany, attracting patrons, and now launching him to New York. No matter how musical and in love he and Effie were, Orville had been coaxed away by degrees for a decade, toward the day when he would really leave. As he already had, and would again, he was living an opera-like drama. He was finally off to New York to test his talent and grit, returning only when he failed, if even then. Effie loved Orville enough to let him go, undoubtedly suspecting that she would never follow, and that if Orville succeeded he might never return.
1. What Do You Know About Orville Harrold?, Muncie Evening Press, May 7, 1921
2. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine Section, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
3. What Do You Know About Orville Harrold?, Muncie Evening Press, May 7, 1921
5. From Hutchinson Jubilee to Grand Opera in Paris, The Hutchinson News, December 13, 1910, pg. 10
6. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933
7. Picked From the Street, The Hutchinson News, February 17, 1912, pg. 12
8. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 443
9. Musical Instruments at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Frank D. Abbott & Charles A. Daniell (The Presto Co, Chicago, IL, 1895) pg. 137
10. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933
11. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
12.5. Orville Harrold, World’s Greatest Tenor, First Sang Here, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, concerning appearance in Hutchinson, Kansas
13. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443
13.5 Orville Harrold Worked And Sang His Way To Fame, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, concerning appearances in Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana
14. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443
16. Harrold Still Subject, The Indianapolis Star Sunday, February 6. 1910, pg. 10
17. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443
17.5 Orville Harrold’s Career Reviewed, Indianapolis Sunday Star, November, 26, 1911
18. Orville Harrold’s Remarkable Career, un-attributed 1913 article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
18.5 Young Muncie Tenor Honored by Prima Donna, Muncie Morning Star, May 19, 1904
19. Muncie Sunday Star, November xx, 1911, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
20. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1923)
21. Orville Harrold Wins Audience, Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1913
21.5 Indiana Produces Promising Tenor, Musical America, August 11, 1906
22. The Stage in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3, Robert Grau (Broadway Publishing Co., New York, 1912) pg. 282
23. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443
24. The Recital, The Lima (Ohio) Daily News, May 5, 1905, pg. 2
26. Orville Harrold’s Career Reviewed, Muncie Sunday Star, November 26, 1911, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
27. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
28. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933
To New York
Orville Harrold reached New York City in early 1906, with $1.50 in his pocket after the train ride, and a letter of introduction to another Hoosier named Claxton Wilstach, booking agent for the Shubert brothers1. (It is unclear who provided Orville this letter.) After securing a room at the Grand Union Hotel, he met Lee Shubert at the old Casino Theatre. The Shuberts were slightly older than Orville, having arrived as children in Syracuse, NY, from an area of Poland that is now part of Lithuania. Starting from nothing, they had accumulated several upstate theatres, then expanded to New York City in 1900, renting venues and presenting a series of plays and musicals. They had lured Sarah Bernhardt back to the United States at about the time of Orville’s arrival, on their way to building the 20th century’s largest theatre empire.
Orville’s letter got him one of the most nervous and excited auditions of his life, although there are several contenders for that title, after which Mr. Shubert asked Orville if he could learn a song in one day, appear in a show the following night, and work for $50 per week2. Thunderstruck, Orville appeared the next evening in The Social Whirl, performing well and proving himself both a quick study and an audience pleaser. He informed Dr. Quick, back in Muncie, of his good and rapid fortune, who immediately sent $20 to sustain him, with no need of repayment. Orville thus began learning of New York musical theatre life and personalities, as well as their pitfalls and foibles.
By summer, Orville’s Shubert performances had merited a brief article in Musical America magazine2.5. There was some biographical information, including mention of Alexander Ernestinoff and Mme. Schumann-Heink. There was also mention of his remarkable vocal range up to D-flat, and his “intense dramatic expression”, giving an early indicator of the stage energy that he regularly packed into crowd-rousing performances. It was indicated that he was pursuing voice training, intending to eventually study grand opera in Europe, the article emphasizing opera as, a field for which his natural vocal equipment is pre-eminently adapted.
While Orville’s timing was fortunate, there were still very few American performers in opera, and there were limited routes by which an American could enter opera, for which he was probably not ready in any event. A critical conflict was that classic operatic artists were groomed from the inside, and did not stoop to lower forms of music, so that Orville required a non-traditional path to his dream. Madame Schumann-Heink, totally unpretentious, ignited a virtual scandal by starring in a second rate 1904 Broadway musical, Love’s Lottery. She even took it on the road for a short season, which may have been how she came to be in Indiana to meet Orville. Meanwhile, Orville had at least some experience in front of audiences, plus whatever talent he possessed.
Orville glimpsed an opening into New York opera shortly after arriving, as Oscar Hammerstein (the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote Broadway musicals with Richard Rodgers) was conducting auditions in early 1906 for a new opera company he was forming, to perform in a new theatre he was building. This specific opportunity may have determined Orville’s timing in venturing to New York. Hammerstein had fled an abusive father in Prussia, to arrive in American at age seventeen in 1864. While he had taken up music at an early age, he began here sweeping floors in a cigar factory. Hammerstein was intelligent, mechanical, and entrepreneurial, accumulating 52 patents, 44 related to machinery for cigar manufacture. He also accumulated a considerable fortune through industrial cigar manufacture. By the mid 1870’s he had founded the U. S. Tobacco Journal, but was also moonlighting as a manager in downtown German theatres. Theatre was Hammerstein’s primary interest, and grand opera was his passion.
Hammerstein had begun building his own New York theatres in 1889, including one called the Manhattan Opera House. (Opera had been produced there only briefly and a partner had since operated it for general entertainment.) His fourth theatre was erected on Longacre Square, which nine years later was renamed Times Square after the New York Times moved there from the old “Newspaper Row” down near City Hall Park. Through Hammerstein’s efforts, Times Square was becoming a thriving theatre district, such that he opened three more theatres nearby. The first of those was the 1899 Victoria Theatre, which turned to vaudeville presentations in 1904 and rose to one of the most successful of vaudeville venues under Hammerstein’s son, Willie. To a significant extent Hammerstein was the father of Times Square as we know it, and by owner’s association agreement had exclusive rights to vaudeville productions in the area.
Hammerstein presided over expanding theatre and real estate interests from personal offices at the Victoria Theatre. Responding to Hammerstein’s opera audition, newly-arrived Orville appeared at the Victoria among a group of applicants. (As Orville later described the auditions, he had “never heard such squawking in my life”3) He sang an aria from La Boheme, glimpsing just a silhouette of Hammerstein’s square shoulders and top hat in the darkened first row, but soon found himself back in daylight with no invitation to return. At this point, New York knew Hammerstein as a theatre impresario, but was yet to see what would become of his untutored but insatiable taste for grand opera.
In no position to wait, Orville continued with the Shuberts. The Social Whirl ran for most of 1906, through more than 150 performances and earning Orville brief mention (his first) in the New York Times as one of its worthwhile longstanding players. As this was the show’s only season, he opened with the Shuberts in January of 1907 at the new Lincoln Square Theatre, located where the 1966 Lincoln Center and new Metropolitan Opera House now stand, singing the part of Lord Drinkwell in a light musical comedy called The Belle of London Town4. It became clear that his old Muncie job at $10 weekly had some advantages over a theatre role at $50, as the job could last much longer. The Belle of London Town closed immediately, leaving Orville scrambling to support himself and his family. He sang during this period at the Casino Theatre in a presentation called the Passing Show5 but turned to vaudeville, as it offered more stable employment in shows scheduled through theatre syndicates.
Besides paying the bills, there are ample signs that vaudeville agreed with Orville, for it put him back on the road with traveling adventures that he seemingly enjoyed throughout his life. He was a powerful energetic singer who could bring out enthusiastic audiences, such that all had a good time. This was much like how he had grown up singing, vaudeville affording something like the excitement of a rock concert. Orville never apologized for his vaudeville background, even during his top opera years, recalling it as an enjoyable experience in which he always sang his best.
It is unknown where all vaudeville took Orville, but it included Mortimer M. Theise’s (vaudeville and burlesque producer) tour of Wine, Women and Song, headlining Creole star Bonita (Pauline L, DesLondes). This was a sort of musical review in which Orville appeared in various skits, as well as in a quartet that was likely the one he later referred to as The Harmonists6. The parent company failed while the show was in Cincinnati, home of Orville’s first operatic inspiration, whereupon the sheriff seized all assets, including the cast’s personal effects. As Bonita described, their show was a hit, but their earnings went to other enterprises that went bankrupt, stranding 100 men and women far from home7. One of the chorus men concocted a scheme in which they started a brawl in an adjacent saloon, to distract the theatre doorman, so that Orville and another went upstairs into the theatre and threw the crew’s personal trunks into the alley8. Stranded and broke, the troupe apparently had a long arduous trip back to New York. It is more likely that Orville headed to Muncie, which was much closer, or he could have wired Dr. Quick in Muncie to have cash wired back to Cincinnati.
One description of events during this period states that Orville had been “discovered” during his Wine, Women, and Song tour by Gus Edwards, ragtime composer (School Days, By the Light of the Silvery Moon) and impresario9. Edwards stated that he had heard a remarkable singing voice emanating from a practice room at a New York music distributor’s offices. (This may have been Witmark & Sons Music Company, for Orville became well acquainted during his vaudeville period with popular singer, Julie (Jules) Witmark, one of the “sons”.) Pursuing this opportunity, Edwards found the voice be that of Orville, who stated that he was not then available for new engagements as he was under contract with a quartet9.5. With the demise of Wine, Women, and Song, Orville may have returned to Gus Edwards for work. Edwards described seeking vaudeville engagements for Orville10, as well as getting him his breakthrough into opera.
As Ernestinoff had advised, several years on-stage had matured Orville’s voice and presentation. In late 1909, with a vaudeville act booked into Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre, Oscar sat in for their show one afternoon, hearing Orville again sing an aria from La Boheme. By one version, with vaudeville connections and reputation, Gus Edwards had induced Willie Hammerstein to book Orville, reportedly finding an accompanying basso to form a duo act10.5. Whatever the case, Orville performed a one-week engagement at the Victoria in a two-man vaudeville act singing operatic arias11. In his dressing room one afternoon, Orville was approached by Mike Simonson, the Victoria stage manager, who barked, “Harrold, the old man wants to see you” 11.5. By now, New York well knew of Hammerstein’s operatic endeavors.
Hammerstein had had a major impact on New York opera by débuting in America lavishly staged contemporary foreign shows and French operas, as well as popular classic operas, at his newly built Manhattan Opera House (his 2nd so-named theatre). Scouring Europe for fresh new talent, he had introduced Mary Garden, Luisa Tetrazzini, Maurice Renaud, Alessandro Bonci, Irish tenor John McCormack, and conductor Cleofonte Campanini (younger brother of former Met tenor, Italo Campanini), plus numerous others. All this had excited opera fans, attracting entirely new patrons into opera in addition to winning over many from the venerable Metropolitan Opera. Hammerstein had engaging the Met in a virtual arms race, so that during this period the Met had imported Giulio Gatti-Casazza as director, who brought conductor, Arturo Toscanini. Oscar had also built a major new opera house in Philadelphia and opened the Philadelphia Opera Company in 1908, operated in parallel with his Manhattan opera. Modern rail service had made it expedient to shuttle casts between cities virtually overnight.
Patrons had come to expect exciting new Hammerstein offerings, but as there were not sufficient new material and artists to sustain this pace, New York talent competition and salaries were rising. In response, the Met competed with numbers, staging additional operas at the New Theatre, near Columbus Circle. Into his third season (1908-1909) Hammerstein’s momentum began sputtering, as he could not satisfy the demand he had created for constant surprises. As a new enticement, he lured from the Met popular soprano, Nellie Melba (born Helen Mitchell, but with a stage name created from that of her home town, Melbourne, Australia), who financially saved his season. On the other hand, Bonci had gone over to the Met in 1909, so that Hammerstein was looking for a tenor that year when Orville, the vaudevillian, appeared at the Victoria during the fall singing operatic arias.
So, up to the “old man’s” office went Orville. While Hammerstein was dressed “as neat as a pin” in a long formal jacket (usually accompanied by a top hat), the office had “the most disorganized looking desk I ever saw….on that desk and on the floor were papers, opera scores, cigars and cigar wrappings, letters, an old shoe and the Lord knows what else”12. After getting Orville’s name, Oscar declared in a heavy German accent that Orville must be Irish, and concluded to call him Mike, which Hammerstein continued until his death a decade later. By Orville’s account, Oscar next touched Orville’s throat and asked, “Mike, you haf got it here. The question is, haf you got it there?”13, touching Orville’s head. The question did not regard vague general intelligence, but rather the specific ability to sustain dedicated, intensive study. Orville had his opening into grand opera.
Orville required cram-courses in acting, voice training, opera roles, and their foreign languages. Investing in his discoveries, Hammerstein considered Orville studying in Paris with Jean deReske, namesake of Orville’s son. It was ultimately decided to have Orville tutored by Brooklyn-born Oscar Saenger, who had starred as a baritone in German opera companies of New York, and had traveled through Europe. He had been teaching privately since 1892, having previously worked with Met opera stars Riccardo Martin, Marie Rappold, Henri Scott, and Mabel Garrison. Hammerstein had Orville sing for Saenger at a private audition on Sunday morning October 24, 1909. “What do you think of my friend?” asked one Oscar to the other, to which Saenger replied that Hammerstein had made no mistake. Orville’s voice was exceedingly good, and there were undoubtedly the makings of a great opera singer 14.
Orville spent nearly three months with Saenger, practicing much of the first month on properly producing tones, and on resting his voice, which had been damaged by the rigors of singing in vaudeville, often twice daily. They worked on languages plus acting and gesturing in operatic roles, concentrating on learning Canio in Pagliacci and the Duke in Rigoletto. They practiced the entire operas, with other professional pupils singing supporting parts, so that Orville could later perform his roles with minimal rehearsing. Saenger described Orville as a delightful student, absorbing every suggestion and hint, studying French and Italian daily, working hard and learning quickly15. In addition, Orville was frequenting gymnasiums to improve his conditioning and physical stature16.
Prior to the months of study with Saenger, it is doubtful that anybody in Orville’s life noticed an obscure 10/29/09 New York Times article entitled Singer Shoots Husband, regarding an event in a Reno, Nevada attorney’s office. After trouble between them the previous evening, the Talbot couple were counseling in the office of attorney (and judge) W. D. Jones where Mrs. Mae Talbot fired two shots, one mortally wounding Albert Talbot in the right lung. Before dying, he insisted that the shooting had been accidental, although Mrs. Talbot was later tried and acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Mae Talbot claimed to be an opera singer, trained in Milan, Italy, and having appeared in a number of operas in Milan and Venice, as well as singing in Canada and the United States.
When Orville returned from studying with Saenger, Hammerstein asked, “Mike, your voice is all right, but your clothes – where did you get them? I am going to tell my Beau Brummel son, Arthur, to take you to his tailor”, Oscar paying the bill for five fine suits17. On January 16, 1910, Orville debuted as Hammerstein’s new tenor in one of the Sunday night concerts that presented various artists singing solos and in groups. The New York Times reported that he was wildly applauded after an aria from Pagliacci, was forced to repeat “La Donna e Mobile”, and when recalled by the audience sang a ballad called The Secret18. This last song, by American art composer John Prindle Scott, was a piece for high voice that proved especially popular with audiences, so that Orville used it in concert settings throughout much of his career. Following another successful Sunday concert three weeks later, the Times reported that Orville had appeared in his first opera.
New York Times, Feb. 19, 1910.
HARROLD APPEARS IN OPERA – New Tenor Sings Canio in “Pagliacci” with marked success… Last night was not his first appearance there. He has already been heard at several Sunday night concerts….That the audience last evening was disposed to be friendly there can be no doubt. Even after the first few bars which Canio sings the applause burst forth and continued for some time. His success was marked at the end of the first act, when he was recalled until he repeated “Vesti la Guibba.” ….. His voice is one of beauty, his high tones having especially good quality.
Accustomed to high quality international opera, Hammerstein’s audiences were pleased with the all-American tenor, who seemingly sprang from almost nowhere. Orville continued appearing as Canio in Pagliacci and in Rigoletto as the Duke. These roles had him singing with beautiful Mlle. Lina Cavalieri, perhaps the most photographed woman of their era, as well as with Luisa Tetrazzini and Emma Trentini, spectacular Italian sopranos whom Hammerstein had brought to New York. Some performances were at Hammerstein’s Philadelphia Opera House, and there were occasional Sunday night concerts in Manhattan. During March, Oscar had Orville on a concert tour around the Midwest with Luisa Tetrazzini, who, not always congenial toward stage competition, seemed to enjoy Orville’s talent and plain manner. Orville was well received, enjoying frequent curtain calls and good reviews18.5. While years of vaudeville had perhaps impaired his voice, they had provided helpful stage training and had groomed audience appeal. An unattributed article in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, from a Buffalo, NY newspaper, stated of Orville during the Tetrazzini tour, Few singers on the concert stage equal him in dramatic warmth and artistry.
Then, Orville again fell prey to fickle fortunes (this was already his second shot at Hammerstein’s productions). While one might assume that Oscar’s business acumen was managing the Manhattan Opera at a profit, he had actually burned through the first of three fortunes. When asked by a reporter what he would open his 1909-1910 season with, Oscar had replied, “With debts!”19. Struggling to present new material, Oscar occasionally inserted individual pieces of his own composition into his shows. He was proposing to close his Philadelphia opera house, as maintaining business there was proving impractical20. But no measures were sufficiently raising receipts or improving his balance sheet, not the least because of his own excesses. Noticing that all this was leaving Oscar looking worn and frail, Orville suggested to Hammerstein that he exercise to improve his health, to which Oscar replied that he was getting ample exercise being chased around the office by creditors21.
Orville reported that after Nellie Melba had saved the previous season, Hammerstein had opened the 1909-1910 season with $625,000 in subscriptions, which should have carried him comfortably. But, suffering a fit of megalomania, he had contracted for new theatre sites in Brooklyn and Chicago, and had been building a “roof garden” atop the Manhattan Opera House22. No café with umbrella tables, the roof garden was a cavernous new theatre requiring major construction, stairwells, and elevators, to run simultaneously with the Manhattan23. The Metropolitan Opera had been competing against a suicide attack. Hammerstein was broke by the end of winter, early 1910, as suspected by the fatigued Metropolitan Opera, to which the indomitable Oscar responded with a colossal bluff.
Orville sang his Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at the Philadelphia Opera House in late March, Hammerstein’s last performance in that theatre. Hammerstein next announced that he was planning exciting new events for the following season, including Orville appearing at the Manhattan, and then (having borrowed money for the ticket24) departed for Europe in mid-April aboard the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria to sign on new talent. The Metropolitan Opera was left stunned.
Orville returned to Indiana during May, where he gave several performances, including a return to Indianapolis’s German House auditorium. He also found himself at odds with his old hometown manager. Doctor James Quick, who had funded Orville’s training and trip to New York, filed a $500 suit for breach of contact25. Orville was to have split his proceeds with the doctor for five years, which he was not doing under the Hammerstein arrangement. Orville likely paid the claim, as he was well paid with Oscar.
Orville also received in Muncie a May, 1910 telegram from Hammerstein, reporting that he had sold all of his opera interests in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. It was further stated, however, that Oscar would take care of Orville, and wished him back in New York soon26. In Muncie, Orville indicated that there had been signs of impending change, and that the near future may focus on study rather than performing. Orville ultimately came away from his Oscar meeting with a multi-year contract. Among several estimates of contract terms, one reported that it was worth around $300 per week27. Another, from the brother of Orville’s old Muncie singing teacher, Harry Paris, indicated that it was an eight-year contract, at about $450 per week during a forty-week performing season, with Orville free to make his own engagements for the other twelve weeks28. Hammerstein even mailed regular $25 payments back to Effie in Muncie.
After Hammerstein sailed, his son, Arthur, negotiated a contract with the Met in May of 1910 to receive $1.2 million in return for the Manhattan Opera Company, the Philadelphia Opera Company and its building, plus a ten-year non-compete agreement for presenting grand opera in four cities, including New York29. The money had come from vastly wealthy railroad magnate, and Met board chairman, Otto H. Kahn, who had exquisite taste for all arts. (Prolonged war is a contest of resources, and Kahn far outweighed Hammerstein.) Of Manhattan Opera assets, the Met kept only baritone, Charles Gilbert, who died before performing for them, and photographer, Herman Mishkin. Production sets, repertoire, and many artists were organized into the Chicago-Philadelphia Grand Opera Company, managed by former Met tenor, Andreas Dippel29.5. This organization functionally constituted the Chicago Opera Company, but appeared periodically at the (now) Metropolitan Opera House of Philadelphia, as well as occasionally loaning artists to the New York Met. The arrangement relieved overcrowding among New York opera performers, and left the Met with a firm lock on opera in New York City.
Hammerstein released most of his singers to find new positions as they pleased or were able, but retained Miss Emma Trentini and Orville Harrold. Nellie Melba had recommended Trentini to Hammerstein on one of his European recruiting trips, and she subsequently became a soprano in his Manhattan Opera. Trentini had been studying English, with the intent that she would star in light operettas, while it was stated that Orville might sing the following season at Milan’s La Scala (where Caruso had been discovered), now having four operas in his repertoire and two more in the works30. Orville’s future was seemingly secured by his contract with Hammerstein31, who was flush with his second fortune, but faced with a hiatus from grand opera. Oscar had plans to fill the void, but in the meantime Orville needed work, as well as study and training.
Hammerstein announced before leaving for Europe in April, 1910 that Orville would again study with Oscar Saenger in America32. Orville’s recent rise as a notable New York tenor had done as much for Saenger’s reputation as for Orville’s. Saenger gave various newspaper interviews, as did his wife, who was also a voice coach in her own studio. While her husband had a musical family and a sound musical education, she described him as primarily a businessman when they met, singing tenor in a Brooklyn choir she led on Sunday mornings, and then baritone with a New York choir on Sunday evenings. At her urging, he went to Germany, with no stage experience, where he soon joined the Berlin Opera as Valentin in Faust. By age twenty, he was performing in leading roles and teaching voice, focusing on the psychology of singing properly and of fulfilling opera roles. One of his interesting successes had been in coaching accomplished Austrian baritone, Rudolf Berger, in converting to tenor32.5.
Even with five former students at or headed toward the Met, Orville was Saenger's most conspicuous success yet. "Mr Harrold's debut attracted considerable attention because of its sensational features," described Mrs. Saenger33, continuing on that, "Mr. Harrold has a genius for assimilation." She admitted that Orville probably had had no choice in selecting his teacher, and perhaps began with doubts, especially after an initial suggestion that he might go with deReske in France. But after diligent study, his auspicious Manhattan debut was followed by further convincing vocal results during the Tetrazzini tour. "He is very much in earnest," Mrs. Saenger said of Orville, "and has no desire to be lionized. His powers of absorption are remarkable. He is a very quick student. It is a special gift, and he has moreover learned to employ his subconscious mind in the mastery of a role." The aimless youth had evolved into a studiously focused adult.
Orville’s continuing 1910 studies with Saenger turned out to be an opera summer camp at an estate along the picturesque coast of Camden, Maine33.5. Saenger again taught all aspects of opera singing, acting, gesturing, and art, providing a teacher of French and Italian. Roles were practiced on makeshift stages improvised on the lawn and veranda. The regimen also included wholesome physical activity, for Saenger had his horses delivered to the estate, often used for morning rides that were followed by a quick swim in the cold Maine ocean, and leased a sailboat used for Sunday cruises around Penobscot Bay. They were joined by Rudolf Berger34, who had been singing with (former Saenger student) Marie Rappold and the Met in Paris during the spring. Burger went on to perform with the Met, and married Rappold in 1913, before dying suddenly in 1915. Saenger described Orville as serious and studious over the summer, often awake after midnight humming and memorizing roles. Said Saenger, "I never saw a man improve in so many ways as he did." Besides coaching Orville for opera, this summer of training prepared him for more immediate work on the American stage.
Hammerstein’s theatres continued operating. Son, Willie, managed the Victoria Theatre, while Arthur ran many other aspects of the business. Oscar also planned new hometown productions. In August, he returned with two American singers then in Europe35, Sophie Brandt and Felice Lyne, to appear in Hans the Flute Player, an opera popular in Paris that was based on the pied piper of Hamelin tale. As French-style opera comique, with spoken dialogue, the production did not violate Oscar’s contract with the Met regarding grand opera. It opened the 1910 season at the Manhattan Opera House on September 20, with elaborate staging, chorus, dancing, and orchestra in full Hammerstein splendor. It was colorful, melodious, well reviewed, and well attended36. Running for nearly three months, the cast included Alice Gentle, while Sophie Brandt sang the female lead in the opening month, and then twenty-year-old Felice Lyne took the role in her stage debut. Having left for London immediately after the opening, Oscar returned in mid-October to announce that he had begun construction of a new opera house there, to open a year hence. Orville Harrold would appear at the Paris Opera next June, and then travel on to become principal tenor of the London Opera37.
With Hans the Flute Player running, Oscar and Arthur Hammerstein assembled a spectacular new light operetta scored by Victor Herbert. Herbert had been Irish born, but reared and educated in Stuttgart, Germany, where he married and became a concert cellist. He and his wife, Therese Forster, came to America, where she sang with the Met and he played in their orchestra. He became a well known orchestra conductor through the 1890’s, and began composing light operettas. He led a fight for copyright legislation, passed in 1909, and helped found the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), serving as its vice president until his death. (ASCAP has been active in today’s internet copyright battles.) Herbert had already written a full grand opera, Natoma, for Hammerstein during 1909, which never got performed by the Manhattan Opera Company. (It finally debuted in 1911 at the Met's Philadelphia Opera House, with Mary Garden, John MCCormack, and the Chicago-Philadelphia Grand Opera Company.) His operettas were aimed at the middle class, perhaps being a bit campy, but establishing him as a notable American composer.
Victor Herbert’s most successful operetta was Naughty Marietta, written with Emma Trentini and Orville Harrold in mind, which the Hammerstein’s opened at the New York Theatre on November 7, 1910. This was a Broadway musical pumped up to Hammerstein proportions, with large operatic voices, elaborate staging, and an expanded orchestra. Orville played opposite Mlle. Trentini, who actually spoke on stage (rather than sang) for the first time, both roles being vocally demanding. Orville’s parts were scored specifically for a high tenor, with notes that few other tenors could reach. Naughty Marietta had a successful season of 136 shows, extending into March of 1911, and then went on tour, which kept Orville employed and helped fund Oscar’s new plans.
Among singers in the chorus was a Texas-born actress named Blanche Malli, who had appeared in Canadian theatres during several previous seasons before coming to New York38. Blanche and Orville became frequent companions, dining and socializing around New York during the run of Naughty Marietta. (If Orville had any interest in his leading lady, she was being courted by famed Met tenor, Enrico Caruso.) Such was not surprising, as Orville was amply gregarious and attractive, an affable teddy bear that women enjoyed. Their arrangement was not permanent, and they had parted by the show’s closing. Blanche Malli opened in The Quaker Girl in October of 1911, which ran for 248 shows, but she seems to have faded from theatre thereafter39.
New York Times, Nov. 8, 1910
NAUGHTY MARIETTA AND TRENTINI A HIT - ….Next to the star Orville Harrold probably scored the biggest success of the evening…… He had to wait pretty late in the evening for his chance, which came with a waltz called “I’m Falling in Love with Some One.” The finish of this found the house in an uproar of applause of the sort which greets Caruso at the end of the first act of “Pagliacci,” and Mr. Harrold was obliged to repeat this song four times. He might in fact have gone on repeating it indefinitely if the audience had been allowed to have its way.
Acton Davies, New York Evening Sun, Nov. 8, 1910
In Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta” both Mlle. Trentini and Orville Harrold create sensations. A magnificent quartet amid a splendid chorus makes Oscar Hammerstein’s new company the greatest singing organization in the history of comic opera.
With various new casts, Naughty Marietta ran through several New York stage revivals during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, followed by an Oscar-nominated 1935 movie adaptation that was the first film collaboration between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Of durable character, it played again as a 1955 television production, with Patrice Munsel, the youngest singer to debut at the Met, and Broadway musical performer, Alfred Drake, and is occasionally resurrected by theatre companies.
Although not a headliner in 1910, Orville had enjoyed a season being seen and heard in New York opera, pleasing both critics and audiences, and becoming appreciated as a high tenor. Italo Campanini in the 1880’s could occasionally reach a high D, with uncertain results, while DeReske in the 19th century was stated to reach only a high B flat, and Caruso in the 20th could occasionally reach a high C, leaving them unable to perform certain roles40. (Some sopranos struggle with high C, and among modern tenors, Luciano Pavarotti was king of high C’s.) Orville could easily sustain high C, regularly reach a strong steady high D, and reportedly struck high E flat with ease and clarity in Naughty Marietta41, perhaps the only male singer to do so42. He could end a passage bringing such notes to a long powerful crescendo, and bringing audiences to their feet.
Another of Orville’s talents was language and speaking. Orville's third (and last) wife later reported that he had an adroit vocal ability to mimic all manner of animal and bird sounds, as part of a larger talent for readily absorbing the correct style and accent of languages in general43. He not only learned languages well, and with proper pronunciation, but he could operatically shout them out with clear diction, which had been noted even during his early Indianapolis engagements. (Some singers are unintelligible in any language.) Relatively uneducated, he diligently learned his craft and became known for thoroughly studying the history and nature of his roles. It also developed that he was a reasonably good operatic actor, with a bearing and physical presence well suited to the stage. No longer doubtful or distracted, Orville fully focused on grand opera, with excellent results.
With vaudeville stage experience, the Manhattan Opera, and Naughty Marietta, Orville had become a solid performer of noteworthy capability, earning him a glimpse of the “big show” during February of 1911, as Naughty Marietta was winding down. Orville joined in a sold-out benefit at the Metropolitan Opera House, sponsoring loosening of legislation that prevented children from appearing on professional stages44. Orville looked up, for the first time, at an audience spread around the Met’s golden horseshoe.
During 1910, Orville sat for his first portrait by Mishkin Studio in New York. From Minsk, Russia, Herman Mishkin had entered photography during the 1880’s, and shortly after 1900, apparently through his brother-in-law, became Hammerstein’s chief photographer-publicist. He also produced some photos for the Met during this period, and after Hammerstein exited New York opera, Mishkin became the Met’s chief studio photographer. (White Studio shot the Met’s stage photographs, while Apeda Studio did portraits of many theatre and sports personalities.) The Hammerstein period photos tend to have plain backgrounds, which became more elaborate under the Met. Mishkin became the primary photo-documenter of opera’s golden age in America, from 1900 to 1930, and many opera and theatre performers made it a point to have a Miskin portrait in their portfolio, even if they did not work in New York. His portrait of Caruso as Canio in Pagliacci, wearing clown costume and pounding a bass drum, has become the most famous image in opera. One of Orville’s 1910 Mishkin photos appeared on the cover of the Musical Courier in late 1911, while another was seen in advertisements up to 1914. Mishkin’s sister, Marcia Stein, was an anarchist and artist who became a somewhat popular journalistic portrait photographer during the 1920’s, using a starkly realistic style rather than a softer romantic touch.
Hammerstein’s foray into grand opera had been a bit stressing, as change often is, but widened audiences and introduced new performers and shows to America. In his four seasons, from 1906 to early 1910, he accumulated a considerable list of fresh imported talent, plus a group of notable American artists. Among his accomplishments, he brought over a variety of French operas that were not commonly performed here, as the Met focused on Italian and German composers. The result was an overhaul of American opera. Orville later stated that, for all that it had cost the Met, the Met was ultimately the beneficiary of Hammerstein’s passionate gamble. Having revitalized productions and audiences, the Metropolitan Opera of the 1920’s was one of the few in the world operating with a positive balance sheet45.
Other Americans could perhaps have broken into opera, but Orville was certainly one of the earliest to actually do it, especially from the outside. American and Quaker, David Bispham, trained in Italy and performed at London’s Covent Garden before becoming a Met baritone in 1896. (Bispham’s London agent was Bram Stoker.) Pennsylvanian, Paul Althouse, had been the first American tenor without European experience to sing at the Met (in 1912), having also trained with Oscar Saenger. Given his resources at the Manhattan Opera, it is telling that Hammerstein staked his future on Orville, whose success built credibility and marketability for future American performers, such as Los Angles talents Mario Chamlee and Lawrence Tibbett. Orville had a natural gift, a happenstance, but only a few of the gifted realize their potential. Realization comes at costs to both the performer and those around him. Having the drive to pay those costs is both a strength and a fault.
One might question why Orville had never brought his family to join him in New York during the five years he had been away. In reality, there was probably never anything like a home in New York to bring them to. Orville had traveled continuously from early 1907 with vaudeville, to mid-1911 with the Naughty Marietta tour, having only a brief period of stability with the Manhattan Opera Company. Most of those years were likely spent sleeping in hotels, with many evenings devoted to theatre appearances. Orville may never have had a permanent address, and certainly would not have been there for any normal mode of family living. Nor would New York City have been a place in which Effie would wanted to have been stranded with a young family. For all practical purposes, the family was equally intact living comfortably among relatives and friends in Muncie.
Living apart was a demanding sacrifice for Orville’s family. Few of us make such dramatic choices, nor need to. A minor common equivalent is the eventual decision for youngsters to move away to school, frequently even before college. More generally, numerous families are shaped, altered, or relocated by parental career choices, uniquely talented children, or individual health needs. It is not uncommon for families to be separated or distorted by gifted professionals, athletes, or artists among them. The dramatic cases, driven by talents and passions, involve families making individual choices regarding their view of what is desired, important, and justified. Many singers have interrupted youth, school, marriages, and families to reach the opera stage.
Orville had been supporting his family, but it is unclear how often he could manage to see them. While visits must have been sporadic, Orville apparently remained close to his family, and vaudeville travels would have offered some opportunities. Wine, Women, and Song played in Indianapolis, (about the last time for locals to hear Orville at low rates), which probably allowed a family visit. Returning home to Indiana was a general pattern throughout his life, facilitated by various career arrangements and other opportunities. Family lore and other associations indicate that he was a warm and spontaneously playful fellow who was big on hugs and maintained relationships with his children, especially Patti. Patti was twelve by mid-1911, at the end of the Naughty Marietta tour, and was reportedly very good at singing and piano46, to the extent that she had already caught the attention of her hometown.
After five years centered in New York, arriving with no connections and far surpassing most star-struck singers in the big city, Orville had become a stage performer pursuing his art. It was obvious by 1911 that theatre was a life of constant change. He never thereafter had additional children or a conventional family life, but exceptional proficiency is rarely achieved within the confines of conventional living. Effie was apparently still living at their old duplex, supporting the family with income from Orville plus giving piano lessons. Through it all, Orville and Effie remained married, and committed in some form.
1. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 443
2.5 Indiana Produces Promising Tenor, Musical America, August 11, 1906
3. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold (Theatre Magazine Company, New York, April, 1923) pg. 9
3.5 The Adventures of Nibble Bunney, (Sutton House Publishers, New York, 1938) pg. xx
4. Orville Harrold (Internet Broadway DataBank, ibdb.com)
5. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 9
6. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, 443
7. Syracuse Herald, November 5, 1922, provided by Nancy A. Locke. This article can also be found online at gabrielleray.150m.com.
8. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, 443.
9. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Star Sunday Magazine Section, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
9.5. How Orville Harrold Was “Discovered”, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, quoting Gus Edwards regarding Orville’s Hammerstein breakthrough
10. Brilliant Assemblage of Musical Artists, Toronto World, October 7, 1912, quoting Gus Edwards working vaudeville with Orville at Patsy Morrison’s, Rockaway Beach
10.5. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Star Sunday Magazine Section, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
11. Harrold Still Subject, The Indianapolis Star Sunday, February 6. 1910, pg. 10
11.5. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 9
14. Wonder Doer Explains, The Indianapolis Star Sunday, February 20, 1910, pg. 11
16. Harrold Still Subject, The Indianapolis Star Sunday, February 6, 1910, pg. 10
17. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 9
18. New Tenor Introduced, New York Times, January 17, 1910
18.5 Of numerous references to this tour, an un-attributed example in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, from a Buffalo, NY paper, is headlined “Tetrazzini Enthralls Vast Assemblage”
19. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 10
20. Hammerstein May Quit Philadelphia, New York Times, January 29, 1910
21. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 10
23. Hammerstein May Quit Philadelphia, New York Times, January 29, 1910
24. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 10
25. no heading, Logansport (Indiana) Pharos, February 17, 1910, pg. 3
26. Will Care For Harrold, The Indianapolis Star, May 8, 1910, pg. 7
27. Picked From the Street, The Hutchinson News, February 17, 1912, pg. 12
28. Star A Close Friend, The Sheboygan (Wis.) Press, November 15, 1911
29. Hammerstein Got $1,200,000, New York Times, May 17, 1910, corroborated in My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 9\10, and Tuggle (below)
29.5. The Golden Age of Opera, Robert Tuggle (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, 1983) pg. 63
30. Hammerstein Got $1,200,000, New York Times, May 17, 1910
31. The Stage in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3, Robert Grau (Broadway Publishing Co., New York, 1912) pg. 282
32. Replies to Hammerstein, New York Times, April 17, 1910
32.5 How American Opera Singers Are Trained In Own Land, The New York Evening Telegram, April 2, 1910 - interview with Mrs. Saenger
33.5. Orville Harrold’s Remarkable Career, un-attributed 1913 article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, in which Oscar Saenger describes Orville’s initial discovery and training in 1909, and 1910 summer in Camden, Maine
34. Oscar Saenger And His Artist Pupils, un-attributed 1913 article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, describing Orville and Rudolf Berger working with Saenger, and showing photos of all from the 1910 summer in Camden, Maine. Photo details match those in above references.
Also, Hammerstein Plan Pleases Singers, New York Times, July 11, 1910, describing Berger sailing from Europe for American and Maine, along with Marie Rappold, with whom he had been singing in Bucharest and Paris
35. Sophie Brandt Back To Sing In Opera, New York Times, August 17, 1910
36. “Hans Flute Player” Is Full of Melody, New York Times, September 21, 1910
37. Hammerstein Ready To Build In London, New York Times, October 15, 1910, describing start of London construction, and 1911 plans for Orville in Paris & London
38. Theatre Collection (University of New Brunswick Library, Manuscripts Collection Index) Blanche Malli appeared in Winnipeg and Halifax during 1907 and 1908 seasons
39. Blanche Malli (Internet Broadway DataBank, ibdb.com)
40. Orville Harrold, un-attributed news clipping from Bridgeport, CT, May of 1916, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
41. The Golden Age of Opera, Robert Tuggle (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, 1983) pg. 158
42. Adventures of Nibble Bunny, O. and B. Harrold, Suttonhouse Publishers, New York, 1938, introduction
43. Orville Harrold, un-attributed news clipping from Bridgeport, CT, May of 1916, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold, corroborated by Charles A. Hooey, An American Original – Orville Harrold, (MusicWeb International, 2010)
44. Stage Children’s Benefit, New York Times, February 28, 1911
45. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 66
46. Star A Close Friend, The Sheboygan (Wis.) Press, November 15, 1911
To London, and Back
Oscar Hammerstein sailed to London in early 1910 with his second fortune and a new dream, strikingly akin to the old one. He intended to build a new opera house and opera company, competing directly with London’s venerable opera at Covent Garden. While friends and associates suggested that this might be rash, he insisted that his money, life, and passion were his to spend as he pleased. A 26,000 square foot theatre was begun in Kingsway, between Portugal and Batavia Streets, which likely cost over $500,000, as it was London’s third largest opera house behind the Lyceum and Palladium1. London theatre had never seen such a massive project where one person controlled the building, production company, cast, scene painters, orchestra, and every detail. Hammerstein must be granted his ability to organize and deliver, as this was a large and aggressive plan with much to be accomplished in order to open by the end of 1911.
Hammerstein reiterated during 1911 that Orville had studied in America, primarily with Oscar Saenger in New York2. Hammerstein was grooming an American image for several of his newly found voices, and to some extent for his new opera, perhaps a questionable means of building British favor. Architect’s renditions of his London Opera House appeared in January, 1911, while Orville was engaged in Naughty Marietta, along with brief statements that the opera company would include Orville Harrold and Felice Lyne3. Another of Hammerstein’s discoveries, Felice was a twenty one year old from Kansas City, Missouri, possessing an excellent soprano voice with an exciting mastery of runs and trills. There was also American basso, Henry Weldon, who was the son of a navy admiral. Two others performers from the old Manhattan Opera were baritone, Maurice Renaud, and Italian soprano, Lina Cavalieri, the latter of whom had performed at Covent Garden several years previously. The other important element from Manhattan was Jacques Coini, the talented stage manager (director) critical in creating Manhattan Opera performances. Hammerstein had obtained rights to three French successes not yet heard in London, including Quo Vadis, planned for opening night4.
Covent Garden was perhaps vulnerable to such an attack, as it relied as much on traditional support from London aristocracy as on current talent and presentations. Melba and Caruso were popular there, but were not there. Tetrazzini had thrilled London audiences, but was not there either. However, British tradition and its social caste system were there and impenetrable in pre-WWI days. Sir Thomas Lipton could be self-made wealthy and be knighted for indefatigably challenging New York to regain America’s Cup, but British aristocrats would still not personally go yachting with their “grocer”. And, although Hammerstein wore a top hat among their top-hatted society, his was of a Parisian style, while his grandiose hubris looked awfully American.
Orville had been busy following the closing of Naughty Marietta in 1911, first with a trip home through Muncie, where he performed mid-May at his old Wysor Grand Opera House5. He then traveled to Paris, where he may have made an operatic appearance, as Oscar had announced the previous fall, and where Oscar apparently had him study with a Frederick Boyer6. Orville arrived in London just as activity was becoming hectic. Chorus singers went on strike a few days before opening night, claiming that they had been overworked. The London county council informed Hammerstein that his new building did not conform to safety regulations without certain alterations, required immediately. They granted his occupancy license only hours before the opening performance7.
Opening night was November 13, 1911, with Maurice Renaud and Madame Olchanski in Quo Vadis. It was described as “one of the most gorgeously mounted operatic productions that ever graced the British stage”, and was received with a “tumult of applause” by an audience that glittered with the titled of a European capital8. Orville followed two days later as Arnold in William Tell, which served well to display his high tenor voice. The opera was seldom heard because few tenors could navigate the high C’s and D’s without distress and fatigue. At the time, Hammerstein declared, “He is the first man in twenty years who can sing that role. Caruso tried it, but had to quit at the end of the first act. 8.5” Also debuting in London that night, at the bottom of the playbill, the role of Hedwige was sung by an aspiring soprano named Lydia Locke9. From the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold:
The New York Times, November 16, 1911
HARROLD’S LONDON DEBUT American Tenor Receives Ovation in “William Tell” at Hammerstein’s ..let it be said at once that Harrold sang magnificently the part of Arnold, receiving an ovation at the end of the third act….He is certainly a heroic tenor of rare force, with a voice of remarkably fine singing quality, some of his upper notes being of extremely beautiful quality and big volume. What is more, he knows how to act. His singing roused the audience to great enthusiasm.
The Standard, London, 1911
All the flattering things we heard about Mr. Harrold’s voice were abundantly justified.
The Observer, London, 1911
Mr. Harrold has a voice of real value, with an extraordinary range and “staying power”. His fine ringing notes are intrinsically well produced and he sings with fine artistic discipline. His physique is unquestionably suited to Grand Opera and he is an accomplished actor.
Within days, Orville had cabled Effie, “Great success and will expect you soon10.” Not only is it unlikely that Effie was inclined to join him in London, but the trans-oceanic trip would have been difficult and probably have kept her away over Christmas. By the end of November, 1911, Orville’s photo had adorned the cover of Musical Courier magazine, the photo carrying a dedication “To my teacher, Oscar Saenger,” with a subtitle “Orville Harrold, Tenor, Oscar Hammerstein’s Great London Success.” London critics and audiences, whose natural bias may have been as much to question Orville’s authenticity as to accept it, were pleased by a singer they considered to be genuinely spectacular. Given Orville’s talent and earlier training, Oscar Saenger’s coaching and methods had produced in a brief time a tenor that London soon rated among opera’s top performers.
Shortly thereafter Orville and Felice Lyne starred in Rigoletto, Felice’s London debut, in which she caused a sensation as Gilda. Orville later explained that London was accustomed to stodgy old productions featuring 200-pound Gilda’s, so that audiences were captivated and thrilled by this fresh and exciting young American11. Diminutive Miss Lyne had a remarkable coloratura soprano voice, plus a sparkling and intelligent stage presence, despite having little theatrical experience at that point.
Born in Slater, Missouri in 1887, where her grandfather had once worked in the same newspaper office as Mark Train, Felice Lyne (true name Felicie, pronounced Faylicie) had spent her early years in Kansas City and Allentown, Pennsylvania, where her parents were both osteopathic doctors. She did not blossom early or publicly, but with family support sought voice training in Allentown that elicited strong recommendations to train abroad. Friends were thus surprised when she left for Paris with her mother in 1906, diligently studying singing and language there, with the sole aim of grand opera. Hammerstein discovered her in Paris, quickly determining to recruit her at nearly any cost. Many thought her slight stature (92 pounds when Hammerstein signed her) suited to light opera and opera comique, which she never considered, and she rejected Hammerstein’s inducements in early 1910 because he had contracted to remove himself from American grand opera. She refused his ever-escalating offers until he divulged to her his plan for grand opera in London. She then agreed to perform “Lizbeth” in Hans the Flute Player for Hammerstein’s fall season at his Manhattan Opera House, in preparation for England. She afterward returned to Paris, sang at the Grand Casino at San Sebastian, Spain, attracting the attention of the king and queen, and then arrived in London, to appear with Orville in late 1911, still accompanied by her mother 12.
The New York Times, December 3, 1911
AMERICAN STAR WON FAME IN A NIGHT Felice Lyne Draws the London Crowds That Hammerstein Longed to See ……Felice Lyne, the young American soprano whose Gilda in “Rigoletto” created such a furor in Oscar Hammerstein’s London Opera House, has been the most sought-after person in London during the week. …..The result has been seen in the dailies and weeklies, which devote an almost absurd amount of space to such subjects as what Miss Lyne eats, what she doesn’t, and other similarly important and interesting details.
Orville remained popular, (“he enhances his already big reputation every time he appears” 13), Rigoletto continued to play, and Faust debuted with Orville singing the title role. However, Quo Vadis did not continue to draw, and William Tell was generally a bore (part of the reason that it was not often produced), as some of the initial public excitement began to wane. Felice and Orville starred together in debuting Lucia di Lammermoor during December, again with acclaim.
The New York Times, December 13, 1911
Orville Harrold and Felice Lyne Add to Their London Fame ….Hammerstein’s production of “Lucia” at the London Opera House tonight, with Orville Harrold and Felice Lyne in the leading roles, proved a further step toward that conquest of the British metropolis which the impresario has set out to accomplish. Harrold more than confirmed the impression he had already created that he is one of the greatest tenors of the age, while Miss Lyne’s rendering of the mad scene simply brought down the house.
Hammerstein then had his burgeoning American stars open in Tales of Hoffman, as box office receipts were satisfactory and special train services were arranged for operagoers from other English cities. There were also some concerns. Orville lamented being handicapped by performance rights prohibitions that prevented Hammerstein from producing Tosca and La Boheme, which would have nicely displayed to his voice, but looked forward to soon appearing in La Traviata and La Favorita, which would improve his opportunities14. Hammerstein himself had concerns, for box office receipts continued but subscriptions were not coming in, subscriptions being essential for the financial survival of any opera company15. A disappointment in that regard had been that the king had unexpectedly departed for India the day before Hammerstein’s London opening, dragging away many influential persons whom Hammerstein had hoped would attract support16. He was looking for improvement after the holidays, but spoke of not giving summer opera if subscriptions were not forthcoming.
Hammerstein opened La Traviata in January, 1912, headlining Orville Harrold and Victoria Fer, plus Romeo & Juliet with Orville and Felice Lyne. Oscar also introduced several new lead singers in January, because Lina Cavalieri had prior engagements in St. Petersburg and likewise Maurice Renaud in Boston17. Orville thus finally got to sing La Favorita, opposite Lydia Locke as Inez18, who had been elevated to replace Lina Cavalieri. But attendance continued to flag, as Covent Garden sought exciting tenors to compete with Orville, and Hammerstein moved ahead with plans to present operas on which Covent Garden claimed exclusive rights for London production19.
It was perhaps more important and reassuring to Orville than to Hammerstein that they were visited in January by Otto H. Kahn, the wealthy board chairman of the New York Metropolitan Opera, and a convivial companion in operatic passion despite their recent New York City competition. He took in an afternoon performance of Rigoletto, being impressed with Orville Harrold and Felice Lyne. He encouraged Hammerstein, between acts, commenting that Miss Lyne’s voice was remarkable, while only one singer in the world (Caruso) could compete with Harrold20. “If they don’t draw, nothing will” he continued, kiddingly telling Hammerstein that he should turn them into stock, being as “I know good security when I see it.”
Hammerstein hung on for the remainder of the winter season, keeping London guessing as to what he would do. When asked by a London reporter how business was going, Oscar replied, “Business? Opera is not a business, it’s a disease!”21. When another reporter asked if there was money in opera, Oscar quipped, “Yeah, mine!”. His self-deprecating wit never left him, no matter what the travails, which continued unabated. The Duke of Fife died, putting the court into mourning and curtailing social events such as opera. Despite it all, Hammerstein decided on a twelve-week “summer” opera season, beginning in late April. That proved to fall about a week after the Titanic sank, a national tragedy for England that stalled box office activity. Hammerstein’s response was to organize a Titanic relief fund performance, the first to occur in London theatres22.
Hammerstein’s wavering regarding the continuing of London opera resulted in a sobering near-miss for some members of his company, including Orville. When an early closing became imminent, Orville had booked passage home on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, a seemingly exciting opportunity at the time. Although the final decision to continue opera changed travel plans, word had already been sent home to Muncie and family, who were then obviously alarmed when the stunning news hit the world22.5. The anxiety continued for several days, until Orville was able to inform home that he was safe in London.
On April 29th, 1912 Orville, Felice Lyne, and others sang before King George and Queen Mary at Hammerstein’s benefit concert for the League of Mercy. The cast included Lydia Locke (Talbot), purportedly the widow of English army officer, Reginald Talbot23. She was a tall American soprano who had been drawn to the opportunity of Hammerstein’s London Opera House, and who was getting to know Orville well. As the king and queen entered the benefit, Oscar greeted them by stepping forward with his hand extended and exclaiming, “Glad to see you, King!” To this startlingly casual breech of royal etiquette, King George smoothly replied, “I am delighted to meet you, Mr. Hammerstein”, followed by a similarly gracious exchange with the queen24. According to Orville, Oscar could never see the humor in this incident. To the extent that aristocrats confidently understand their superiority, Orville perceived Hammerstein to conduct himself as one, feeling equal to other aristocrats. He had respectfully removed his top hat, but otherwise viewed the king as a merely a younger gentleman who spoke better English, but had less knowledge of opera25.
The summer season was performed, if in slightly abbreviated fashion, with a few of Hammerstein’s gambits to attract audiences. In June, The Chimes of Normandy featured three new “wild card” pieces composed by Hammerstein to enliven the show. They had something of the desired musical effect, with a waltz sung by Orville being particularly melodious and endearing, but much of the other cast and presentation were unremarkable. The summer season closed, scattering the cast into an unknown future.
On Wednesday July 17, Orville sailed for New York aboard the Olympic26, sister ship to the Titanic and later having the distinction of ramming and sinking the Nantucket lightship while approaching New York Harbor in 1933. He headed home to Indiana for the short term, then to New York to begin various engagements for Hammerstein. Through thirty-two weeks in London, he had sung 112 times, in nine different roles, in French, Italian, and English, in a beautiful opera house, having been treated well by Hammerstein and by the British public and critics27, who dubbed him an American Caruso. Orville Harrold had become a known and respected opera performer. From Effie Harrold’s scrapbook:
Vanity Fair, London, 1911
Mr. Harrold as “Faust” was in splendid form. The more I hear of this artist the more do I feel confirmed in my original opinion that in Mr. Harrold is born one of the four greatest tenors living. His wonderful gift of crescendo on the highest notes is remarkable, but he does not substitute mere noise for artistry. A beautiful tone always, whether it be loud or soft, seems to be his aim. Mr. Harrold’s “Faust” is one of the best ever seen in London.
For “Lucia Di Lammermoor”, Evening News, London, 1912
Mr. Orville Harrold, who took the part of Edgar, is one of Mr. Hammerstein’s greatest finds. His voice is really remarkable and he sings and acts with great sense of style. He is easily classed as one of the greatest tenors of today.
Weekly Times, London, 1912
The new tenor, Orville Harrold, was the hero of the evening. His singing of Una Furtiva Lagrima, from Donizetti’s sparkling Elisir D’Amore was rapturously encored. The singer easily reached the high D flat in the English ballad which he substituted, the last verse of which he had to repeat.
From Sunday night concert, The Standard, London, 1912
The feature of the concert was Mr. Harrold’s wonderful reception after his singing of the aria from “Aida”.
Upon reaching New York in late July, 1912 Orville stated that Hammerstein may quit London opera, as mass-support was not there at the prices Oscar had to charge to cover his expenses28, and the company might thus tour the United States. Orville then spent August and September with his family in Muncie, giving concerts in several towns around central Indiana29 that were arranged by his old Muncie singing teacher, Harry Paris. While growing up in Greencastle, Indiana, Harry had injured his back in a diving accident, leaving him in pain throughout much of his life. Despite this, he had been directing choruses and had become entrepreneurial, arranging concerts and singing engagements in the region. He paired Orville with a Muncie accompanying pianist named Agnes Monroe, who deftly blended with the range and moods of Orville’s selections. While many pieces were from opera, there were popular songs that suited Orville’s voice, including The Secret and Mother McCree, the latter a 1910 Irish song by Chauncey Olcott, with lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. Young also wrote the story and lyrics for Naughty Marietta, including I’m Falling In Love With Someone, which had become another popular Orville standard. It was common for Orville to then to appear in costume as Canio from Pagliacci, explaining the story and singing and acting the part for a bit of opera experience. They developed a popular standard presentation, and Harry Paris began acting as Hammerstein’s agent in arranging Orville’s mid-western concert tours29.5, which conveniently allowed Orville to frequent Indiana to see his parents and family.
Orville had reached a pinnacle, whatever Hammerstein’s London fate, from where his emotions had drifted from Effie since his London-opening cablegram to her the previous November. They had consequently separated before he returned to New York in September. This unfortunate turn was understandable, and probably inevitable. Effie knew that there had been other women in Orville’s life away from Muncie, but she had accommodated their circumstances apart. But Patti was now thirteen years old and could be headstrong and argumentative. (Based on family accounts of later years, which may have been tainted by events more specific to that period.) She knew of her father conquering distant stages, and that he had just returned from New York, Paris, and London, places of notice on downtown perfume bottles. For the moment, the glamour of her father’s life was certainly more apparent than the cost. However the discussions transpired, Patti returned to New York with Orville.
It was unclear what awaited Orville, whose future depended on Hammerstein. Orville was probably aware that Oscar had finally and fully abandoned London opera in late August, embracing a new plan to build a chain of twenty opera houses in significantly sized American cities (the largest cities already had opera) that would support a limited opera season plus other theatre activities for the remainder of the year30. A traveling opera company would appear for two weeks at each, in initial years, then expand to a month-long season, finally becoming a permanent opera company at each, as was then found in many towns of France and Germany. Oscar had come to understand that one percent of American homes had a (expensive) piano and wanted music, justifying “the most stupendous undertaking I have ever attempted31.” The plan relied on organizations in each town to incorporate independently funded companies that would support their local opera house and theatre activities. Because these were not Hammerstein’s and were not in New York, opera franchises appeared exempt from Oscar’s non-compete contract with the Met. On the other hand, while individual theatres were independent, Oscar’s plan depended on all of them, which likely contributed to its ultimate demise.
Under the franchise plan, Oscar had contracted with eight of his London performers, including Orville, Felice Lyne, and Henry Weldon, stipulating that they were to appear in either opera or concerts, in either London or touring in America32. While Orville thus had some security, theatre remained a shifting lifestyle. The franchise scheme ultimately faded, but Oscar’s contracts with his performers did not. Having returned to Paris after the London Opera, Felice Lyne and her mother reached New York in mid-September, 1912, with plans to spend about six weeks in her old hometown of Kansas City before returning to Europe. Her comments to ship news reporters immediately antagonized Hammerstein, with whom she had had several disputes. One comment was that she had slapped Oscar in London, after he had grievously insulted her33, to which he responded with a $100,000 libel suit34. He claimed that she had not even been in the room when the event occurred, and that she was simply seeking advertising at the expense of his reputation. Oscar had actually been thumped on the head with a score from Faust35 (Rigolleto by another account), and Orville stated years later that Felice’s mother had done the thumping36. The incident had occurred when Felice had been practicing in London, and refused to stop when Oscar had summoned her to work on another piece. Oscar had become angry, Felice stomped out, and her mother defended her honor. (Hammerstein’s account of the incident agreed, in large, with Orville’s.)
A more serious statement of Felice’s at the New York pier was that she was under no contract regarding American appearances37, and expected to do little singing while here. Hammerstein filed suit in Kansas Federal Court during mid-October, 1912 after Felice had netted about $3000 ($150,000 today) from a benefit concert arranged by the Shriners at the Kansas City Convention Hall. Oscar claimed half of the proceeds, based on his contract with Miss Lyne, and sought an injunction either preventing future American appearances or yielding half the proceeds38 Miss Lyne’s attorney claimed that the contract did not prevent her American appearances, and both Hammerstein suits were ultimately decided in favor of Miss Lyne. Meanwhile, concert promoters had sought to have Felice Lyne’s London co-star, Orville Harrold, perform with her at the concert, doubly popular in Kansas City because of Orville’s Kansas background. Thwarting this, Oscar had Orville appear, beginning October 7, at a music festival in Toronto, Canada, also featuring Met soprano Alice Nielsen, popular New York orchestra conductor, Nathan Franko (sometime Met conductor 1899-1913), and others39. Felice returned to Europe after spending a brief period in her other hometown, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and in New York, continuing to give concerts in these and other locations.
Keeping Orville busy and profitable, Oscar next rented him to the Chicago Opera Company, which was formed in 1910 after Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera had closed, and included such former Hammerstein artists as Mary Garden, Armand Crabbé, and conductor Cleofonte Campanini. This likely served Orville well, placing him near Indiana and allowing other regional engagements. Orville once traveled overnight from Chicago to Lafayette, Indiana for a 1912 concert arranged by Harry Paris under agreement with Hammerstein40. The Chicago Opera Company also performed periodically at the (now) Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia, under the name Chicago-Philadelphia Opera Company. In late 1912 they had Orville appear there in Rigolleto, supporting the American debut of famed Italian baritone, Titta Ruffo41. As with Orville, Ruffo sang for some time with the Chicago Opera, which was attracting notable European talent. While Chicago had worked for Orville on his 1910 tour with Tetrazzini, he does not seem to have connected well with the Chicago Opera or audiences, so that this venue did not remain for long among his standard engagements.
Completing 1912, the year of Hammerstein’s London Opera closing, Arthur and Oscar Hammerstein had Orville perform a concert with Emma Trentini between Christmas and New Years (Dec. 29) at the New York Hippodrome, their first appearance together since Naughty Marietta42. The Hippodrome was New York’s largest theatre, capable of seating 5000, and the concert featured a 75-chair orchestra. Trentini was then appearing at the Lyric Theatre in a Hammerstein production named The Firefly, for which Victor Herbert was originally to have written the score. Herbert had quit the project over a major dispute with Trentini (operatic prima donnas had some tendency toward emotional volatility), after which Arthur Hammerstein had recruited relatively unknown Czech composer, Rudolf Friml, because of his classical background. Composed in only a month, The Firefly launched Friml into a career of light operettas that sustained him for a quarter century.
Meanwhile, Oscar had scaled down to a more modest plan, strikingly akin to his old ones, to build a new opera house and opera company presenting grand opera in English. Most of his endeavors aimed at popularizing opera, and he drew more common audiences than did traditional venues. (His passion apparently overlooked the fact that this was functionally a philanthropy.) This new idea was percolating in various circles, based on occasional English-scripted operas already being presented by the traditional houses, and second tier opera companies frequently performed opera in English. The financial engine behind this venture was nearly a million dollars Hammerstein raised by selling his vaudeville rights in the Times Square area to B. F. Keith (the Keith organization in RKO: Radio Keith Orpheum), included those to his lucrative Victoria Theatre43. Under agreement of the owners’ association, Hammerstein owned vaudeville rights in the area between 29th and 59th Streets, in the heart of the New York performance district43.5.
With his third fortune, Oscar began the massive Lexington Opera House on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 51st Street, although the specifically intended use may not have been immediately made public. Construction advanced through 1913, toward an opening in January of 1914. This was all too much for the Met, which had paid dearly to be free of Mr. Hammerstein. The courts upheld the Met’s injunction suit44, so that Oscar sold out his interests in 1915 without ever having presented opera in his new theatre.
Oscar was down, but not without assets. He spent the mid-teen years in his office over the Victoria Theatre, once again conceiving cigar manufacturing machines such as had made in first fortune, to be ready for opera at the expiration of his non-compete contract with the Met45. Several years before his death, a sore opened on his foot, which never healed. Orville was with him on one occasion when they were visited by another well known impresario named Max Rabinoff, who replied enthusiastically when Oscar asked if he were going to continue presenting opera. After a brief moment Oscar said, “Max, keep on giving opera, and in a few years your foot will be as bad as mine46!” Oscar had seen the hopelessness of the game, as perhaps his son, William, had also. Willie had reportedly originated the “pie-in-your-face” routine while managing vaudeville at the Victoria, but had forbidden his son, Oscar Hammerstein II, from entering the theatre and music business. Insisting on a regular paying profession, Willie had his son attend Columbia University and then Columbia Law School. Only after Willie had died did Oscar Hammerstein II drop out of law school and begin seriously pursuing drama and music.
Orville and Oscar had always remained cordial, despite some strident disagreements. Shocked at Oscar’s deteriorating health during mid-1919, Oscar took Orville’s hand and said, “Mike, we’ve been good friends, but I guess this is about the last time we’ll see each other. I’m alive from the neck up47!” Orville remained convinced that Hammerstein was driven purely by passion for grand opera, and that were personal aggrandizement his motive, there would surely have been cheaper and more certain methods of achieving it.
Oscar Hammerstein died on August 1, 1919, having presented no more operatic productions after his London invasion. Ultimately, even his competitors had to grant him his accomplishments. An Oscar Hammerstein Memorial Association held a presentation on Sunday morning, March 28, 1920 at the 71st Regiment Armory, followed by a memorial service at Oscar’s Manhattan Opera House that afternoon. Among others, the organizing committee included Met Board Chairman, Otto Kahn, Met director, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, Met tenor, Enrico Caruso, Met sopranos, Geraldine Farrar and Frances Alda, Mary Garden, the Hammerstein discovery who was then directing presentations of the Chicago Opera Company, and Orville Harrold, then a tenor at the Met48.
Orville’s fondness for his patron is described in his memoir of Hammerstein49:
Some singers declared that Hammerstein was impossible to deal with, that he was egoistic, vindictive, insulting. Perhaps he was the first, the third he might have been when he was angry, the second he never was. He discovered me, he made me, and I never had but one quarrel with him, and for this he apologized twenty-four hours afterwards. I look back on him with gratitude, with admiration, even with love. ….. Before he came opera had sunk into the plaything of society; he opened the doors and let in the crowd.
While the Met has far outlasted Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera Company, his opera houses, where Orville first performed grand opera, have outlasted theirs and are entering their second century of life. The original Metropolitan Opera House, built at 39th St. and Broadway in 1883, was demolished in 1967, when the Met moved to the new Lincoln Center at old Lincoln Square. Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera House on West 34th Street went through various ownerships, as a large Masonic Temple among other things, to become today’s Manhattan Performance center. It houses numerous performing and recording studios, as well as the Hammerstein Ballroom, the main performance stage. His Philadelphia Opera House was operated by the Met until 1920 and is still known as the Metropolitan Opera House, also having seen such later uses as cinema and sports, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Through some strange twist, in separate purchases, Hammerstein’s two opera houses are now owned by churches.
As 1912 closed on Orville, amid a late flurry of concerts and engagements through Indiana, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, it is easy to lose track of daughter, Patti. She was probably in New York to start school during the fall, where she was enrolled in an academy on the Hudson River50 to study voice51. This was certainly a boarding school, given Orville’s absences, and it is difficult to understand just how he envisioned his new family situation to work. Orville likely held a relatively unstructured view of parenting, and some form of this arrangement apparently went on for much of the following year. Patti would have had general access to Orville’s lifestyle, which would have been among New York theatre and music personalities. She would also have become aware of his personal life and relationships as she had never previously known them. It was most certainly all an eye-opener for the young Indiana girl.
Fame and operatic success had finally arrived for Orville. His talent was as good as early mentors had hoped, plus he had the intellect and dedication to achieve acclaim with it. His successes with Hammerstein now netted him notice in several period books. One, regarding grand opera singers of the day, mentioned that his musical success was supported by, an excellent memory and being a quick study52. Another, regarding stage and musicals, declared, Unquestionably the signal triumph of Orville Harrold…...will establish a precedent for the native singer53, noting that Hammerstein predicted that in London, Caruso will have a rival – the first to come on the horizon. Finally, a 1913 book of popular American sheet music was prefaced by a sixteen page photo gallery of 69 noted opera singers, including one of Orville’s 1910 Mishkin portraits54.
The solitary trek from his boyhood mid-west origins had paid returns, although at a cost to his family and to his home connections. Effie still loved Orville, but had also built a social existence in her life without him. The future was in new directions, and theatre continued to be a life of constant change.
1. Hammerstein Ready To Build In London, New York Times, October 15, 1910, describing start of London construction, and 1911 plans for Orville in Paris & London, also Hammerstein’s London Opera House, New York Times, January 24, 1911
2. Orville Harrold Studied Here, New York Times, November 15, 1911
3. Hammerstein’s London Opera House, New York Times, January 24, 1911
5. The Hoosier Hot Shots, Dick Stodghill (D. Stodghill, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 2007) pg. 26
6. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 444, corroborated by New York Times, January 28, 1914
7. Lina Cavalieri, Paul Fryer & Olga Usova (McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2004) pg. 132
8.5 Orville Harrold’s Voice Takes All London By Storm, New York American, November 16, 1911, pg 4
9. Concert program, from the scrapbook of Lydia Locke, provided by Nancy A. Locke
10. Orville Harrold’s Career Reviewed, Muncie Sunday Star, November 26, 1911, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
11. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold (Theatre Magazine Company, New York, April, 1923) pg. 64
12. Young American Singer Who Has Captured London, New York Times, Dec. 3, 1911
13. American Star Won Fame In A Night, New York Times, December 3, 1911, separate article from above
14. Americans’ Success In London Opera, New York Times, December 17, 1911
16. Ready For London Opera, New York Times, April 21, 1912
17. Hammerstein After Caruso, New York Times, January 7, 1912
18. Review from unnamed English newspaper, provided by Nancy A. Locke
19. Hammerstein Faces Covent Garden Suit, New York Times, February 4, 1912
20. Hammerstein Has London Guessing, New York Times, January 21, 1912
21. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 66
22. Ready For London Opera, New York Times, April 21, 1912
22.5 Harrold Realizes Dream, Muncie Evening Press, April 15, 1978, pg. T3
23. Birmingham Daily Mail, April, 1912, provided by Nancy A. Locke, March 12, 2010
24. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pgs. 10 & 64
25. ibid. pg. 64
26. Orville Harrold Coming, New York Times, July 21, 1912
28. Orville Harrold Returns, New York Times, July 25, 1912
29. Unknown Ft. Wayne, Indiana newspaper, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold, also The Ft. Wayne News, August 31, 1913, pg. 10
29.5. Harry Paris arranges Midwest concerts, while Orville remains under the direction of Oscar Hammerstein, stated in numerous news clippings in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
30. Hammerstein Gives Up Opera In London, New York Times, August 20, 1912
33. Hammerstein Asks $100,000 In Libel Suit, New York Times, September 24, 1912
35. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 66
37. Felice Lyne Coming Home, New York Times, September 4, 1912
38. Hammerstein Sues Star, New York Times, October 16, 1912
39. Brilliant Assemblage of Musical Artists, Toronto World, October 5, 1912, and World’s Best Musicians Thrill Crowd at Arena, Toronto Daily, October 8, 1912, both from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
40. Orville Harrold Worked And Sang His Way To Fame, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, concerning appearances in Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana
41. Famous Baritone In Rigoletto, un-attributed Philadelphia news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, describing Ruffo’s debut at the Chicago-Philadelphia Opera, under Andrea Dippel
42. Trentini and Harrold in Concert, New York Times, December 9, 1912
43. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 66
43.5 Hammerstein Sails; Is Weary of London, New York Times, July 28, 1912
44. Hammerstein Gives Up His Opera Plans, New York Times, January 6, 1914
45. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 66
48. For Hammerstein Memorial, New York Times, January 18, 1920
49. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold, pg. 68
50. Orville Harrold Divorced, New York Times, February 18, 1913
51. Success For Harrold, The Hutchinson News, February 16, 1913
52. The Grand Opera Singers of Today, Henry C. Lahee, L. C. Page & Co., Boston, 1912, pg. 241
53. The Stage in the Twentieth Century, Robert Grau, Broadway Publishing Co., New York, 1912, pg. 281
54. Songs That Never Grow Old, Syndicate Publishing Company, New York, 1913
The Second Marriage, 1913 – 1917
Orville Harrold appeared secure as an operatic tenor at the opening of 1913. Despite some near-term uncertainty during construction of the new Lexington Opera House, he had been regularly employed by Hammerstein for two years, who always paid his artists for services rendered (any wage disputes arising from his closings involved future contract obligations) and who would have paid his star London tenor very well. One report of their five year contract arising from the opera franchise scheme stated that Hammerstein was to pay Orville $700 nightly, for forty nights per season1, which in today’s values would approach a million dollars annually.
Hammerstein engagements kept Orville busy for the new year, while Orville soon managed several projects of his own. The Firefly, with Emma Trentini, had moved to the Casino Theatre, where Orville was seated in a stage box one evening in early January, 1913. When prima donna Trentini invited him to entertain the audience after one of her curtain calls, he sang “I’m Falling in Love with Some One”, from Naughty Marietta, which had brought public notice to his high tenor voice2, first from the box without rising from his seat, and a second time joining her onstage. He then returned his box seat, where his companion was former London Opera soprano, Lydia Locke3.
By February, Orville was touring through Kansas in a concert series arranged by Harry Paris. They presented their standard show, in which Orville introduced Canio in costume, and the practiced piano accompaniment of Agnes Monroe had come to intertwine as a duet with Orville’s voice. He could talk to the audience of his early days in Kansas, and was generally well received as a returning native. They passed through Lawrence, Topeka, Hutchinson, and Wichita in early February, and on to Kansas City on the eleventh4, where Orville sang to a nearly empty house. One reviewer lamented that citizens had missed an excellent event, as Orville soldiered on with expression and energy for the few who came5. Kansas City unfortunately perceived Orville to have snubbed them the previous fall when he boycotted their Felice Lyne homecoming, for which they reciprocated in kind, the sympathetic reviewer patiently explaining that the singer had merely honored his manager and their contract.
Orville’s son, Paul, years later described an event that likely occurred on this 1913 Harry Paris tour, when Paul was about ten years old. Orville had written that his train would be arriving in Muncie, so Paul was there to greet him. When all was ready for departure, Orville spontaneously carried Paul onto the train and they continued on to St. Louis, wiring Effie along the way that all was fine5.5. Paul received new clothes in St. Louis, and continued on to Kansas City, attending concerts and having a wonderful time. He said that Orville tried to have the children with him whenever possible, and Paul recalled enjoying times with his father in Chicago, New York, California, and at Orville’s later home in Connecticut.
Harry Paris had Orville back in Indianapolis on the eve before Valentine’s Day, for a grand event at English’s Opera House6. In addition to a large audience was Orville’s friend and mentor, Alexander Ernestinoff, in a prime box over the stage. Before Pagliacci, Orville gave a brief speech describing his joy for the event, at which his mother heard him sing for the first time in many years, and for the first time in public, and expressed gratitude to Ernestinoff, who had led him to first sing with an orchestra in Indianapolis.
Orville was in Muncie the following Monday, performing in his own tragic opera. Effie and Orville Harrold appeared in divorce court on February 17, 1913, newspaper reports describing their circumstances all too vividly7:
Effie Harrold, wife of Orville Harrold, the tenor, obtained a decree of divorce from her husband this afternoon in the Delaware Superior Court on the ground of cruelty. Mrs. Harrold told the court that her husband on several occasions said he wanted nothing more to do with her. She produced letters in which he said he did not love her.
Mrs. Harrold testified that she and her husband were happy before he became famous as a singer. Since that time he had been in New York, Paris, and London, while she had remained here caring for their three children. She complained that his success had killed all his love for her. Mr. Harrold was in court with his attorney and admitted that he did not love his wife. Their stations in life, he said, had become widely separated.
By the decree Mr. Harrold receives the custody of their oldest child, Adelene, 13…..The singer was ordered to pay $25 a month each for support of the two younger children.
With the efficiency of modern rail service, Orville appeared three days later in New York City Hall, to be married8,
HARROLD WEDS AGAIN – Tenor, Divorced Last Monday, Marries Lydia Talbot at City Hall – Orville Harrold, the operatic tenor, and Lydia Talbot, who gave her profession as a singer, obtained a marriage license yesterday afternoon at City Hall and were married shortly afterward by Alderman James Smith in the building……Harrold gave his age as 35 and his residence as 262 West Forty-sixth Street. His bride, who said she was a widow, gave her age as 25 and her address as 204 West 108th Street….
Orville’s separation from Effie, after six years away, becomes clear. Lydia Locke Talbot, statuesque soprano from Hammerstein’s London Opera, was relatively unknown in New York. While the New York Times wedding announcement introduced Orville by a single name as “the operatic tenor”, Lydia was somebody who “gave her profession as a singer.” She had not been connected with Hammerstein’s old Manhattan Opera, but Musical America stated that she and Orville had met while both were pupils of Oscar Saenger9, which could place the meeting in New York during 1910 or 1911, when Orville was still unknown. She thus would have been aware of Hammerstein’s London plans, and may have ventured independently to London, where Orville became the season’s reigning tenor, and an excellent catch for a rising soprano. Reginald Talbot was again mentioned as Lydia’s previous husband, while Orville announced that they would take an apartment on Riverside Drive, and would travel to Florence, Italy after completing his spring commitments to Hammerstein9.5.
In London, Lydia would have had to earn her place on her own merits, which were sufficient to garner a number of roles: Hedwige in William Tell, Countess of Ceprano in Rigolleto, Alisa in Lucia, Inez in La Favourita, Gertrude in Romeo and Juliet, Martha in Faust, and Giuletta in Tales of Hoffman. Along with Orville, Felice Lyne, and others, she had London portraits taken by Dover St. Studio in Mayfair (the common photo of Orville as Faust is from Dover St. Studio.) Lydia went to New York in mid-1912, at about the time that Orville left London. After attending a Halloween party with a theatrical agent, she was involved in a New York auto accident that injured eleven people, and kept her inactive for a period with a broken limb10. (Orville appears to have been touring for Hammerstein at this time.) Arrayed in considerable jewelry, she reportedly identified herself at Bellevue Hospital as Mrs. Lydia Harrold11, and remained in the hospital for several weeks. Their wedding announcement in the New York Herald, headlined “Orville Harrold, Four Days Divorced, Weds Singer After Opera Romance”, indicated that Orville had been her singing coach for two years12, and everything suggests that Orville and Lydia had been building up to a wedding for much of the previous year.
Patti Harrold had probably reached the same conclusion upon arriving in New York the previous fall. Patti had been reared for much of her life by Effie alone, who continued to care deeply for Orville. For the adolescent daughter, Lydia was likely the woman who had divided her family, while Lydia’s auto accident perhaps placed Orville in a protective stance toward her, exacerbating an awkward situation. It also turns out that Lydia may have been neither maternal nor receptive to competition. The new family likely had a difficult start, whatever the circumstances, and Patti forever held a vitriolic view of Lydia while remaining quite in love with her father and New York theatre.
The divorce grew excruciatingly public and controversial, becoming syndicated news as a classic marital travesty of a husband abandoning his wife and family. A full page spread in the Salt Lake Sunday Tribune was headlined, How He “Outgrew” His Wife. While the article offered no editorial comment13, Effie eloquently and simply described her distress and sorrow, as Orville clumsily declared that, “A man must fulfill his destiny” and concluded that, “I had to go on and she would not – that is all there is to it.” This perhaps caused few ripples in New York City, but left lasting negative impressions elsewhere.
The Hutchinson (Kansas) News, where Orville was a virtual native son, declared (tongue in cheek), “SUCCESS FOR HARROLD – Caruso Has Nothing on the Kansas Singer Now.” While Orville had already been called an “American Caruso”, they were not referring to opera. Caruso had appeared before a New York court in 1906 on charges of pinching an unsuspecting lady in a crowd at the zoo. Orville had now surpassed Caruso by joining the “alimony class.” Dwelling on Effie’s tearful testimony of how fame had crushed their love14, the article was relentlessly sarcastic of Orville’s “growth” from loving grocery clerk to callous opera star. But, the couple agreed that their relationship was beyond reconciliation. It was perhaps inevitable that the forces were just too great, given the two people, their circumstances, and their differences. All that was left was to live on.
While live on they did, it can be said that Orville paid far less child support than was commensurate with his earning power since entering Mr. Hammerstein’s employ in 1910. At $25 each for two children, Orville’s support payments were slightly above the $10 per week he had earned in Muncie, in that sense constituting a full average income level for the family. Effie’s and the children continued for a time in their Muncie duplex, with income solely from Orville and piano lessons, and then moved into the house of Effie’s sister, Emma Kiger, who was a single schoolteacher. Having stayed with Orville through the lean Bohemian years, the family remained in modest circumstances while Orville’s income elevated into the substantial level of successful New York entertainers.
As divorce scandal swirled on, Orville was back touring through the spring of 1913, without his new wife. In mid-April he shared a double bill of classical music, the last in a series of Artist’s Concerts, in Portland, Oregon with noted Swiss pianist and conductor, Rudolph Ganz15 (who claimed direct decent from Charlemagne). This was part of a continuing tour, such that Orville reached Indianapolis from the west on May 31, for a large Wagner choral festival led by Alexander Ernestinoff. Lydia arrived from New York the same day, and the festival began the following afternoon. A very large combined chorus, derived from a variety of the region’s German choruses, presented several concerts16. Soloists were Marie Rappold and Henri Scott, both of the Met, and Orville Harrold, singing individually and with the chorus.
The Indianapolis event concluded Orville’s spring obligations to Hammerstein, leaving the newlyweds to plan their summer. They considered a summerhouse at Bradley Beach, New Jersey17, but it appears that they opted for a honeymoon in Florence, Italy to study opera, as indicated at the time of their wedding. According to an un-attributed article in Effie Kiger’s scrapbook, Orville studied intently in Italy on improving his French, German, and Italian, in addition to learning new operatic librettos18. It also appears that they managed several concerts and opera engagements while there19.
It is uncertain where Patti was during this. She could have summered in Muncie. Orville had formal custody of her, so that she might have remained in New York, relatively alone, or joined in an Italian vacation. Wherever she was at the time, Patti mentioned to her niece years later (ca. 1960) that Lydia had shot across a room at Orville20 while the couple was in Italy (apparently on their honeymoon)! Although this is hardly objective proof of the event, such an assertion is credible. It is difficult to guess how much Orville ever really knew of Lydia, or when he knew it, for she was an audaciously complex woman who wove a long intricate history.
Lydia Mae Locke was among the youngest daughters of Civil War Veteran, Newton Bushnell Lock (they interchanged Lock and Locke), who had a farm in Adams County, west central Illinois, near the Mississippi River town of Quincy. She was likely born in or before 1884, being about six years younger than Orville, although age is just one area that she obscured. The family relocated during the hard times preceding the crash of 1892, to be near relatives in Hannibal, Missouri, where Mr. Lock worked as a day laborer. Lydia ran away from Hannibal and later lived with a married older sister in St. Louis21, Mrs. Jane Schmitt, events suggesting that this was a considerably traumatic time.
Lydia Mae seemed to go by her middle name during this period, and the varied mix of turn of the century St. Louis is when and where Mae cultivated operatic aspirations and dramatic flair, which she never limited to the stage. Continuing a feral streak, she met Albert W. Talbot during 1902, an exotic French-speaking black sheep in white suits, in a St. Louis “immoral house22” when she was perhaps 18 and Albert was about 43. Albert became Mae’s first husband the following year in Denver, when she became his fourth wife23. Albert had strayed a bit also, for he was the brother of Québécois Colonel Arthur Talbot, of the Canadian federal parliament24, and they had a sister who was a nun. The Talbot couple moved to San Francisco and on to Reno, Nevada, Albert’s talents being gambling, horsemanship, and bookmaking, to the extent that they owned real estate in both cities25. Between financial worth and dandy dress, he was known as Prince Albert. They owned a home and a bowling alley in Reno, and Mae sometimes performed vaudeville and opera at the Wigwam Theatre, under the name of Madame “Talbo” 26.
Albert perhaps supported Mae’s operatic yearnings, as he seems to have been genuinely sympathetic toward her, so that Mae claimed to have studied opera in Milan, Italy. She stated that she had debuted in Carmen, going on to appear in Rigoletto, La Gioconda, Il Trovatore, and Aida, both in Milan and Venice27, and at the time of marrying Orville, she stated that her first husband had lived with her in Italy28. Returning home, she appeared in concerts in San Francisco and her husband’s homeland of Canada. It also seems that the couple was somewhat volatile, gradually escalating into verbal and physical abuse. By late 1909, having lived in Reno for three years, they filed for divorce and began negotiating division of property.
Mae had an apartment, where the couple reportedly fought one evening, and where both neighbors and police were familiar with similar events. Mae and Albert then met the following morning (October 28, 1909) at the office of her attorney, Judge W. D. Jones, to continue discussing property, of which Mae wanted 50% on the basis that she had helped Albert obtain all that he owned. With cool October weather in Reno, Mae had arrived wearing fur and a muff, and still had her hands in the muff as they talked. As voices and emotions escalated, Mae stood up over Albert, and when he stood to face her she pushed the muff into his chest and fired a shot from a small revolver29. A second shot went into a doorframe as Albert and Attorney Jones struggled to restrain her. Mae then ran from the office, where Albert lay mortally wounded in the right lung. Mae rushed to her apartment, informing the landlady that she was leaving, and to tell friends that she would not be returning. She then retired to a lady friend’s apartment, where Sheriff Farrell found Mae on a couch, wearing a kimono30, denying any knowledge of the shooting.
This was page-one news in Reno, and as Albert lingered for a week he maintained that, “She did not mean to shoot me. It was an accident. We’ve both been pretty hard on each other many times, we have both made mistakes, too.” He went on to say that should he die, it would merely be the culmination of a life wasted, and that his wife should be left alone31. Instead, she was tried for 2nd degree murder, over loud prosecution protestations of more sinister intent. Mae was acquitted in December on self-defense, at least partially because of previous physical abuse and consequent fear for her wellbeing. A matter of later inconvenience for Mae was that details of her meeting and shooting Albert Talbot became public record during the trial, somewhat offset because all Reno sources referred to her as Mae Talbot.
Mae Talbot put Reno behind her to become operatic soprano, Lydia Locke. She could not have reached Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera before it folded in early 1910. One source suggests that she traveled to Chicago and on to Paris to study singing, presenting the possibility that she was in Paris with Orville prior to the London Opera32. Her Reno life became non-existent. Prince Albert was elevated to a deceased English military officer named Reginald, and later in America became Lord Reginald Talbot, until Lydia’s Reno affairs were uncovered in 1923. Whoever Lydia Mae was in 1913, she was Orville’s.
Lydia’s Midwest farm origins were similar to Orville’s, but she probably did not portray these, as that image did not suit the sophisticated persona that she had evolved. She must have told him that she was from somewhere, and one wedding clipping described Lydia’s mother as on her way to New York from her “country home” near St. Louis33. It remains unclear how Lydia contained information of her past, especially throughout the wedding gathering, although it is possible that her family knew nothing at all of the Talbot marriage. At the least, however, Orville might have returned from Italy in 1913 with a cautious new view of his second wife. Clouds were building, divorce and marriage being among several fateful decisions Orville made during this period.
Home from Italy, the couple finally spent early September at Bradley Beach, near Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, New Jersey, summering and practicing voice and opera roles for the coming New York winter season34. Construction on the Lexington Opera House was lagging, so that the newlyweds were again touring the Midwest through late September and October 1913, managed by Harry Paris. Paris likely presented a convenience to Hammerstein, who was considerably burdened with deteriorating affairs in New York.
Beginning at Orville’s old Wysor Grand Theatre in Muncie35 (appearing there with the new wife must have been strangely stressing), the group traveled through Indianapolis, Richmond, Anderson, and Terre Haute in Indiana, as well as Lima and Columbus, Ohio36. Harry Paris’s sixty-voice Ensemble Club choir embellished concerts in Muncie and Anderson. Their standard show, accompanied by Agnes Monroe, was expanded to include Lydia Locke solos and duets (still by her stage name), although she missed some shows because of illness. Generally excellent reviews were not surprising, and Lydia was well received even in Muncie. Her voice was described as most pleasing in middle and lower registers, her acting was splendid, and their duet from Madame Butterfly was superb37. Although her voice was less robust than Orville’s, reviews credited her with impressing audiences by her grace and personal charm38. A Richmond newspaper reported that, “Mr. and Mrs. Harrold are engaged to sing in the Hammerstein opera winter season…”, indicating that Lydia may have remained on Hammerstein’s roster39. She gave a motivational talk to girls in Terre Haute, stressing the virtues of study and hard work to achieve success40, and was typically described off-stage as delightful and proper. After completing the tour, Orville may have returned west to San Francisco, where he was reportedly scheduled to appear at the Mechanics Fair in November41.
Although Orville was not currently performing opera, his portrait appeared in a 1913 book of sheet music, Songs that Never Grow Old, amid those of other opera notables41.5, indicating the reputation that he had established. In a hopeful mid-November turn, Oscar Hammerstein announced that opera at his new Lexington Avenue Theatre would not be given in its native languages. He instead would present opera in English, opening January 15 with Romeo and Juliet, having Orville and Frances Siemon in the principal roles42. (apparently referring to Mabel Siemonn, who debuted with the Met later in 1914 under her maiden name, Mabel Garrison.) The new organization would present two operas each week, rather than one for the whole week, and rehearsals had begun, but the second opening opera was not announced. This plan was slipping away by the first week of January, 1914. Progress was seen to have ceased on the building, as Oscar announced that construction delays prevented opening until the fall. More seriously, an injunction brought by the Met prevented Hammerstein from presenting grand opera at all. He had soon paid off the chorus, placed several of the principal singers with other companies, and retained Orville, soprano Alice Gentle, and several other singers to present a traveling concert tour under the name of the Hammerstein Grand Opera Concert Company43. In mid-January, Orville sang backup in the chorus for Lydia Locke, billed as leading soprano of Hammerstein’s London Opera, before a banquet of the Society of the Genesee at New York’s Biltmore Hotel44. Orville was considering his options and looking at alternatives.
Hammerstein (and talent) had catapulted Orville to top level international grand opera after only a couple of seasons, where he hoped to remain. An important consideration was the exclusive nature of top tier opera, cost being a major factor. While one might attend a concert one week and theatre another, opera was both at the same time. The concert required a full orchestra, the theatre required a cast, scenery and costumes and their makers. Musical theatre required a supporting chorus. All required supporting directors, stage-hands, and management. (Stage crews in today's Met performances can number over one hundred members.) They all had to be paid for rehearsals in addition to the night’s performance, and top tier performers commanded high salaries. Their theatre building had landlord costs, to be covered every day of the year. Opera patrons required deep pockets, and Hammerstein had found insufficient deep pockets in either New York or London to support two top tier opera companies.
Life after Hammerstein thus required careful planning. Top tier opera in New York was owned by the Met, where general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza had Caruso as lead tenor, plus a stable of other excellent tenors. Opportunities at the Met were by invitation, and Gatti-Casazza was generally reputed to favor foreign artists. He was apparently not inclined toward Orville, in any event, who had little American reputation and who still had limited experience and repertoire. The best chances to remain in top tier opera probably resided in other major American cities. Orville had been very well received abroad, but WWI made 1914 an inopportune time for returning to Europe. It is not clear if Patti was still living in New York in early 1914; she returned to Muncie at some point, graduating from high school there in 1917. In any event, after a life of wandering, Orville (or Lydia) was unwilling to move from New York, so that Orville appeared in Romeo and Juliet with the Century Opera Company on January 27, 1914.
The Century Opera Company had been incorporated in May of 1913, at the behest of the City Club of New York45. They had formed a Committee on Popular Opera to pursue a plan of presenting moderate quality opera at popular prices, with about half of performances being in English and half in their original languages. A stock company was formed, the primary backer being Otto H. Kahn, Board Chairman of the Met, who had been favorably impressed in London by Hammerstein and Orville Harrold. The aggressive plan was to present over thirty operas during a forty-week season, taking off the summer quarter. The City Club selected brothers Milton and Sargent Aborn to manage the business, who had operated for ten years their own opera enterprise built on similar objectives, but with a different and more modest business plan.
The Aborns were dedicated to popularizing grand opera, much like Hammerstein, but at a more common level that was priced for more general consumption. For a three-month spring season, their six traveling casts appeared in about ten cities (Boston, Providence, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago) that could support opera and maybe even had a permanent resident opera company. Each city was set up with a fixed chorus, orchestra, and artistic staff, which rented venues where the traveling casts and sets circulated through46. The scale and efficiency of this system were economically self-sufficient. The timing appeared aimed at utilizing artists and staff available after the close of the winter opera season, when they would have welcomed the work, and many notable singers came up through the Aborn operas.
The Century Opera planned a permanent company in a renovated theatre on Central Park West, renamed the Century Theatre, as an alternative New York opera venue. (This had previously been the New Theatre, where the Met had staged operas competing with Hammerstein.) Century Opera thus needed to establish credibility and support in the critical New York entertainment environment. From the outset, the Century made clear a plebian approach in which good quality opera would be presented, by economic necessity, without star quality performers47. It would draw from the more general stock of operatic artists, Milton Aborn going to Europe during the summer of 1913 to recruit Americans who trained there and had found receptive audiences in the numerous smaller opera companies scattered around Europe48. (American performers in Europe perhaps shared the cachet of foreign performers in America.) Orville’s limited American credentials made him a good match with Century’s charter and budget. Century performances had begun in September 1913, being through about half their season when Orville arrived in late January. To get there, Orville had to go to court.
Orville had obviously shared his intent with Hammerstein sometime previously, whereupon Oscar had filed for a court injunction on the basis of his exclusive contract with Orville49. Justice Giegerich reserved decision in a hearing on the afternoon before Orville’s Century debut, during which Orville’s attorney argued that, as Hammerstein was legally prevented from presenting opera in major cities, Orville was prevented from practicing his art, at injury to his professional standing. The matter was settled on February 11, when Justice Giegerich ruled that Orville was not bound by the contract, because Hammerstein had not given written notice at the close of the year of his intent to renew the contract, as stipulated by the contract50.
This move was perhaps more bold than Orville realized, but he seemed passionate in pursuing his art. A contrasting view is that the contract was a two-sided obligation that bound Hammerstein to provide Orville very lucrative employment. A more dispassionate and practical approach might have been to continue collecting on the contract while negotiating some sort of buyout from Hammerstein, who seemed equally passionate about pursing his dreams. It appears that Orville simply left his cards on the table and walked away, but the Century would seem to have proffered a reasonably attractive offer.
Having sung Romeo and Juliet with Hammerstein in London, Orville now played Romeo at the Century opposite Beatrice La Palme, a Canadian formerly of Covent Garden and the Montreal Opera. Orville sang several of his familiar roles with Century, plus learning Aida and Martha, before the company ended a shortened season in April. Besides Miss La Palme, he appeared regularly with Century’s principal soprano, Lois Ewell. Originally from Tennessee, Miss Ewell had grown up in Brooklyn, trained in New York, and then entered classical burlesque there (reportedly under Victor Herbert51). After some opera in Boston, she sang grand opera in Cleveland and then with the Aborns before going to Europe in 1910, where Milton Aborn signed her for the Century52 in 1913. The aggressive schedule of presenting seven or eight performances per week (both in English and original language), plus debuting frequent new operas, was wearing on the company and lowering presentation quality because of very limited rehearsal time. Lois Ewell seemed visibly tired and even robust Orville was wearing, not being fully himself during Martha53, while young Beatrice La Palme permanently retired at the end of 1914, exhausted. Opera productions could run smoothly only after the repetition of many rehearsals and full presentations. After a successful first half of the season, such problems were eroding the Century’s reputation and attendance, running them into a deficit.
The Century Opera was an untried concept that had been at least partially successful. Opera at half-price was attracting first-time opera goers, not so much competing with the Met as grooming the Met’s future audiences. Indeed, both the Century and the Met had full houses on the same evening, early in the season. But, there were problems. The season was too long, and the quantity of different operas too great, to fully prepare quality presentations. Also, the less experienced opera audiences preferred traditional melodic scores. Some of these shortcomings could directly be improved by reducing scope and tailoring selected presentations.
With low budgets and wages, the chorus and orchestra were rife with inexperienced and less talented musicians, with limited opportunity to rehearse and learn frequent new scores. The Aborns began addressing these issues during the summer of 1914, starting with new directors. They hired concertmaster, Hugo Riesenfeld, previously concertmaster for both the Met and Manhattan operas54. Italian born conductor, Agide Jacchia, was brought in from the Montreal Opera to lead the Orchestra55. (He was conductor of the Boston Pops from 1917-1926.) Next was Josiah Zuro to lead the chorus, previously chorus master and sometimes conductor at Manhattan Opera56. The new artistic director was Jacques Coini, former stage manager for Hammerstein’s Manhattan and London operas57. These gentlemen were free to release and hire performers, and to work their organizations into improved condition. Orchestra wages were increased to the next higher union level to both attract better talent and to allow additional rehearsals.
Another weak area was that available English librettos, sometimes several of them for a given opera, were clumsy and of low appeal, so that the Aborns had new ones carefully translated. A possible fault here is that melodramatic opera lyrics may seem trite and silly in a literal translation into English from a romantic sounding foreign tongue. A translation had to be thoughtfully interpreted and phrased to produce a serious and believable text. Such were the pitfalls of attempting opera in English.
In a 1914 European foray, Milton Aborn contracted new American lead performers, having more experience and larger repertoires58. He attempted, but failed, to acquire Felice Lyne in Paris, who had been studying and singing there regularly after Hammerstein’s London opera. One of Aborn’s top catches was Henry Weldon, Hammerstein’s American basso from the London opera. As the war was closing opportunities for Americans in Europe, the Aborns began an opera school at the Century, which could net some prime American talent, and supplement the lack of available training elsewhere59. Finally, Century Theatre seating was expanded, and an expensive new electric stage-lighting system was installed, capable of dramatic effects.
The 1914 summer hiatus left Orville and Lydia free for other pursuits. This is about when Orville produced his first recordings. Free from Hammerstein, he made an Edison Blue Amberol cylinder recording of The Secret (#28191), one of his popular concert songs since 1910, along with The Sweetest Story Ever Told (#28169) and four other pieces. It is not clear that Lydia had many singing engagements, and she is mentioned in virtually no period reviews. However, during June she was engaged in a court suit against a New York banker named Julian W. Robbins. He owned the car that had caused the October 1912 automobile accident that had broken her leg and caused internal injuries (his chauffer had been driving the car). Lydia was suing for $25,000 in compensation for both pain and suffering, and her loss of income from professional singing60. The suit was apparently settled out of court.
Also in June, Orville appeared in his usual role as the Duke in a summer opera presentation of Rigoletto in Far Rockaway. A visiting Italian opera company provided most of the cast, while the chorus and orchestra were drawn primarily from the Met61. The summer was otherwise quiet, but Lydia again made the news during the fall, being called to court for disorderly conduct. The Harrolds were moving from their Riverside Drive apartment to another on Central Park West, near the Century Theatre. Their old landlady, Mrs. Alice Miller, claimed eight day’s rent due for the interim from when they had agreed to rent the unit until they actually occupied it and signed the lease. Lydia claimed that Mrs. Miller called her out from a bath to collect the contested rent, and attacked her physically over the dispute, while Mrs. Miller claimed that Lydia was the attacker62. Both had filed court claims, but the judge managed to persuade both to drop charges. This made page-one news back in Indianapolis, with a zesty salacious aspect for the bathtub fight scene.
The remade Century Opera began its fall season on September 14th, 1914, leading with ever-popular Romeo and Juliet, having principal roles filled by Lois Ewell and Orville Harrold. The performance was well reviewed as delivering on the Century’s promise of better opera, with some of the highest praise going to Henry Weldon63. Their reorganized chorus was vastly improved, the orchestra performed beautifully under conductor Jacchia, and even lesser roles in the ensemble were very well received. Focusing on melodious opera, the Century presented Puccini’s Madam Butterfly a month later, with Helen Stanley as an excellent Madame Butterfly and Orville as Lieutenant Pinkerton, credited as on a par with any tenor short of Caruso64. The show was again highly praised as being well worth the price and even superior to productions charging more, indicating that the Century was pleasing critics, who were closely watching these productions65:
New York Times, October 14, 1914
Orville Harrold deserves warm praise, not so much for his singing of Pinkerton, as that might have been expected to be good, but for the fact that he was able to make this generally dreary figure seem human. Century audiences are coming to realize that this singer combines with the fine voice with which he is blessed an uncommon intelligence and taste.
Meanwhile, the Century had announced in early October that it would present six to eight weeks of opera in Chicago, beginning near the holidays66. The European war prevented the Chicago Opera Company from having its regular foreign cast, after spending heavily on scenery, costumes, and a theatre lease. The Century Opera Company was to leave on 21 November for Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. They presented Carmen at a well-attended Alvin Theatre in Pittsburgh during late November, with Bertha Shalek in the title role and Orville as Don Jose67. The entire presentation was praised as well above previous Aborn productions to visit town, while Orville was cited as a remarkable tenor who was the notable feature of the evening.
The troupe soon opened in Chicago with Aida and then, on November 25, presented Madam Butterfly, with Lois Ewell the lead and Orville again as Pinkerton. Critics greatly enjoyed the singing and stage presence of Miss Ewell, who they found much improved over her appearance four years earlier with the Aborns. Orville was declared a brilliant success, amid recollections that he had made no great impression only a couple of years previously68. The Century soon thereafter sang Carmen, with a different cast than in Pittsburgh, as they were circulating artists through some of the lead roles. During December, they staged the first full Chicago presentation of William Tell in a quarter century. Pointing out that finding a capable tenor was no little problem, critics described Orville to be a “light of stellar radiance”, showing great powers in a tour de force of voice and dramatic feeling69. (They noted that he rested in preparation, as if for an athletic event.) The only missing ingredient was an audience.
Attendance was low, despite excellent reviews recommending that the Century Opera was too good to miss. Then, Century’s primary backer, Otto H. Kahn, resigned from its Board of Directors in late December70. He expressed great pleasure in how the Century had managed improvements and presented meritorious performances, and that he expected to provide continued financial support. But, he felt that the organization needed broader direction, as he had become nearly sole guide of the enterprise. The Century ceased Chicago operations around New Year, having exhausted both its capital and guarantee fund71. While the Century Opera would struggle several additional months to survive, they would not succeed. For all that had been accomplished at the Century, a third opera company collapsed from under Orville, leaving him once again treading air.
Century directors and officers began working to shore up the company with $50,000 in contributions to a guarantee fund that would keep the business financially backed for three years, and with Otto Kahn pledging to match contributions. A second blow came when the Aborn brothers announced in early January 1915, that they were breaking with the company to organize their own new opera company72. They intended to merge lessons from the Century with their previous circulating opera scheme to yield a self-supporting business, for which they hoped to recruit many of the talented Century cast and management. Their conclusion was that, as Hammerstein had found, New York alone could not support the cost of a second permanent opera company, even of second tier quality. Their plan was to present about a fifteen week season in New York (perhaps Brooklyn), followed by one to four week engagements in such major cities as they had served with their previous enterprise. They were essentially competing with Century directors to snatch away the central core assembled there, planning also to retain an opera school that seemingly filled a need.
Hammerstein’s long-gone contract might now have looked attractive. Orville was likely invited to join the Aborn brothers, but having found opera a field of quicksand, he chose something more dependable. Ignoring his old defense that continued opera was necessary to protect his credentials, Orville returned to vaudeville, appearing January 11, 1915 before a rapturously appreciative audience at the Palace Theatre73, the premier vaudeville venue. In doing so, Orville was also ignoring the findings of his old coach, Oscar Saenger, that vaudeville had damaged his voice. Orville had already ridden vaudeville to a notable career, so would not necessarily view it as a dead end. Indeed, future star operatic soprano, Rosa Ponselle, was in a vaudeville singing sister act at about that time (the Ponsello sisters from Meriden, Connecticut). Vaudeville offered opportunities that had a large reliable patronage. It was steady employment, at the least, and had potential for far more.
Now over two years since leaving London, Orville and Lydia lived comfortably in a tenth floor apartment on Central Park West, where their maid walked Lydia’s dogs74. Grand opera was demanding an unsettled lifestyle that they understandably were unwilling to pursue, and which could be seen, on the other hand, in the single-minded passion of Felice Lyne. She had returned from Paris during late 1912 to singing engagements in London, then on to America for concerts in Allentown and Kansas, before embarking on a 1913 world opera tour with an Irish promoter named Thomas Quinlan75. After literally circling the globe, she arrived back in March, 1914 to sing full opera for the first time in America with the Boston Opera Company, and signed a contract with them for early 1915. She was then back in London and Paris for the summer of 1914, where Milton Aborn had found her while scouting for the Century opera. She remained in Paris until October, when growing WWI hostilities prompted her to join a group of Americans who chartered a boat to take them down the Seine to Havre76.
Miss Lyne then came to America, joining Loudon Charlton’s 1914 fall tour of the United States, and bringing her to her 1915 Boston engagement. She returned to Honolulu over the summer, where she had visited with the Quinlan tour, then joined the Boston Opera in the fall for an extended tour organized by Max Rabinoff, the promoter Hammerstein later warned away from opera during Orville’s visit77. This wound throughout the United States, including the first opera at Hammerstein’s ill-fated Lexington Opera House, to a conclusion in late spring of 1916. After summering with her parents in Allentown, Felice and her mother sailed for England, across a North Atlantic fraught with German submarines. She continued to sing in England and France, and throughout Europe. Her Paris life was quieter during the 1920’s, but she never married, and after political upheaval in 1932 returned home to Allentown, sick and dying while only in her mid-40’s78.
Opening at the Palace Theatre on the same day as Orville was another Hoosier, Valeska Suratt, sensational Broadway musical and dance star known as the Empress of Fashion for her elaborate gowns. From his Harry Paris format, Orville began with Pagliacci’s romantic “La Donna a Mobile”, sung offstage, then surprised the audience by appearing as the clown, singing Canio’s sob song, and finally presented his standard concert ballads79. This was all popular enough to run for a two weeks. New York critics welcomed Orville’s return to vaudeville, noting his range and versatility, his level or artistry, and that beyond singing songs, he acted them. The New York Morning Telegraph expressed pleasure, thanking Gus Edwards for “giving us Orville Harrold”, and Gus Edwards was interviewed regarding Harrold’s discovery back around 190880.
The Palace Theatre had been built by Martin Beck, owner of the Orpheum Circuit of vaudeville theatres, and was run by the chain of Keith Albee Theatres (Benjamin. F. Keith and Edward F. Albee). These organizations operated vaudeville’s “Big Time” theatre chains, both having offices in the Palace Theatre. (Beck owned about 40% of Keith stock. In early 1928, Joe Kennedy (yes, those Kennedy’s) merged Keith’s and Beck’s organizations into Keith Albee Orpheum, which he combined with his movie interests and then sold to Radio Corporation of America (RCA) mid-year to create RKO, Radio Keith Orpheum, theatres and studios.) Doing more than just a few shows, Orville was being managed by Gus Edwards for “limited vaudeville engagements”, Edwards stating that Orville would later be staring in a comic opera being written for him80.5. His departure from opera had brought Orville his own New York show, this engagement likely having been arranged by Gus Edwards.
Orville was not the only opera singer recently at the Palace. Former Met tenor, Carl Jorn, had also been appearing there during January, and Mme. Schumann-Heink, who had once starred in a second-rate Broadway musical (to no overall detriment to her career), was to perform in following weeks81. This was a deliberate direction on the part of Palace manager, Edward Albee, to upgrade vaudeville and hopefully attract better audiences. As evidenced by the recent Century Opera, such talent was available in New York, and vaudeville was all about variety. This trend was noted with alarm by Met general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza, who publicly emphasized that Met contracts forbade its singers from performing in vaudeville. Described by newspapers as Met “generalissimo”, it was reported that by Gatti-Casazza’s standards, grand opera artists who so cheapened themselves would be of no use to opera henceforth81.5. This certainly bode ill for Orville’s opera prospects in New York, having previously succumbed to vaudeville’s evil influence, and now relapsing into its spell. This “character flaw” would erect a significant barrier to Orville grasping American opera’s Holy Grail, the Met.
But, Orville’s current career direction was set, and by April he was appearing at a Toronto vaudeville venue called Shea’s, singing I’m Falling In Love With Someone, from Naughty Marietta, Irish ballads by Chauncey Olcott, and other popular songs from his earlier concert years. He was described as a “tenor with exceptional dramatic temperament and fine interpretation”, and was accompanied by a concert pianist named Emil Polak82. Polak had studied with Dvorak, and was a popular New York pianist of the period who would work occasionally with Orville if the future, and who eventually wrote several songs that Orville used in concert settings.
While Orville organized a more stable career during the spring of 1915, Lydia also received several of her own opera notices in newspapers. Her photo appeared in the arts section of the New York Morning Telegraph On April 18, along with those of Melanie Kurt, Blanche Arral, and Arturo Toscanini (who had just conducted his last season at the Met), the group captioned as “Notables in the Music World82.5.” She was pictured the same day in the New York Times, along with Toscanini, with no unifying description or article, but with the caption, “Lydia Locke – Aborn Opera Company, Brooklyn83.” The photos were all publicity shots provided to newspapers by promoters of upcoming events. In Lydia’s case the event was her long dreamed of American opera debut84, appearing with the Aborn’s April 21st Brooklyn presentation of Faust, with Richard Bonelli as Valentin and Lydia as Marguerite. Lydia had been studying since the previous fall with a New York singing coach named Frederick Haywood85. This was a three-week production of the Aborn Grand Opera Company and Brooklyn Academy of Music86, the latter of which had existed since the Civil War and remains today an active arts school. Lydia’s performance received generally favorable reviews, although they also noted that she lacked some range and power, and that her tall stature was unmatched with the girlish character87.
In May of 1915, the Century Opera filed for bankruptcy, with considerable sums owed to backers, vendors, and individuals. Of note, they owed approximately six thousand dollars each to Lois Ewell and Orville for contracted appearances not yet performed, clearly showing that headliners in even second tier opera were commanding salaries that would be well into today’s six figures.
Since Lydia’s Brooklyn debut, newspapers had suggested that she might become a war nurse, joining Mary Garden’s (Hammerstein’s discovery then singing in Chicago) hospital reportedly opening in Paris for war wounded. The initiative produced more publicity than nursing. Not yet having branded herself as a notable singer, a May 4, 1915 column heading in the New York Times read, “Opera Tenor’s Wife Accuses Chauffeur – Mrs. Orville Harrold will appear in court today against Moses Small.” Lydia had again been summoned on charges of disorderly conduct88. Suffering from bronchitis, her doctor had prescribed some “powders”, to be delivered by currier, Moses Small. When he requested a 25¢ charge, Lydia, lacking a quarter, refused to pay and demanded the package. While she claimed that he then pulled her into the hall and struck her, he charged that she stepped forward wielding a high-heeled satin slipper and lacerated his face. Orville was gone at the time, singing in Chicago. The case was dismissed as an unverifiable “he said, she said” morass, but again suggests that Orville was living with a tempestuous temperament in Lydia. There was also, again, a risqué aspect to this drama, since Lydia had managed to get locked outside her door wearing only a brief gossamer negligee, while having attracted the attention of a large social event at Rabbi Levy’s across the hall89. Lydia was seeming prone to occasional news-making emotional flare-ups.
Having now sung in American opera, Lydia was in Joplin, Missouri during mid-May, visiting family and performing a concert, after which she gave another “hard work” speech to local girls90. It is not apparent that Orville was there, and by June he was appearing at the New Brighton Theatre, a popular vaudeville venue at Brighton Beach91, adjacent to Coney Island. On July 4, he sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for a benefit game between the Giant and Yankees at the Polo Grounds92. Orville was spending the summer of 1915 staying before the public, rehearsing his new production, and enjoying the Jersey shore.
Orville and Lydia sang in concert before a full house during their second annual August appearance at Ocean Grove, New Jersey93, near where they summered at Bradley Beach. Ocean Grove was among the most successful of summer church camps that had blossomed after the Civil War. In this case, the camp had a large auditorium seating 6000, that had hosted numerous notables and performers, including Caruso. (This auditorium still survives, in relatively original condition.) In early September Orville and Lydia sang vaudeville together at the Palace Theatre, her first vaudeville appearance, in a concert that included Fannie Brice94. The couple was well received and garnered numerous good reviews, as Orville headed into his main event.
New York’s largest theatre, the Hippodrome, had been built a decade earlier by the creators of Coney Island’s Luna Park, to present sight and sound spectaculars for audiences up to 5000, with casts of over 1000 and including live animals. There were circus rings, aquatic scenes, and a hydraulically raised “vanishing pool” in which actors exited the stage underwater. The massive building was a challenge to make profitable, and it had been operated since 1909 by the Shubert brothers, with mixed results. New management, having large money and large new ideas, arrived in 1915 with Charles Dillingham, who had been producing Broadway musicals by Victor Herbert and Irving Berlin at the Globe Theatre. Dillingham’s new Hippodrome was scrubbed clean, soon to present massive musical reviews comprising cast, chorus, scenes, a myriad of acts, and John Philip Sousa’s band as the house orchestra. Each show was to run for about an eight-month season, from fall through the next spring.
Dillingham’s opening 1915-1916 season presented Hip! Hip! Hooray!, a “rah rah America” musical review in three acts, with Orville Harrold its Hero and Belle Storey the Heroine. The three acts shifted from New York, to Panama, where America had just completed twenty years on the canal, to a winter wonderland in Switzerland. The show was written and directed by Robert H. Burnside, who had written and staged The Belle of London Town, the 1907 Shubert play that had folded on Orville and sent him traveling in vaudeville. Burnside had become Hippodrome stage director in 1908, where he was a successful (and durable) director, playwright, composer, and lyricist. John Raymond Hubble, the Hippodrome’s music director, wrote much of the show’s music.
While a central unifying character, Orville was among a cast of over 1200 singers, dancers, entertainers, and comedians. The show was generally a rousing good time that lived up to its name, a large colorful spectacle with dashes of circus and vaudeville, likely benefiting from rising pro-American enthusiasm following the Lusitania sinking. Sousa introduced his Hippodrome March. Amid rumors that the vanishing pool had been removed, it actually arose in the third act as a large genuine ice rink, hosting a skating ballet entitled Flirting at St. Moritz, with falling snow and ending in a ski jump scene. Leading the skaters was a seventeen-year-old German girl named simply Charlotte, the first woman skater to include an axel jump in her performance, who instantly popularized ice skating and soon appeared in the first skating movie.
Hip! Hip! Hooray! opened on September 30, 1915, with New York’s mayor in a special box, and played for 425 performances until June 3, 1916. The state governor attended on election day, the show continued breaking attendance records, and unlike vaudeville, attracted upper-crust society patrons. This likely constituted the highest paying period of Orville’s career. He reportedly received a four-digit weekly salary95, which may have netted little more than one hundred dollars per performance, as the show can be seen to have run two performances per day. Orville also participated in Saturday night holiday concerts at the Hippodrome during December of 1915, with Sousa’s band and operatic singers such as Met baritone, David Bispham, and sopranos Emmy Distinn and Maggie Teyte. (Remembered primarily as a 1940’s interpreter of French art songs, Miss Teyte was known in English and American opera during the WWI era.)
The Hip Hip Hooray! cast gave a benefit concert during March of 1916. The Hippodrome team of Charles Dillingham and Robert Burnside had been producing an Irving Berlin musical and dance show at the Globe Theatre, starring a popular Paris dancer named Gaby Deslys, and her partner, Harry Pilcer. (Miss Deslys died prematurely in Paris during the early 1920’s, just before Josephine Baker entered the same scene.) As their show closed, during mid-March, the two casts combined for a performance to benefit the French Red Cross. But, Orville may have left the Hippodrome over the next few months. He was a powerful and energetic performer, so that hours of addressing such a large theatre without electric amplification took a toll on his voice. He became known as “the tenor with the throat of steel96” and damaged the instrument that had made his career. Despite the lucrative income, Orville seems to have been gone from Hip Hip Hooray! by the end of May, 1916, although it is unclear on whose terms. Other opportunities were developing, and he may have endeavored to preserve his operatic vocal capability.
During Hip Hip Hooray! Lydia Locke sang at a series of benefits and smaller engagements in early 1916. She was among entertainers at a benefit in February for Belgian war refugees held at the New York Automobile Club97, and a week later in a concert at the Hotel Astor Theatre Club. Lydia gave a brief series of high society benefit concerts in Philadelphia during late February. Publicity for these described a tall, slender, stately, bejeweled woman of attractive manner, who had delighted the Romanoffs at the Petrograd Imperial Opera98. Both Lydia and Orville appeared at the Hotel Biltmore, along with Lillian Russell and others, at an April Shakespearian celebration held by the Professional Women’s League99 for a series of Shakespeare tercentenary events.
Lydia and Orville then gave several concerts in May of 1916, preceded by some unusual publicity. The concerts featured both solos and duets, with a number of Irish songs, and both accompaniment and solos by New York pianist, Emil Polak, who had performed with Orville in 1915 vaudeville appearances. The first was on Sunday May 7 at the Strand Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, with a second on May 14 at the Park Theatre in Bridgeport, Connecticut, apparently sponsored by the Wisner Piano Company100. Advertising for both reiterated that Lydia had sung opera in Russia101. The Bridgeport Sunday Post ran an item in April stating that she had sung a season with the Russian Imperial Opera, and was then detained at the border when departing at the outbreak of the war. She was finally released after demonstrating that she was an opera diva102. An unidentified article of the same period from Effie Kiger’s scrapbook describes Orville visiting a friend’s winter home in northern Mexico for some hunting and fishing. This being the period when General Pershing was pursuing Poncho Villa, Orville was detained while leaving the country and held in a Mexican jail as a suspicious person, until being released after the music-loving commandante heard Orville singing opera in his cell.
While fascinating stories, it is difficult to believe that Orville and Lydia had both sung their way out of captivity, in nearly identical incidents on separate continents. In Lydia’s case, circumstances place the event in 1914, when she was already married to Orville. He was then singing and traveling with the Century Opera, but Lydia made several court appearances during this period, the couple summered in New Jersey, and Lydia reportedly began studying with Frederick Haywood during the fall. Overall, it is not clear just when her Russian season fits into the timeline of Lydia’s life. If a fabrication, the claim would seem audacious, but not totally out of character, while Orville’s similar publicity contained blatant blarney. Promoting the May concerts, Orville was described as Irish born but American raised, and then American born of Irish origin103, neither of which is remotely true, but both of which might have helped sell Irish concert music.
The May concerts were perhaps the last time that Orville and Lydia appeared together, either on or off the stage. Their public high point was the July 1916 release by Columbia Records of “Orville Harrold, the operatic tenor, in exquisite duets with Lydia Locke, which make an event of this announcement of the New Records for July104”. It appears that Orville had begun recording with Columbia at about the same time (1914) that he made cylinder recordings with Edison. Awake Dearest One and Sunshine of Your Smile, the two quite pleasing recordings with Lydia, were intricately intertwined duets of interesting character. However, Lydia’s volatile temperament, which possibly surfaced during their honeymoon and had since earned her several court appearances for disorderly conduct, was perhaps wearing thin on Orville. By the time that the advertisement for Columbia’s new record catalogue appeared in local newspapers around the country, Orville had escaped from New York, and from Lydia, by reentered opera in Chicago.
Orville had been bypassing summer opera as an option for remaining in the top tier opera network. Being a winter sport, top opera performers, orchestras, and sets scattered to various summer venues, some outdoors. The Met performed for many summers in Atlanta. Orville was off to a Chicago summer venue that had been spawned by a trolley line. Back when he was meeting Madame Schumann-Heink in 1904, Chicago’s A. C. Frost Company, speculators in land, railroads, and mining, were investors in developing a Waukegan electric trolley line into the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railroad. The electric interurban line ran from Evanston up through the affluent north shore towns to Milwaukee. As an inducement for summer travelers, the Frost company built Ravinia Park in 1904, named for the many lakeshore ravines, as a recreational and amusement destination in the comfortable Highland Park district. Included were an electric fountain, a casino and dancehall building, and a wooden band shell offering evening concerts. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra played summers there, early on, but both the railroad and park sputtered into receivership in 1910. The railroad ultimately emerged as part of Samuel Insull’s growing empire of Chicago utilities and railroads.
Well-to-do north shore residents felt that the popular diversions and music had been of sufficient quality that they incorporated The Ravinia Company, led by philanthropist Louis Eckstein, who served as impresario and personally subsidized the organization for twenty years. Reopening in 1911, Ravinia Park developed as a summer venue for classical music, adding opera in 1912. Chicago already supported excellent winter opera, and its north shore communities abounded with the fertilizer of grand opera, money. By the end of WWI Ravinia had entered its golden age as an American capital for top quality summer opera, while it continues today to host the oldest summer music festival in North America. Operas were typically abbreviated, to end before the last trolley departed, and were often at least partially in English.
Orville added a high tenor dimension to Ravinia, although his voice suffered somewhat from Hip Hip Hooray! and his high notes sparkled less brightly. With Lucia, on July 1, 1916, Ravinia introduced Orville among top tier opera performers, at a venue that could connect his past to his future. There were Cordelia Latham, Morton Adkins, and basso Louis D’Angelo from his old Century Opera, the latter of whom was eventually at the Met, and conductor Ernst Knoch, who had been imported to guest conduct at the Century during its improved second season. They were likely the means by which Orville obtained a Ravinia position. There were such Met performers as baritone Millo Picco, Henri Scott, and Octave Dua, who could reconnect Orville to top New York opera. More importantly, primary Ravinia conductor, Richard Hageman, was a Met conductor from 1914 to 1932. (Hageman was a child prodigy pianist from the Netherlands, who later had a fascinating Hollywood career.) Orville’s repertoire fit the 1916 Ravinia season, as he appeared as Edgardo in Lucia, the Duke in Rigoletto, Lionel in Martha, and Hoffman in Tales of Hoffman. (He had sung Martha at the Century, and is believed to have had performed Hoffman in London.) Orville also sang Thaddeus in The Bohemian Girl, and Des Grieux in the opera comique Manon, perhaps his first appearance in these roles105. Ravinia kept Orville around Chicago into September of 1916, where there would also have been ample opportunities for him to visit Indiana, and for his children to visit him.
Lydia performed on a double bill in her hometown St. Louis Coliseum106 during October of 1916, but little else made public notice. The Aborn’s planned to present opera at the Park Theatre in late 1916 and early 1917, but it is not clear that anything operatic occurred for Lydia. Instead, as soon as the Ravinia season ended, Orville was back out of New York and through his contract with B. F. Keith was on the road with a vaudeville tour of Orpheum Theatres in the United States and Canada. (This is the Orpheum Theatre vaudeville syndicate that became part of RKO: Radio Keith Orpheum.) Starting mid-September in New Orleans, Orville had a series of one-week engagements that went well and drew numerous curtain calls. These wound through Iowa and the plains states through the fall, and to Winnipeg during December and up to the holidays. He was back traveling with the new year through Oakland and the west, which left little down time and kept Orville working through the spring of 1917.
Whatever the exact route of his tour, Orville was likely back in Indiana during June, for Patti’s graduation from Muncie Central High School. Related to her singing and New York sojourn, her picture was alone on a separate yearbook page, apart from other students, with the caption “Wild bird whose warble is liquid sweet.” It perhaps matched an independent temperament. Although her 1913 period of living in New York with Orville and Lydia had not worked out, Patti had wanted to return to New York ever thereafter, and only remained in high school beyond the second year because her father, who never graduated, insisted that she stay106.5.
Orville was spending little time in New York, gradually leaving Lydia and reentering opera by stages, and had wrapped up his situation by summer. He opened again at Ravinia in Lucia on July 1, 1917, back among performers from the Met and elsewhere. Among new faces was Met conductor, Genarro Papi, who joined Met partner, Richard Hageman. Papi had been assistant to Toscanini, becoming head Met conductor at the beginning of the 1916 season. Orville again sang from his repertoire, this year adding Faust, La Traviata, and Romeo & Juliet, all of which he had performed in London. Casts included Florence Macbeth, an American who had sung occasionally at the Century Opera and previously as principal coloratura soprano at the Chicago Opera. Orville was mingling with the right crowd, but mingling was not opening the gate to the winter opera season. Orville had had little standing in American opera when his voice had been at its best. The frustrating irony, of his own making, was that his voice had fallen off its peak just as he was sidling into the top opera crowd.
Orville was visited at Ravinia by his children, of which Patti was eighteen, and Paul, the youngest, was fourteen. They had certainly visited the previous summer, but the 1917 occasion was captured in photographs. Paul later described of Ravinia that his father would rent a Hyde Park house on the lake where the children would stay for some time, enjoying both the house and Ravinia park107. Orville played golf there during the summers, and Paul is pictured with a golf club. Photos show the children chaperoned by a young woman who appears elsewhere in the photo album of their mother’s (Effie) and her second husband, Dermont Neighbors, having the appearance of being an older cousin of the children from the Kiger (Effie’s) family.
By one report, Orville was overweight during this period, drinking more than usual, suffering voice damage, and generally wallowing at a low point108. By another report, Lydia had met a music-loving millionaire on a train108.5, and Lydia could be beguiling. But Lydia was not alone in finding new direction in a chance encounter. It became public on July 7, 1917, just after he had left for Ravinia, that Orville was suing Lydia for divorce, and that papers were delivered to the attorney for co-respondent and tire industrialist, Arthur H. Marks109. Lydia began a counter-suit, with named co-respondents, but then settled into the task of ending their second marriage. Beating an old drum, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daily News published a bitter piece entitled RETRIBUTION, noting that Orville’s second marriage was ending unhappily, and wishing him nothing better for the future110. Orville’s divorce from Lydia was finalized just prior to the end of the Ravinia summer season, on August 20, 1917, noting that they had been living apart for some time. Both had remarried by year-end.
Aside from perhaps shooting at Orville, Lydia had a demonstrated volatile streak. Their careers were running thin, likely raising tensions, and Lydia was not seemingly one to suffer silently or suppress frustrations. Part of Orville’s weariness may well have been from domestic emotional battery. Although there is little direct information of such, subsequent events suggest that Orville had been on quite a roller coaster.
Lydia married Arthur Hudson Marks on December 22, 1917, holding a reception at the Ritz-Carlton. Marks had amassed a considerable fortune as vice president and general manager of the Goodrich Rubber Company. He had volunteered for the WWI war effort, taking the Naval Reserve rank of Lieutenant Commander to manage wartime shipbuilding. Marks had just divorced, and had a son away at school. Having nurtured connections in the opera community, the bride was given away by Andrea de Segurola, basso at the Metropolitan Opera and descendant of an aristocratic Spanish family, while a countess Furulli was matron of honor111. The couple occupied a new twenty-six room country estate on 1000 acres in Yorktown Heights, named Locke Ledge, which was noted in period publications for its architecture and landscaping. Marks reentered industry at war’s end by purchasing the foundering Skinner Organ Company of Boston, maker of large church, civic, and theater organs, so that a chapel having a massive pipe organ was among the features at Locke Ledge. (Skinner merged with Aeolian Organ Company in 1932, Aeolian-Skinner continuing until 1978.) Locke Ledge allegedly hosted Caruso, four American presidents, and other notables112 (not verified). Although Lydia’s operatic career was waning, there was consolation in her new circumstances.
Outward tranquility lasted some years at Locke Ledge. In 1922 the Marks adopted a one-year-old boy named Paul Carewe Haynor, whose float had won first prize in an Asbury Park, NJ baby parade, and whose father had died during the war113. Then, divorce came in September of 1923. Mister Marks reportedly pressured Lydia into divorce by threatening to expose Prince Albert’s Reno death of 1909, for Marks had hired detectives to research Lydia’s past114. Such details presumably would have upset her social status, being as her first husband had been billed lately as the deceased Lord Reginald Talbot, making Lydia the former Lady Talbot, somewhat inconsistent with early events in St. Louis and Reno. Under the divorce terms, Lydia received $300,000 outright (multiply by 30 for today’s dollars), Locke Ledge (valued at a million dollars), property in the city worth $30,000, and the adopted son. Marks also committed to pay an additional $100,000 after five years, if during that time Lydis did not pester him or cause either his or her names to appear unfavorably in newspapers. As in Orville’s case, there are few direct details of what triggered private detective researches and such protective reactions, but one surmises that life with Lydia was trying. Regarding their train ride introduction, Mr. Marks lamented that he should sue the rail line for allowing such a thing to happen.
Now comfortable toying with large sums, Lydia forfeited the $100,000 bonus in little more than a year. Having been gone most of that time, she reappeared in New York during the fall of 1924 with an infant son, claimed to be a Marks heir by blood115. In a November court hearing, Mr. Marks’ detectives divulged that the infant had actually been borrowed from a Kansas City orphanage, as a false prelude to adoption, and provided with a falsified birth certificate in St. Louis, through a manipulation of Lydia’s older sister there and her doctor116. Judge Edward J. Gavegan ordered the infant returned to Kansas City, Lydia never really provided an explanation for the deceit, and Arthur Marks (now more concerned than ever) offered a $50,000 appeasement for Lydia’s good behavior during the remainder of the five years. The baby borrowing incident was sufficiently curious that the syndicated press circulated reports of it, which still referred to Lydia as Lady Talbot, widow of Lord Reginald Talbot.
Lydia remarried immediately after the baby caper to her secretary, Mr. Harry Dornblaser, who was about ten years younger, and was adept at investing her financial assets. Harry returned suddenly to America during their Paris honeymoon, and the couple never again lived together. Lydia, meanwhile, read a chance notice in Paris that Arthur Marks had remarried. While their divorce prevented neither party from future relationships, the bride turned out to be a Margaret Hoover, Lydia’s best friend and advisor during the difficult Marks divorce. Lydia quickly returned to New York, and the new Marks couple soon received an anonymous letter, in handwriting that both believed they recognized, graphically accusing the new Mrs. Marks of the most vile deeds. The latest Mrs. Marks retorted with a $250,000 libel suit, during which the Marks detectives showed that one of Lydia’s sisters, Mrs. Mary Frances Adams of Joplin, Missouri, had given a letter and a tip to a Pullman porter to mail her letter from Bellefontaine, Ohio, the same town postmarked on the Marks poison-pen letter117. A Federal Grand Jury indicted Lydia in September of 1925, for using the mail to slander Mrs. Marks, although the case never completed trial. Harry Dornblaser divorced Lydia shortly thereafter, and in October of 1926 his body was found in an abandon log cabin in fashionable Shaker Heights, near Cleveland, having committed suicide with a revolver118.
This all slowed the pace of Mr. Marks protracted difficulties, and Lydia married Carlo Marinovic in 1927, a shipping magnate from one of the Balkan states, who was reportedly a count in his homeland before becoming a naturalized American. They were divorced in 1932, after she found him in bed with one of her best friends119. She continued filing suits against the Marks-Hoover couple, the last being in 1939 over Mark’s grave. Lydia claimed to be the rightful inheritor of his considerable estate, despite intervening spouses for both, on the basis that her divorce from Marks was invalid because it had been coerced under threat of duress120. Lydia accumulated two additional husbands over the decades, and occupied Locke Ledge for fifty years. She operated the estate as an inn during mid-century, accompanied by her last husband, Irwin Rose. Known as a local Yorktown Heights character, she was noted for being chauffeured about, clad in full-length fur and little else, one such excursion being to attend town meeting. She sold Locke Ledge in 1965, which burned the following year, an event still lamented by local preservationists. (Much of the acreage became a local park.) Lydia died in 1966.
During her 1923 Marks divorce, Lydia caught the attention of American Weekly, a syndicated Sunday newspaper supplement that appreciated her entertainment value and kept a running file of her ongoing life. (Given their detailed information, they may have been fed information by Arthur Marks.) The magazine published jocular full-page spreads on various fascinating subjects, generally fact based and in something of a believe-it-or-not style. Besides the Marks divorce profile, American Weekly published four other Lydia updates, the last being for her 1939 posthumous suit for the Marks inheritance. A related piece of theirs regarded the perils of being, or being married to, an operatic tenor. Tenors were preyed upon, especially by operatic sopranos, but by all manner of coeds and women generally, such that it was difficult for tenors to keep their lives, and marriages, in order121. Various examples were presented, Orville offering little to disprove their case. Somewhat similarly, the autobiography of Frances Alda, Met soprano and wife of Met director Giulio Gatti-Casazza, was entitled Men, Women, and Tenors, (“My biggest mistake was marrying Gatti-Casazza, my second biggest mistake was divorcing him.”). The arts abound with passionate and mercurial personalities.
One might guess that Orville was emotionally fatigued, if not depleted, as he parted with Lydia in mid-1917. Added to his ailing voice and career, he was certainly in need of a lift.
The Aborns did present opera at the Park Theatre during late 1916, as well as in Canada and other American cities for much of Milton’s life. Sargent Aborn gained control of Witmark & Sons Music Company, which owned rights to a large array of songs, plays, and musicals. This was merged with the Tam collection of similar material to create the largest existing library of printed and manuscript music. Sargent’s son, Louis, succeeded him as president of the firm in the mid-twentieth century, as the company expanded its list of rights to popular American musical stage plays, making them available to schools, community theatres, and professional production companies. This system of artist’s rights and distribution derives from the copyright laws and ASCAP protections pioneered by Victor Herbert just prior to his creation of Orville’s Naughty Marietta. Louis Aborn died in 2005, and Tam-Witmark Company still operates under the next Aborn generation.
The mid-teen years (1913-1917) had proven tumultuous for Orville. Admittedly, he had worked hard for his breakthrough, but the rapid rise that followed and the tremendous height achieved in London left considerable room for letdown. Hip Hip Hooray! perhaps restored some feeling of New York acceptance, but at a cost. Topping it all, his second marriage had been a lightning strike of ill luck that was as dramatic as his striking gold with Hammerstein. Marriage and opera seemed to be fickle worlds, the latter certainly helping to undermine the former.
The Harry Paris tours displayed much of the basic Orville. He genuinely enjoyed touring, singing, and audiences, and this arrangement had also made it possible to stay near his parents and family. It was noted during the tours that Orville was a plain Indiana soul lacking the attitude and affectations of big name entertainers. Even in the debacle of his second marriage, he enjoyed a period of singing and appearing on-stage with his wife, which seemed to have been the companionship he was seeking. Personal experiences of his trek to success had been solitary ones, as were his subsequent triumphs. Although family and stability waited patiently in Muncie, Orville was alone during his times of both anxiety and exhilaration. Effie and the family could accept his life, but could not share it or know and understand it from the inside. (Likewise of Orville knowing his family’s life in Muncie.) On one hand, Orville had been manipulated in his second marriage by an adroit deceiver. On the other, he had succumbed to one of his most unflattering episodes. It is certainly understandable that he sought a companion sharing his life’s passions, but it is unfortunate that his decision was so crushing to the wife who had given him the freedom and support to succeed.
Orville’s first wife, Effie, subsequently had considerable Muncie support from her own family, the Kiger’s. She moved in with one sister, Emma, but also had another local sister and a brother. (The brother, Tom, supported a family in simple and happy surroundings, while virtually never having a real job.) Following the divorce, Effie became involved with Dermont Neighbors, who ran a Muncie typewriter store, and their mutual photo album dates back to mid-1912, about a half-year before the divorce. Understandably, Orville was unpopular with the Kiger’s after the divorce, although Emma, who knew him best and had seen him interact with his children, continued to find him a pleasant likable person. Especially after his devastating second marriage, Orville was considerably more sympathetic to Effie’s sorrows, and family lore holds that he tried repeatedly during home visits to regain at least some relationship with her, but never could. Throughout it all, he arranged his life to continue making frequent Midwestern visits to see his parents and children in Muncie.
Patti had returned to Muncie, probably during 1913, to eventually graduate from high school there. She had received some amount of formal voice training at her New York school, and my have been additionally coached by Orville, who had coached Lydia. In any event, she had already determined that her ultimate place was in New York theatre, and patiently worked to cultivate the talent and experience to reach there.
Orville was forty years old in mid-1917, and it had been eight years since Hammerstein had discovered him in vaudeville at the Victoria Theatre. Orville had really experienced only about two or three full seasons of grand opera, much of the most important of it abroad, and now his voice was damaged. However, his voice and talent remained intact, and they had proven to be exceptional. Among his talents were keen learning ability, unusually clear linguistics on stage, and an understanding intellect for rendering his characters as sincere and believable. To an extent, he imbued his characters with some of the adventure of his own life and travels. He had considerable musical and stage experience beyond opera, for which he was perhaps more capable than many opera performers of creating an easygoing theatrical stage presence. Underneath it all, Orville seemed fundamentally a warm and playful person and an entertainer at heart, on and off the stage, who offered all he could to his audience and enjoyed their appreciation.
1. Seeks To Enjoin Tenor, New York Times, January 28, 1914
2. Harrold Sings From Box, New York Times, January 9, 1913
3. Harrold Sings In Stage Box, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, clearly from January 9. 1913
4. The February, 1913 Kansas tour is detailed in various un-attributed news clippings in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook.
5. The Harrold Concert, by Otto M. Tiede, un-attributed Kansas City news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, plus other Kansas City news clippings
5.5. Pagliacci and Mother McCree, Bob Barnet, The Muncie Star, February 2, 1975, describing the life of Orville Harrold
6. Orville Harrold Wins Audience, The Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1913. Also, Orville Harrold Was Given Great Reception Last Night, Esther Griffin White, un-attributed Richmond (IN) Daily Palladium & Sun Telegram, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
7. Orville Harrold Divorced, New York Times, February 18, 1913
8. Harrold Weds Again, New York Times, February 21, 1913
9. Letter from William T. Martin, with wedding announcement for Orville and Lydia Locke, taken from Musical America, March 01, 1913, page 21
9.5. Orville Harrold, Four Days Divorced, Weds Singer After Opera Romance, New York Herald, February 21, 1913, from scrapbook of Patti Harrold
10. Wouldn’t Mar Honeymoon, New York Times, June 7, 1914
11. Diva Inured In Wrecked Auto, New York Journal, November 1, 1912, and St. Louis Post Dispatch, February 21, 1913, both provided by Nancy A. Locke
12. Orville Harrold, Four Days Divorced, Weds Singer After Opera Romance, New York Herald, February 21 1913, from scrapbook of Patti Harrold
13. How He “Outgrew” His Wife, Salt Lake Tribune Sunday Morning, March 16, 1913
14. Success For Harrold, The Hutchinson News, February 16, 1913
15. Harrold And Ganz Captivate Portland People, Portland Daily Express, April 10, 1913, news clipping from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
16. Wagner Festival Is Near At Hand, The Indianapolis Star, May 18, 1913, pg. 14
17. Indiana Tenor Here For Concert; His Bride, Indianapolis Sunday Star, June 1, 1913, pg. 7
18. Harrold Gains Fame as American Singer, un-attributed news clipping from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
19. Scenes And Stars Coming To Terre Haute, Terre Haute Sunday Star, September 21, 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
20. From personal correspondence with Orville Harrold’s granddaughter
21. From personal correspondence with William T. Martin
22 Testimony of George Omer, Reno Evening Gazette, November 9, 1909, pg. 2
23. Brother Says No To Cremation, Reno Evening Gazette, November 15, 1909, pg. 8
24. Partner Testifies, Nevada State Journal, November 10, 1909, pg. 3
25. Al Talbot Shot By Wife, Nevada State Journal, Friday October 29, 1909, pgs. 1 & 2
26. From personal correspondence with William T. Martin
27. Singer Shoots Husband, New York Times, October 29, 1909
28. Orville Harrold, Four Days Divorced, Weds Singer After Opera Romance, New York Herald, February 21, 1913, from scrapbook of Patti Harrold
29. Grants Bail To Mrs. Talbot, Nevada State Journal, Thursday December 2, 1909, pg. 2
30. Singer Shoots Husband, New York Times, October 29, 1909
31. Al Talbot Shot Down By Wife, Nevada State Journal, Friday October 29, 1909, pg. 2
32. Like A “Vamp” In The Movies, Syndicated by American Weekly Inc. 1923, from San Antonio Light, November 8, 1925
33. Orville Harrold, four Days Divorced, Weds Singer After Opera Romance, New York Herald, February 21, 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
34. Orville Harrold And Wife Appear Here In Concert, The Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1923, pg. 15
35. Fine Program Is Announced For Harrold Recital, Muncie Sunday Star, September 16, 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
36. newspaper clippings from various towns an dates, from September 16 through October 6, 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke. Additional numerous clippings from Effie Harrold’s and Patti Harrold’s scrapbooks.
37. Harrold And Wife Are Heard In Duet Work, September 24, 1913, un-attributed Muncie news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
38. Harrold’s Voice Pleases Hearers, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
39. Richmond Palladium, no date, September, 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
40. Singer Gives Advice On Work Before Girls, Terre Haute Star, October 6. 1913, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
41. Tenor Will Sing – Will Aid Fair, Oakland Tribune, September 3, 1913, pg. 14
41.5. Songs That Never Grow Old, Syndicate Publishing Company, New York, 1913
42. Two Operas A Week At Hammerstein’s, New York Times, November 14, 1913
43. Hammerstein Gives Up His Opera Plans, New York Times, January 6, 1914
44. Artists To Sing At Genesee Dinner, New York Times, January 14, 1914
45. Aborn Brothers For Century Opera, New York Times, May 11, 1913
47. The Century Opera Plans, New York Times, July 6, 1913
49. Seeks To Enjoin Tenor, New York Times, January 28, 1914
50. Hammerstein Loses Again, New York Times, February 11, 1914
51. Century Gets Miss Ewell, New York Times, June 23, 1913
53. “Martha” Sung At Century, New York Times, March 25, 1914
54. Riesenfeld Joins Century Opera, New York Times, June 13, 1914
55. Century Keeps Its Better Opera Vow, New York Times, September 15, 1914
56. Aborns engage Josiah Zuro, New York Times, June 1, 1914
57. Century Opera Opening, New York Times, September 6, 1914
58. Wagner Conductor For Century Opera, New York Times, July 30, 1914
59. New York To Have Opera School, New York Times, August 23, 1914
60. Wouldn’t Mar Honeymoon, New York Times, June 7, 1914
61. Operas For Far Rockaway Church, New York Times, June 28, 1914
62. Mrs. Orville Harrold Plays Leading Role in Bathtub Drama, The Indianapolis Star, September 25, 1914, pg. 1
63. Century Keeps Its Better Opera Vow, New York Times, September 15, 1914
64. Butterfly At Century Opera, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, under the initials H.E.K., this appears to be a review in the October 14, New York Tribune by Henry Krehbiel
65. Century Pleases in MME. Butterfly, New York Times, October 14, 1914
66. Chicago Century Opera, New York Times, October 1, 1914
67. Alvin-“Carmen”, un-attributed news clipping from Pittsburgh Dispatch, in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
68. Century Singers In Fine Performance Of Puccini’s “Butterfly”, Edward C. Moore, Chicago Journal, November 25, 1914, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
69. Orville Harrold Scores In Sumptuous Revival Of Rossini’s ‘William Tell”, unattributed Chicago news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
70. Otto H. Kahn Quits Century Opera Co., New York Times, December 21, 1914
71. Aborns To Break With Century Opera, New York Times, January 11, 1915
73. Harrold In Vaudeville, New York Times, January 12, 1915
74. Admits Hitting Chauffeur, New York Times, May 5, 1915
75. Felice Lyne Sings Gilda, New York Times, March 21, 1914
76. Miss Felice Lyne Returns, New York Times, October 19, 1914
77. Felice Lyne, Charles A. Hooey, www.musicweb-international.com/hooey/lyne-bio.htm
79. Amusements Of The Week, The Argonaut, pg. 58, un-attributed New York news article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, and Harrold And Suratt Win Success, January 12, 1915, un-attributed New York news article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
80. Our Own Orville Harrold, by Leonard A. Sower reporting on the New York Morning Telegraph’s comments, un-attributed Muncie news article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, and How Orville Harrold Was “Discovered”, Gus Edwards description of finding Orville Harrold, un-attributed New York news article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
81. Singers Told To Let “Vode” Alone, Galveston Dailey News, Sunday, January 17, 1916, pg. 29
82. Operatic Singer On Shea’s Program, Toronto World, April 27, 1915, pg. 3
82.5. Notables In The Music World, New York Morning Telegraph, April 18, 1915, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
83. Lydia Locke Aborn Opera Company, New York Times, April 18, 1915
84. MME. Locke Makes Debut In “Faust”, New York Herald, April 20, 1915, and others, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
85. Lydia Locke Charms Brooklyn As “Marguerite”, Musical America, May 1, 1915, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
86. Richard Bonelli.- Appearances, Charles A. Hooey, www.musicweb-international.com/hooey/bonelli-roles.htm
87. ibid. plus Brooklyn Citizen, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 21, 1915. Musical Currier, April 28, 1915, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
88. Opera Tenor’s Wife Accuses Chauffeur, New York Times, May 4, 1915
89. Locked Out In Nightie, The Washington Post, May 5, 1915, pg. 4
90. Joplin Crowds Marvel At Voice Of Lydia Locke, Joplin Herald, May 17, 1915, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
91. Orville Harrold, Great American Tenor, To Sing At Big Charity Benefit, identical articles appeared in both the New York American and the Evening Journal, which jointly sponsored the event, ca. June 30, 1915, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
93. unidentified clip, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
94. At The Palace, New York Times, September 7, 1914
95. Orville Harrold Tenor, advertising brochure for Orville Harrold, Walter Anderson Agency, New York, ca. 1918
96. Orville Harrold Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933
97. Aid For Belgian Refugees, New York Times, February 16, 1916
98. Lydia Locke Star At St. Rita Concert, Philadelphia Press, February 15, 1916, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and Philadelphia Enquirer, February 17, 1916, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
99. Stage Shakespeare All Over The City, New York Times, April 25, 1916
100. Unidentified newspaper, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold
101. Operatic Concert With Lydia Locke, Philadelphia Enquirer, February 17, 1916, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
102. Bridgeport Sunday Post, April 7, 1916, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
103. Irish birth was claimed in a Prividence (RI) Tribune news clipping, April 30, 1916, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, while Irish heritage was claimed in an unattributed Bridgeport, Connecticut news clipping from Effie Kiger’s scrapbook
104. Columbia July Records, New Castle (Indiana) News, June 21, 1916, pg. 5. This advertisement appeared in numerous American newspapers.
105. High Points In the Career of Orville Harrold, Charles A. Hooey, www.musicweb-international.com/hooey/harrold-chron.htm
106. Unidentified news clipping, October 3, 1916, data provided by Nancy A. Locke
106.5 Pretty Patti Harrold of Irene Fame (Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922) pg 34
107. Muncie’s Orville Harrold, Muncie evening Press, April 15, 1978, pg. T3
108. The Comeback of Don Jose, article in The World Magazine, March 21, 1920, pg. 12
108.5. Wants To Be The Widow, The American Weekly, published in the San Antonio Light, September 17, 1939
109. Harrold Seeks Divorce, New York Times, July 8, 1917
110. Retribution, The Fort Wayne Daily News, July 14, 1917
111. Bride Of Lieut, Commander Marks, New York Times, December 23, 1917
112. article, LoHud.com, The Journal News, Lower Hudson area, NY, May 4, 2010
113. May Be Heir To Millions, Oakland Tribune Daily Magazine, October 11, 1922
114. Wants To Be The Widow
115. The Former Lady Talbot Confesses Baby Plot, The Washington Post, Tuesday, November 11, 1924
116. Wants To Be The Widow
118. Divorced Husband Of Opera Singer Is Believed Suicide, The Charleston Daily Mail, October 17, 1926, pg. 1
119. Lydia Locke’s Slippery Steps Of Matrimony, The American Weekly, published in the San Antonio Light, May 29, 1938
120. Wants To Be The Widow
121. Emotional Worries Over Tenor Husband, The American Weekly, published in the San Antonio Light, February 8, 1925
The Third Marriage, Rehabilitation
There are several versions of the tale, which merge into something along the following lines. Orville was walking Lydia’s dogs1 in the spring of 1917, along Seventh Avenue, near Columbus Circle and their apartment on Central Park West. Downtrodden and oversized, he pondered the significance of a laundry ticket in-hand when he recognized ahead, from eight years previously, a lady’s profile in the back of a chauffeured car pulling onto Seventh. Impulsively wadding the laundry ticket into a ball, he tossed it through the open car window and into the surprised lady’s lap. Her startled look of indignation was greeted by a farm boy’s grin2. Blanche Malli, the chorus girl from Naughty Marietta then opened the car door and Orville stepped in. The tale leaves uncertain what they did with the dogs, or if they burst into song.
Absent horn accompaniment, some chance meeting around Central Park united the couple from years past, who yet shared affections from years past. Still attractive, Blanche was also well attired, well transported, and single. She not only accepted Orville as he was that day, she had the desire, plan, and resources for his resurrection. As Orville’s second marriage was dissolved during 1917, he moved across Central Park to join Blanche at her address on Madison Avenue.
Blanche Malevinsky3 was from the middle of ten children born to Isador Malevinsky, from Poland, and his wife, Dora, from France, a Jewish family who had settled in Austin, Texas sometime around 1870. Isador was a dry goods merchant who probably struggled through the depression of the “Gay 90’s”, so that in the late 1890’s he moved family and business to Galveston, where 19-year-old Blanche worked in the shop. Beautifully situated along the gulf coast, low lying Galveston was among the fastest growing cities in America, and was squarely in the path of a category 4 hurricane that struck on September 8, 1900. While most hurricanes migrate west through the Caribbean and then turn north along the Atlantic coast, a few cross the Gulf of Mexico to points as far west as Texas and as far south as the Yucatan. This one turned north through Oklahoma, wandered up across the Great Lakes, and back east over Nova Scotia, thrashing a fishing fleet before disappearing into the North Atlantic. Galveston’s estimated 8000 fatalities rank this as the deadliest natural disaster ever to occur in the United States.
It is unknown how the Malevinsky family fared in this storm, but they certainly suffered tremendous losses as virtually all of Galveston was flooded and destroyed. Remaining casualty lists include no Malevinsky’s, but the event took its toll. The parents had previously changed countries and continents, moved among different Texas cities, and started several business. After the hurricane, they and at least three of their daughters remained permanently in Houston. There had been enough adventure. Three other of the children eventually found their way to New York. After appearing in Canadian theatre and traveling abroad in theatre business under the name of Malli, Blanche was working on Broadway by 1908. The youngest sister, Noama, later came to New York and worked in music and stage under her married name of Nona Croft.
The oldest sibling was attorney Moses L. Malevinsky, eight years older than Blanche, who had been living with his wife and daughter in the same Galveston family home. Having later lost an important case before Houston Judge, John Lovejoy, Moses became a partner in the Lovejoy firm. They successfully built a large Houston legal office, Moses making $20,000 per year in Texas by the early part of the new century. Having won a major case against a railroad, they were informed that company hirelings waited outside to attack them. The pair reportedly descended the courthouse steps together, cocked pistols in hand, and walked away4. By 1906, Mosses had established himself as a counselor at law at 60 Wall Sreet, New York City, soon becoming friends with an attorney named Dennis F. O’Brien. The latter had moved uptown as lawyer for George M. Cohan, another Irishman and boyhood friend from a small Massachusetts factory town. O’Brien and Malevinsky were partners by 1910, and by 1913 had brought in O’Brien’s nephew, Arthur Driscoll, in a law partnership known affectionately on Broadway as “the Kosher sandwich5”. They represented many theatre performers, as well as film, theatre, and production companies. Moses specialized in copyright and intellectual property law, becoming an important figure in theatre and literature plagiarism litigation.
The emerging picture is that the Malevinsky’s became established and successful in New York, and that Blanche became a knowledgeable investor. The primary investment area appears to have been oil industry, through Moses’s years of connections in Houston. Blanche was stated to be independently wealthy when she motored back into Orville’s life6. Her sister, Nona Croft, had moved to San Francisco around 1913, mingling among society there. Blanche had gone to England in 1914, and then sailed through the newly opened Panama Canal in early 1915 to visit Nona in San Francisco. They reported that the bridle trails in Golden Gate Park were at least as good as any in New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park6.5. Blanche was then off to another cruise in late 1915, to Brazil, Cuba, and Argentina. In a fascinating episode, Nona was supposedly divorced in San Francisco during 1914 from Kenneth Croft, an English promoter and Army Lieutenant, who then became entangled in an international controversy for recruiting Americans to join the English army, which jeopardized America’s neutrality during early years of WWI. His wife was reportedly with him during some of this, and they seemingly had a daughter in 1916.
Combining finances with Blanche, Orville could easily afford unemployment to focus on rebuilding career. Physical rehabilitation consisted primarily of weight loss, abstinence from alcohol, athletic improvement at the YMCA, and remedial voice coaching. A sound body had always been there, and in interviews during the early 1920’s, Orville described daily handball workouts in athletic shorts, year-round at local outdoor courts7. He claimed that he had never smoked and rarely drank coffee, although in interviews a few years previously he had admitted to smoking as much as he wished. His exercise regimen was aimed at endurance and lung capacity, obvious benefits in opera.
Rebuilding Orville’s voice was entrusted to Frederick Haywood, who had coached Lydia during 1915. Although Orville might have consulted with Oscar Saenger, who knew Haywood, Saenger may have been diverted at this point. With widespread emergence of phonographs as an entirely new communication medium, Saenger had just produced twenty voice lessons, packaged on ten Victor records and available at $25 for the set (among the first predecessors to self-help tapes and pod-casts). Several of Saenger’s students, such as Paul Althouse and Mabel Garrison, recorded lessons that included instruction for sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, tenors, baritones and bassos. In any event, Orville worked in Frederick Haywood’s studio for a year to repair his damaged voice and learn additional vocal techniques. Despite his obvious talent with gifted soloists, Frederick Haywood’s passion was national development of choral music from the ground up, through high school training. He was active in high school educational organizations, and in 1922 joined with Oscar Saenger and fifteen others as a charter member of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing, which still exists.
Orville likely began working with Haywood during late summer of 1917. Results would have been readily apparent to assess, so that they could directly determine progress and prognosis. From a larger perspective, it was as important that Orville reshape his emotional state and confidence. He had previously proven to be a tenacious student, and results must have been satisfactory, for Blanche married him on December 11, 1917. Orville had passed his most important audition, for the new bride was quite unlike the last one. The new groom was quite unlike the last one, and the couple remained together for the remainder of Orville’s life.
Rehabilitation was one part of Orville’s career restart. Another was for him to become engaged with worthy opera companies that would net him favorable critical review. Orville’s professional nemesis had been that successes had occurred in new opera companies that soon failed, but the series of new companies constituted a colossal run of luck that launched his fame, and the run continued. There were a few seasonal organizations that toured cities where major opera stars were seldom heard, and some cities had summer theatres that attracted top talent. Orville was already participating in summer opera, and his improved circumstances and year of study presented new freedom and impetus to consider fresh options. Sometime around the beginning of 1918, Orville sang before a group that included Caruso and Gatti-Casazza of the Met, along with a variety of conductors and singers7.5. It is unknown just what this event and group were, but it was reported that they were favorably impressed with Orville’s performance, and that he might be headed toward the Met. Such was not to be, but the episode was one of the earliest indicators that the new Orville was being rolled out for public review.
By February of 1918 Orville was on a mid-west tour for the benefit of local Red Cross chapters, managed through his old friend and tour arranger, Harry E. Paris. Starting in Muncie on Washington’s Birthday, they traveled on to Fort Wayne and other cities, accompanied by a violinist and pianist from New York8. It was also stated that Orville had been invited for a guest appearance with Galli-Curci at the Chicago Opera, but had been previously engaged elsewhere9. The tour provided good publicity in support of war efforts, and tested Orville’s new stamina. Staying busy, Harry Paris also had Irish tenor, John McCormack, in Muncie two weeks after Orville’s engagement. After being discovered by Hammerstein, McCormack had spent some time in grand opera, including at the Met, but had become immensely popular as a touring artist, filling concert halls around America, including New York’s Hippodrome.
In late April, Orville gave a concert at the Philadelphia Manufacturers’ Club, attended by theater and opera personality, Howard M. Shelley. From an old Philadelphia family, Shelley had written several satirical plays, having since become a theatrical agent for Lillian Russell, Luisa Tetrazzini, Mary Garden, and the Hammersteins. Shelley was thus familiar with Orville’s old performances at Hammerstein’s Philadelphia Opera House, including Orville’s last Philadelphia appearance, during 1912, as the Duke, opposite Titta Ruffo’s American debut as Rigoletto. Since then, Shelly had also heard Orville in Romeo and Juliette, probably with the Century Opera. Shelley enthusiastically declared9.5, Mr. Harrold has a most exceptional vocal endowment. It is doubtful if there is a tenor voice in the world that equals it in range. He can sing high D’s with extreme facility, a feat that many sopranos are unable to accomplish. His voice is beautiful in quality, and in lyric roles he is practically supreme. Shelly bemoaned that, despite all these unusual talents he has been practically ostracized by impresarios. Continued moaning lamented the Met’s closed door policy, where all tenors were second to Caruso, There have been tenors on the Gatti-casazza roster that literally made their unhappy listeners writhe in their seats. And yet, Harrold was not engaged. There have been other tenors at the Metropolitan whose physical appearance never lured a single matinee girl, and yet, Harrold languished. Orville’s return to vaudeville, and vocal decline, had put him on the wrong side of what Shelley described as the “operatic autocracy,” but Shelley was among the few who had heard what the newly reconstituted Orville could accomplish.
Orville followed Philadelphia with a sensational ovation at the Newark Festival10 on May 3, 1918. He returned to the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia, with Secretary of War Baker as a guest, and then toured around New York State to Elmira, Schenectady, and Brooklyn, the last with the governor present. These engagements generated enough requests for appearances that there were discussions of a fall tour through the west.
Orville and Blanche then headed to his third Ravinia season for July and August of 1918, among familiar artists and conductors. He appeared for the first time with French-born Met basso, Leon Rothier, and coloratura soprano, Lucy Gates, who was a granddaughter of Brigham Young and wife of Albert Bowen, one of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Orville again sang mainly from his repertoire, but was perhaps performing Lakme and The Barber of Seville for the first time. More importantly, these New York top tier opera personalities were hearing the newly rebuilt Orville, who was met with hearty approval, so that his days of irony were hopefully ending. The Chicago Evening Post described of Orville, Apparently, since last summer, he has changed his whole vocal method, and it has transformed him from top to bottom. He always had a good voice, but now…he has a chance to show how good it is.
Orville had returned to traveling during his previous marriage to get away from Lydia, perhaps as much as to sing. The woman he might have hoped would accompany him on stage had no longer accompanied him at all, and he was back on a solitary trek. With Blanche, Orville again had a companion in the arts, such that Blanche was frequently with him on tours and travels. Ravinia was an ideal getaway, where they could settle into lakeside semi-permanence for the summer, near to Chicago and to Orville’s family. His children likely visited them there, and Blanche remained a cordial friend to his children, long after he was dead. Future opera tours even placed the couple near Blanche’s family.
Consistent with Orville’s lucky streak, a new opera company arose in New York during his year of reconstitution (1917-18). Not born merely of eternal operatic hope, it arrived on a carefully orchestrated patriotic wave, as the country gradually escalated into WWI. The national attitude toward the looming foreign war promoted patriotism infused with suspicion and xenophobia, much like that which precipitated Nisei camps of WWII. Following an October, 1916 experiment performing two Mozart comic operas in English, rather than in the now dreaded German, an organization called the Society of American Singers (SOAS) incorporated in March of 1917. Founded by German born Albert Reiss, a long-standing tenor at the Met, SOAS officers, shareholders, and singers were all required to be, professional singers of standing and American citizenship10.5. Most were from the Met, and SOAS was something of a Met offspring.
The war effort grew ruthlessly pro-American, so that German language began disappearing from the vast American population of German farm towns, such as Muncie, Indiana, and certainly disappeared from opera. Albert Reiss stepped down as SOAS president after a year, amid innuendo regarding nationality11. Boston-born Geraldine Farrar apparently experienced some backlash because of her years singing with the Berlin Opera, and perhaps consorting with Crown Prince Wilhelm. Otto Kahn, who did not have to sing, became an SOAS shareholder, despite having come from Austria. Such issues became quicksand in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities (19th century watchmakers of the New York Horological Society held their meetings in German), and the highly international opera community struggled to maintain fairness and equilibrium in a profession dedicated literally to harmony through the common goal of music.
The brief 1917 first season of SOAS had been a fortnight of English opera at the Lyceum Theatre in May, following the normal winter opera season, which also included a repeat of their Mozart pair from 1916. Amid the early 1918 reorganization, the new SOAS president, former Met baritone William W. Hinshaw, was planning a two to four week fall season of classic English and French style opera comique at the Park Theatre in Columbus Circle, near the old Century Theatre11.5. Far from being Broadway musical comedy or burlesque, opera comique was full opera, frequently infused with spoken script, of more lighthearted and less ponderous theme, not normally presented in America. Some operas would be sung in native tongues, but also with a performance in English, while others would be all in English. They were even exploring some audience participation. The season would run during September and October, prior to the Met’s November opening.
SOAS assistant business manager, and performing tenor, was George J. Hamlin, whom Orville had encountered while touring around Indiana during 1905. Hamlin had later debuted at the Chicago Opera Company with Mary Garden in Victor Herbert’s Natoma, commissioned by Hammerstein, but never performed by him. Hamlin had been making occasional trips to New York, becoming a popular and well-reviewed concert tenor at Aeolian Hall and Carnegie Hall, and eventually settled there. His daughter, Anna, was briefly a soprano with the Chicago Opera Company, and their family papers now reside in the archives of the New York Public Library.
One Hinshaw gambit was a $1000 prize and SOAS production in a competition for a one-act opera written by an American composer, which went to Henry Hadley for Bianca12. (SOAS premiered Bianca under Hadley’s direction, on October 19, 1918, with Maggie Teyte as soprano.) Hinshaw was described as striving with the determination of a “war drive” in a “work of idealism for American Artists”, adding that, “We are 100 percent American singers, all of us – wherever we were born.” (The chorus was referred to as the “allied chorus”.) He assembled a strong organization, intending to extend the SOAS season. He brought in (American born) Jacques Coini as artistic director, who had been at Orville’s old Manhattan, London, and Century operas, and Met conductor, Richard Hageman12.5. Hinshaw planned revivals of Gilbert & Sullivan productions, plus other light French and English opera comique as a general theme. Orville was not mentioned in articles describing SOAS fall plans, even as late as September twenty-ninth.
As a brief aside, there are striking parallels between the lives of Orville and William Wade Hinshaw, president of SOAS. Ten years older than Orville, Hinshaw had been born in Union, Iowa to old Quaker stock. Hinshaws had arrived at North Carolina from Ireland by 1768, and were part of the Quaker migration to the Northwest Territory, reaching Henry County, Indiana around the same time as Harrolds and Beesons reached Delaware County. Clearly, Hinshaws had also migrated to Iowa, just as Harrolds likely scattered to other states. William Hinshaw had married in Iowa, and being gifted with voice and ambition, went to Chicago to pursue singing. His wife died of pneumonia in 1905, leaving four children, after which William trained in Germany as an operatic baritone, having some capability to reach basso range. By 1911 he had sung in German roles at the Met, perhaps as a guest, and became betrothed to Mabel Clyde, whose father owned Clyde Steamship Lines. He thus arrived at SOAS with money and resources to assemble a fertile organization. He later became interested in Quaker history, and after being enthused by a Mrs. Edna Joseph in 1923, immersed himself in a major effort that created a Quaker genealogical encyclopedia from various monthly meeting records. Its six volumes have become the definitive record of Quaker ancestry.
SOAS became an ideal New York venue for the Harrold’s and Frederick Haywood to demonstrate their Orville-reclamation project; its Met associations made it a half-sibling to Ravinia. Ravinia-related personalities at SOAS included Henri Scott, Morton Adkins, Mabel Garrison, Lucy Gates, Edith Mason, Florence Macbeth, and conductor Richard Hageman, plus, Jacques Coini , who had been with every permanent opera where Orville had appeared. They had already heard the new Orville sing, being favorably impressed, as well as being pleased with Orville’s performing capability. SOAS fall productions opened on September 23 of 1918, with initial plans for an eight-week season. On October 10, they presented Tales of Hoffman, with Orville as Hoffman13, filling in for an ailing Riccardo Martin.
New York Tribune, October 11, 1918
…but last night his voice of eight years ago returned to him and his tones were rich and powerful. Mr. Harrold has style, a beautiful voice, great clarity of diction, and fine character sense. He is today an artist of the very first rank, far and away the finest American tenor.
New York Herald, October 11, 1918
But the feature of the evening was the fine singing of Mr. Harrold. He electrified the audience singing with beautiful quality of tone and passionate fervor.
New York American, October 11, 1918
And he invested his characterization with splendid vocalism, wide range of dramatic expression, and remarkable intelligence. A special word of praise is due Mr. Harrold for his faultless presentation of the English text.
New York Globe, October 11, 1918
Mr. Harrold’s exceptional voice was in good condition, and his high notes stirred the audience to shouts of approval. One can always be sure with Mr. Harrold that his performance will be thoroughly studied musically, sound and skillful as to phrasing, diction, and expression.
New York Evening World, October 11, 1918
Chief among the stars was Orville Harrold; his splendid voice a delight to hear, his romantic presence and his easy, graceful bearing an object lesson to tenors, not only of American, but of foreign birth.
New York Evening Post, October 11, 1918
It was here that Orville Harrold won the loudest tribute of the evening.
In marketing Orville’s recovery, Blanche and he did not gloss over his circumstances. They described Orville’s journey of running downhill and climbing back up again, a classic comeback story that audiences and critics could love. A late 1918 Musical America edition credited Blanche as responsible for the resurrection, describing Orville’s daily YMCA workouts, diet, ninety-six voice lessons with Haywood, and picturing him bicycle riding (in hat and tie) and posing with Heywood13.5. His voice was described as “even richer, more vigorous, and smoother than before.” The article expressed delight that Orville had made this effort, rather than remaining content in the fact that “his second best is still far superior to many tenors’ best.”
A promotional box notice in the Musical Currier of October, 1918 showed head shots of Orville, Blanche, and Frederick Haywood, with the heading, THE TENOR WHO CAME BACK, HIS WIFE, AND TEACHER, with a description of the recovery:
“Orville Harrold sprang into fame as an operatic tenor almost overnight in London eight years ago; but he found, as so many other singers have, that being an American operatic tenor is more productive of fame than of fortune. So he went over to light opera and to the Hippodrome, where, singing two performances a day through two seasons, he spoiled the voice that had brought him fame. Realizing this, he and Mrs. Harrold determined that he should stop all work, rest, and attempt to restore his voice to its previous condition. He followed a very strict regime of life and study, working in the studio with Frederick Haywood for over a year, and the astonishing result was evident when he appeared in The Tales of Hoffman with the Society of American Singers at the Park Theatre, New York. He was given an ovation by the audience, and the press praised him extravagantly, the New York Tribune declaring him to be “far and away the finest American tenor. The pictures show Mr. Harrold, Mrs. Harrold, and Frederick Haywood, the New York teacher who rebuilt Harrold’s voice.”
Orville debuted his Pinkerton with SOAS on October, 24, in Madame Butterfly14, and, seeking opera in English, SOAS presented Gilbert and Sullivan, which grew so popular that it ran for continuous weeks at a time. Perhaps buoyed by patriotic fervor, in addition to Hinshaw’s marketing, SOAS ran a six-month continuous season into the beginning of April, 1919, requiring additional singers not tied to other contracts. Orville apparently did have other obligations for a brief period, so that he rarely appeared with SOAS during November and December.
Orville toured with the Creatore Grand Opera Company during late 1918. This had been formed in 1917 by Neapolitan born Giuseppe Creatore, who had come to America at the turn of the century, soon becoming leader of a brass band that paralleled in popularity that of John P. Sousa. Creatore's opera company presented a wide range of Italian operas into the spring of 1923, traveling much of America, especially the East and South. Orville was appearing14.5 in Rigoletto, Martha, and Faust, along with Riccardo Martin (formerly of the Met and also with SOAS), Jeanne Gordon (at the Met from 1919 to 1930, also the Scotti Opera), Greek Evans (popular Broadway and opera baritone, later with the Scotti Opera), and Henriette Wakefield (at the Met from 1907 to 1935, with a hiatus from 1912 to 1921), wife of Greek Evans. (Evans and Wakefield later formed Theatre in the Woods at Norwalk, Connecticut.) Still, SOAS offered better casts and principals, and permanently resided near the heart of American opera, so that Orville was back with SOAS by January 13, appearing as lead tenor in Fra Diavolo, along with Maggie Teyte.
Orville headed the SOAS cast of Robin Hood15, opening February 3, 1919, and appeared as Thaddeus in The Bohemian Girl during mid-March16, sang Irish ballads between acts on St. Patrick’s Day, and finishing in The Mikado at the end of March. While the last offered little for a tenor, the New York Times noted that, Nanki-Poo’s opening ballad was sufficient excuse for Mr. Harrold’s entering the Gilbert and Sullivan series17. Orville also rotated through spring productions of Martha, Cavalleria Rusticana, and I Pagliacci, with tenors Ricardo Martin and Craig Campbell. Campbell had starred opposite Emma Trentini in The Firefly, while Ricardo Martin (from Kentucky) was among the rare American trained American performers who had appeared with the Met. Orville attended the SOAS gala banquet in March, and the season ended with the two hundredth SOAS presentation.
The final spring SOAS production, opening on April 2, was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fairy opera, Iolanthe, suffering from of insufficient rehearsing. Orville was not in this show, but in a minor part among leaders of the ferries was Adelina Harrold, going by the famous variation of her first name18. After high school, Patti had headed toward the entertainment field, and by 1919 was traveling on the Redpath Chautauqua Circuit18.5. There exists from this period a romantically posed and slightly risqué photo of Patti, marked on the back, “Hixon Newman Studios, Lobby Hotel Biltmore, Kansas City, Mo.” (This would be from the early studio of Orval Hixon, who compiled an immense portfolio of vaudevillian portraits. Patti’s photo was most likely taken during her Chautauqua tours, when she had no other contract restrictions. Hixon extensively photographed Indiana-born Valeska Suratt, the dancer who had shared the stage with Orville at the Palace Theatre in 1915, and he became an official photographer for Shubert and Orpheum Theatre circuits.) Patti then took up a New York City apartment with her Chautauqua roommate, Miriam Voellnagel, and was taking voice training, with an eye toward opera. There must have been mixed feelings for her mother, Effie, as Patti followed her father’s path. Patti had begun life with the famous operatic name, had grown up in the shadow of her father, and had always had the talent and desire for the adventure. Her direction was perhaps inevitable. Orville had obtained for Patti a spot in the SOAS chorus, from where she earned other minor rolls, presenting the possibility that they might have been together in a production, and they certainly would have spent time together with SOAS at the Park Theatre. She was also visited by several boys from Muncie, who were still pursuing her.
As the SOAS season ended, Orville joined a new enterprise called the Commonwealth Opera Company, where the president was (Lieutenant) John Philip Sousa19. In the patriotic war climate, Sousa, an icon of all-American music, had assembled shows at the Hippodrome during 1915 and 1916, featuring operatic presentations that included Orville and Maggie Teyte (of SOAS)20. He formed the Commonwealth Opera during mid-1918, on donations from the American musical industry, to produce American-style comic opera and generally light entertainment. Much like SOAS, Commonwealth presented four Gilbert and Sullivan programs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music21, over four weeks of April, 1919. With its generally pro-American flavor, ten of the thirty cast members were from SOAS. For a full year now, the new Orville had been attracting ample opportunities for staying before the public, in New York and beyond, and the consistent quality of his performances now landed him two new contracts.
As the Commonwealth Opera packed its trunks in Brooklyn, Orville packed his bags to set out during the last week of April, 1919 on the first tour of yet another new opera company. Just days after Orville’s SOAS debut back in October, twenty-year Met baritone, Antonio Scotti, had announced plans to head a touring opera troupe, under the name Scotti Grand Opera Company. Part of the impetus was his desire to showcase his favorite roles, and he appeared in a majority of his presentations. He had a sweetheart deal with the Met, in which the tour was managed by the Metropolitan Musical Bureau22, stage sets and costumes were from the Met, and later new sets were designed and painted by Met designer James Fox23. Scotti had associations with SOAS president, William Hinshaw, perhaps gaining inspiration there for a company owned by shareholder performers. A number of performers were from the Met, plus SOAS sopranos Florence Easton (Maclennan) and Ruth Miller (who had also sung with the Met), and SOAS tenors Francis Maclennan and Orville Harrold. (Orville was the only Scotti member from Brooklyn’s Commonwealth Opera.)
The plan was to mount spring and fall Scotti Opera tours. This first one was a modest effort, functioning by attaching its special car to regular railroad trains, to present Leoni’s L’Oracolo, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly24. Later events grew to as large as 150 people, including members of the Met chorus and orchestra25, on their own train, traveling 3000 miles across country, into Canada, and down the west coast. For the moment, Orville’s primary objective was that he was once again attracting notice and performing well in the top layer of opera. This Scotti tour swung down through Louisiana, Texas, St. Louis, Memphis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, ending in May of 1919.
As Orville and Scotti afterward rested for several months in New York, Patti moved into a summer job under the umbrella of a management organization. On May 21, it was reported that Adalene Patti Harrold (her first name being properly spelled) had obtained a three-year contract with Arthur Hammerstein25.5. As with her SOAS engagement, Orville likely assisted in this, but the commitment must also have been based on Patti’s talent and stage potential. By the time of the report, she had already debuted (in an unknown role) at the Casino Theatre in the musical, Sometime, introducing her to several interesting personalities. A Hammerstein production, the story and songs were by Rida Johnson Young, who had written lyrics for Naughty Marietta, and music was by Rudolf Friml, who had scored Emma Trentini’s Firefly. Patti was somewhat literally retracing Orville’s steps. Beyond that, several of the songs were by vaudevillian, Ed Wynn, father of 20th century character actor, Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove). Ed Wynn was also in the cast, along with Mae West, who certainly would have added flavor to the experience. Finally, the director was Oscar Eagle, who would re-enter Patti’s career later in the 1920’s. And, if nothing else, Patti’s New York stage credentials were expanding to include Broadway musicals.
After spending springtime in New York, Scotti relaxing out at Far Rockaway, Orville (certainly accompanied by Blanche) and Antonio Scotti were off to Ravinia, where their road show of L’Oracolo was added to the program. Ruth Miller and Florence Easton were with them, Thomas Chalmers arrived from the Met, and Orville appeared with Alice Gentle, from their old Hammerstein days. Hageman and Papi were again conducting, so that Ravinia was becoming something of a seasonal Met. Orville sang in eleven operas that summer26, which by then were all in his expanding standard repertoire. He was growing increasingly versatile, popular, and in-demand, as his reconstituted voice continued to reconstitute his career.
Old chapters were ending, and new ones beginning, as Oscar Hammerstein died during August, while Orville was at Ravinia. After summer opera, the SOAS opened its fall 1919 season on October 13, presenting Suppe’s light opera (as opposed to his Light Brigade) Boccaccio. The part Fiametta was played by Ruth Miller, who had been with Orville on the Scotti tour and at Ravinia, while that of Fillippa was played by Adelina Harrold27. (Patti consistently went by the spelling “Adelina” while at SOAS.) For the fall, Patti had advanced to minor rolls, and was an SOAS understudy, remaining with them through the winter season28. In January, she had the speaking part of Fleta in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe29. It is unclear just how this was all worked out under Patti’s Hammerstein contract, but she continued to have associations with other organizations. Meanwhile, at this point, Orville was no longer associated with SOAS.
Following the Ravinia summer season, Orville was back on the road during October with Scotti’s fall, 1919 tour. They presented the same three operas as during the spring, while swinging through the north rather than the south30. With several new members, they began on October 6 in Montreal, with some romantic intrigue. There was a new tenor, Mario Chamlee, reportedly found by Scotti singing in a New York silent movie theatre. If so, Scotti was likely pointed in that direction by one of the tour sopranos, Ruth Miller, whom Chamlee had secretly married just before the tour began31. Mario Chamlee had grown up in Los Angeles as Archer Cholmondeley, a minister’s son who graduated from USC as a science major, having studied violin and sung with the glee club. (Among their linguistic quirks, the English pronounce the name Featherstoneaugh as “Fanshaw”, and Cholmondeley as “Chumley”. Mario Chamlee chose a French version of the vernacular pronunciation.) After serious voice training in Los Angeles he obtained a position with the Lombardi Opera Company of San Francisco in 1916, but was soon dropped by that organization. He next appeared with the Aborn Opera Company, where he sang with Ruth Miller32. The couple then sang together with the Cosmopolitan Opera Company at the Garden Theatre, New York, and also with that troupe in Detroit, before Mario was drafted into WWI33. He served for several years with the Argonne Players, a group of army soldiers who sang and entertained troops on the front lines. Returning from Europe to his waiting song-mate in 1919, he picked up a one-week gig through Hugo Riesenfeld at the Rialto Motion Picture Theatre, which stretched into fourteen weeks34. Over ensuing years, the Chamlees were among Orville’s and Blanche’s closest friends.
From Montreal, Scotti’s fall 1919 tour moved for four weeks through Utica, Syracuse, and upper New York State, to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Canton, Toledo, then on into Orville’s Indiana, and finally through lower Michigan. They were back in New York in November, where Orville had a new job. A year previously, as the 1918 Ravinia season ended, and the Met contingent had heard the new Orville for the first time, conductor Gennaro Papi had approached Orville to let him know that Paul Althouse may be leaving the Met, and that Orville had an audition with general manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza35. As the first Scotti tour was about to embark, in the spring of 1919, Orville signed a Met contract on April 18, for his first season at New York opera’s big house. Gatti-Casazza had thawed his anti-vaudeville stance. He was, after all, a foreigner in America, which had just won the European armistice. American patriotism was dearly paid for and highly prized. Continued Met favoritism toward non-Americans was going to hurt the bottom line, so that the next few years saw a mild surge in American performers and composers, and opera in English. Former vaudevillian, Rosa Ponselle, had entered the Met just the previous fall, to begin a fabulous nineteen-year career. Orville had supporters among critics, performers, and audiences to finally break into America’s top opera.
Gatti-Casazza wrote to Orville from Milan during July, while Orville was at Ravinia, informing him of the twenty three roles he would be expected to have in his repertoire for the 1919/20 season36. These included fifteen in Italian, five in French, and three in English, including eleven roles he had never previously performed. Just as when starting with Hammerstein, there would be plenty of upcoming study and practice. He began working on these while at Ravinia, and then during the Scotti fall tour, exchanging (while on the road) letters and wires with a New York supplier of musical publications named Giuseppe Bambosenek37. Interestingly, Orville noted to Bambosenek that the role for Zaza was38, much too heavy for me, and I would rather not learn it. I will return the score to you as soon as I reach New York.
The 1919-20 Metropolitan season opened with Tosca on November 17. Gatti-Casazza had his wife, Frances Alda, conductor Papi, Orville, and a complete cast present La Boheme the following evening at a charity benefit in Brooklyn, Orville’s first appearance in this opera, and starring as Rodolfo. Alda later reported that she was chagrinned that evening, as she was missing a simultaneous special event being given at the Met for the visiting Prince of Wales39. However,
“At least, I felt so, until I actually heard Orville Harrold sing his first Rodolfo. The beauty of his pure tenor voice so enthralled me I forgot about the Prince and the glitter across the Brooklyn Bridge….I could only realize that here was a marvelous voice and a marvelous singer. Brooklyn realized it too that night. The audience gave Harrold a tremendous ovation after his aria in the first act, before I began to sing. It was sincere and genuine and touching. Best of all, it was deserved.”
Alda reported to Gatti-Casazza and Otto Kahn, later that evening back at the Met, that. “Harrold had the biggest ovation any tenor ever had, Even Caruso.”
Orville had his Met debut in Manhattan the following Saturday, next to Caruso in his last new Met role. While Caruso starred as Lazaro in La Juive, Orville sang Leopoldo (another new role for him), along with Rosa Ponselle and three Ravinia partners, Rothier, Chalmers, and D’Angelo40. Antonio Scotti reportedly stated that he never heard finer singing than in the trio of Caruso, Ponselle, and Harrold41. Two nights later, Orville sang another new role as Grigori in Boris Godunov, in which the New York Times reported that he sang very well42. Having performed three new roles in a one-week span, Orville convincingly demonstrated versatility, stamina, and talent. Two evenings later, he and Scotti appeared in their now familiar L’ Oracolo from the road tour. He was off to a flying start, as critics and audiences appreciated both his singing and acting.
Interestingly, Boris Godunov was sung in Italian, except for the title role, sung in Russian by Feodor Chaliapin. Russian opera had arrived in the west only recently, having blossomed under Mikhail Glinka after mid-19th century. There were thus few opera singers capable of Russian, leaving the question of what language to use. Meanwhile, the Met abounded in foreign speaking performers, especially in male roles, and since Italian was fundamental to opera, it was the language of choice for this situation.
December settled into a more even pace, with no new roles, first with repetitions of La Juive during the early weeks. Orville then received a Christmas day ovation for his Pinkerton43, the first time at the Met, with Geraldine Farrar in Madame Butterfly. Completing his rehabilitation and return to top tier opera, he capped off 1919 with a defining December 29th performance of La Boheme, for which the New York Times declared, ORVILLE HARROLD TRIUMPHS. Continuing44:
“His singing of the hero in “La Boheme” wins instant success. Orville Harrold of Indiana, who has sung in almost every sort of stage entertainment in New York, and most successfully with Hammerstein’s opera in London, made up for ten lost years last night with a performance as hero in Puccini’s “La Boheme” that won success by acclamation from the most influential Monday audience at the Metropolitan Opera House. A crush of attendees, Italians all, started the spontaneous demonstration after Rodolfo’s aria in the first act, in which Mr. Harrold displayed a wealth of manly tenor voice, good diction, and grace as an actor, which perhaps he never showed in like measure before. He evidently had “arrived,” his hour of triumph was deserved, and when with Mme. Alda he finished the scene with a sustained, full, round high-note, the house responded with a roar of enthusiasm not often heard in a theatre.”
From among reviews summarized in a box advertisement in the Musical Currier45:
New York Tribune
“His performance clinched his right to be considered among the very first tenors. No such singing has been heard at the Metropolitan from any tenor in recent years, with the single exception of Mr. Caruso. Hats off, gentlemen - a great tenor and an American!”
New York Sun
“The audience was aroused to a demonstration of pleasure such as the house rarely witnesses. The outbreak, vigorous, general and long continued, was caused by the singing of Orville Harrold.”
New York American
“Orville Harrold, the American tenor, won last night in the Metropolitan Opera House one of the most pronounced successes achieved by any singer of his kind in New York since the star of Enrico Caruso rose above the horizon. He had his listeners with him from the very start, stirring them to a pitch of enthusiasm in the first act that held up the performance for fully two minutes.”
Orville had finally arrived, indeed.
As had happened throughout Orville’s career, opera companies continued to come and go. With excellent casts and sets, the Scotti Opera was popular and artistically successful, but failed financially in 1922. Orville participated in five of the six Scotti junkets. The SOAS performed its 1919-20 season, and perhaps one other. William Hinshaw considered touring the United States with SOAS to benefit localities that had few opportunities to experience good quality opera, and it is not known how much of this happened. He considered touring Europe in 1922. In the larger picture, SOAS was born of war mentality, and time eventually overran its appropriateness and viability.
As another aside, SOAS was apparently the last time that Orville worked with Jacques Coini, with whom he had shared much of the previous decade. Felice Lyne had described in London how Coini had contributed so greatly to preparing her for her first major appearances singing and acting on an opera stage. Under the title of artistic director, or more simply stage manager, Hammerstein had entrusted much of his shows’ artistic character to Coini, as did subsequent production companies. By 1921, Coini was working at the Chicago Opera with his old Hammerstein companion, Mary Garden, who was director there. (She and Hammerstein’s conductor, Cleofonte Campanini, were managing the Chicago Opera, which included many old Hammerstein performers.) From their work on a modernly weird opera called The Love for Three Oranges came a delightful description by Garden’s friend Ben Hecht (the Shakespeare of Hollywood) of Coini’s work, and how he did what he did, simply quoted as Hecht so well phrased it46:
“And there is M. Jacques Coini….He wears a business suit, spats of tan and a gray fedora. M. Coini is the stage director. He instructs the actors how to act. He tells the choruses where to chorus and what to do with their hands, masks, feet, voices, eyes and noses.
Through this business of skyrockets and crescendos and hobgoblins M. Coini stands out like a lighthouse in a cubist storm. However bewildering the plot, however humpty-dumpty the music, M. Coini is intelligible drama. His brisk little figure in its pressed pants, spats and fedora, bounces around amid the apoplectic disturbances like some busybody Alice in an operatic Wonderland.
The Opus mounts. The music mounts. Singers attired as singers were never attired before crawl on, bounce on, tumble on. And M. Coini, as undisturbed as a traffic cop or a Loop pigeon, commands his stage. He tells the singers where to stand while they sing, and when they don't sing to suit him he sings himself. He leads the chorus on and tells it where to dance, and when they don't dance to suit him he dances himself. He moves the scenery himself. He fights with Mr. Prokofiev while the music splashes and roars around him. He fights with Boris. He fights with electricians and wigmakers.
It is admirable. M. Coini, in his tan spats and gray fedora, is more fantastic than the entire cast of devils and Christmas trees and lollypops, who seem to be the leading actors in the play. Mr. Prokofiev and Miss Garden have made a mistake. They should have let M. Coini play "The Love for Three Oranges" all by himself. They should have let him be the dream towers and the weird chorus, the enchantress and the melancholy prince. M. Coini is the greatest opera I have ever seen.”
Orville was forty-two years old when he joined the Met, thirteen years after venturing to New York. There had been Americans at the Met since the 1890’s, but virtually all had trained in Europe. Paul Althouse had been the first American tenor without European experience to sing at the Met. Rosa Ponzelle, a year before Orville, was one of the few other domestically trained Americans there, along with Mable Garrison. Between Americans and foreign pupils, Oscar Saenger had thirty former students at the Met by the mid-1920’s. Having arrived, Orville got a roaring start. After debuting with Caruso in an entirely new Met production, he had appeared sequentially in Madame Butterfly and La Boheme, the first and second most frequently performed operas in America (and both by the melodic Puccini). Years earlier, his youth had been described in a 1911 newspaper article47, literally, as Bohemian. Orville later stated that he identified particularly with La Boheme, after years of wandering and being left stranded in the Midwest by vaudeville48. Having squandered love and career, the wandering Orville had recovered both as the decade of the Great War closed in 1919.
1. Phone conversation with the granddaughter of Orville Harrold
2. The Comeback of Don Jose, article in The World Magazine, March 21, 1920, pg. 12
3. obit for Orville Harrold, The Daily Northwestern, October 21, 1933, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, pg. 4
4. Law and Letters, The New Yorker, October 29, 1932, pg. 10
5. obit of Dennis F. Obrien, www.yonkershistory.org/obrien.html
6. The Comeback of Don Jose
6.5. The Oakland Tribune, May xx, 1915, pg. xx
7. Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 443
7.5 Famous Tenor To Sing Here Soon, Muncie Morning Star, February 10, 1918
8. ibid. and Seat Reservations For Orville Harrold, The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, March 10, 1918
9. Orville Harrold to Sing In Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, March 19, 1918
9.5 Harrold Heard In Good Concert, Howard Shelley, Phil’a Telegraph, April 30, 1918
10. Orville Harrold Winning Laurels, Musical America, May 25, 1918, pg. 49
10.5. For Opera in English, The New York Times, March 5, 1917
11. Albert Reiss Quits American Singers, The New York Times, March 19, 1917
11.5. Opera In English At the Park, The New York Times, September 22, 1918
12. To Produce An American Opera, The New York Times, October 13, 1918
12.5. Opera In English At The Park, The New York Times, September 22, 1918
13. A summary of critical reviews, from an unknown publication, published by agent Walter Anderson, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger
13.5 Article from Musical America, no edition or page, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
14. Mme. Butterfly Sung, The New York Times, October 25, 1918
14.5 Orville appeared with Creatore in Brooklyn during the first week of December, 1918, Some Opera Rivals, New York Times, December 1, 1918, and in Reading Pennsylvania during the last week of December, The Reading Eagle, December 22, 1918
15. To Revive “Robin Hood”, The New York Times, February 2, 1919
16. “Patience” At the Park, The New York Times, March 16, 1919
17. American Singers Revive “The Mikado”, The New York Times, March 26, 1919
18. Revive “Iolanthe” At Park, The New York Times, April 3, 1919
18.5 Letter from Miriam Voellnagel to Orville Harrold, July 20, 1933
19. Stars Pledge Aid For Comic Opera, The New York Times, July 19, 1918
20. Plans of the Musicians, The New York Times, November 21, 1915
21. “Mikado” for Brooklyn, The New York Times, April 20, 1919
22. Scotti Plans Opera Tour, The New York Times, October 13, 1918
23. Scotti as Opera Pioneer, The New York Times, April 18, 1920
24. Scotti Starts His Tour, The New York Times, April 27, 1919
25. See America With Scotti, The New York Times, September 5, 1920
25.5 Adalene Patti Harrold, The New York Clipper, May 21, 1919, pg. 21
26. High Points In the Career of Orville Harrold, Charles A. Hooey, www.musicweb-international.com/hooey/harrold-chron.htm
27. “Boccaccio” Sung With Spirit At The Park, The New York Times, October 14, 1919
28. Theatre Notes, Munsey’s Magazine, October, 1920, pg. 112
29. Music section, The New York Call, January 4 1920, pg. 5
30. Scotti to Resume Tour, The New York Times, October 5, 1919
31. Ruth Miller Secretly Wed, The New York Times, November 4, 1919
32. Mario Chamlee, Wikipedia.com
33. Ruth Miller Secretly Wed, The New York Times, November 4, 1919
34. Americanizing Our Opera, The New York Times, November 5, 1922
35. From Plow-Boy To Parcifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 443
36. Giulio Gatti-Casazza to Orville Harrold, from Milano, July 15, 1919, letter describing Orville’s required repertoire for 1919/20 season
37. Orville Harrold to Guiseppe Babosenek, August 18, 1919, letter discussing scores sent by Bobosenek for Boris Godunoff and Zaza, the former being an incorrect version, and the latter being too heavy for Orville
38. Orville Harrold to Guiseppe Babosenek, from the Lawrence Hotel, Erie, Pa, October 13, 1919, describing scores needed upon returning to New York
39. Men, Women, and Tenors, Frances Alda (Houghton Miflin Co. 1937) pg. 237
40. New Singers To Be Heard, The New York Times, November 16, 1919
41. Syndicated column by music critic, Pierre Keyes, unattributed clipping of November, 1919, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
42. The Opera, The New York Times, November 25, 1919
43. Throngs At Holiday Opera, The New York Times, December 26, 1919
44. Orville Harrold Triumphs, The New York Times, December 30, 1919
45. full page advertisement for Wolfsohn Musical Bureau, The Musical Currier, January 22, 1920
46. Ben Hecht and Prokofiev’s Love For Three Oranges, benhechtbooks.net/hecht_at_the_opera_with_prokofiev
47. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine, December 10, 1911, pg. 1
48. Plow-Boy To Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July 1922) pg. 443
The Met Years, Two Careers 1920 - 1924
Arriving at the Met did not guarantee performing at the Met, especially in leading roles, because New York’s top opera had a deep bench. It was stated at the start of the 1921-22 season that Met general manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, had thirty one sopranos, fourteen contraltos, fifteen baritones, nine bassos, and fifteen tenors1. While all were notable singers, young new arrivals received minor parts except for a few exceptional talents who were well received by audiences. Contrastingly, Orville was an old new arrival, having proven experience, and was a principal tenor. Even so, Frances Alda reported that Orville was not granted frequent leading roles until proving that he could carry big parts and was an audience pleaser2. Since he also pleased critics, Orville’s Met reviews consistently noted his energetic vocal mastery, linguistics, and acting.
Met pay was structured in a parallel manner. Young new arrivals received a one-season contract paying as little as $75 per week3, with lesser supporting roles and a number of weekly performances. Recalling Orville’s Broadway start fifteen years previously, at pre-war wages of $50 per week, the Met could constitute a pay cut from theatre or vaudeville. With increasing experience and popularity, wages rose into the hundreds of dollars per week, still above two weekly appearances. A more accomplished performer, Rosa Ponselle began at $150 per week, fresh out of vaudeville, and rising through the 1920’s as a premier soprano. Principal performers in starring roles were receiving hundreds of dollars per performance, averaging between one and two performances per week. Florence Easton, who had sung with Orville at Ravinia, SOAS, and Scotti tours, early on received $50 per performance. Premier soprano, Frances Alda, was paid $800 for each performance, while Geraldine Farrar reportedly commanded $1500.
The Met’s principal tenors were as an exotic and well-compensated lot as the sopranos, led by Enrico Caruso, the only performer paid more than Geraldine Farrar. With Americans Paul Althouse and Riccardo Martin both gone, Met tenors were predominantly foreign-born singers who were carefully courted by Gatti-Casazza, leaving Orville something of a mundane addition unless he performed exceptionally. Among Orville’s main competitors were Italians, Giovanni Martinelli, Beniamino Gigli, and Giulio Crimi. Representative weekly wages among principal tenors during this period were: Crimi $700, Johannes Sembach $750, and Martinelli $1000.
Orville started at the Met with a contract for $200 per week for a twenty-four week season, requiring as many as four performances per week4, although his typical Met season really ran about thirty-six total performances (ca. $130/performance his first year). This was a lower weekly wage than he had enjoyed with Hammerstein nearly a decade earlier. After proving his capability (and income producing potential), he received a contract for $12,000 per season5 ($545/week, $333/performance). Gatti-Casazza finally raised Orville to $18,000 per season, requiring only three performances per week5. (still actually thirty-six per season for: $820/week, $500/performance) While less per week than he had received for Hip Hip Hooray!, this was much more per performance compared to grinding out ten weekly performances at the Hippodrome. It was the only other contract in which Orville earned more than the $700 per week he had received from Hammerstein in 1912. Orville spanned mid-to-upper pay range for a principal Met tenor, in a day when the average industrial wage was around $1500 per year. Farrar and Caruso received about a year’s average income for each performance.
In addition to outright performing capability, Orville soon demonstrated versatility and ability to learn quickly, essential talents when the show must go on. It had been said of Florence Easton, at the Royal Opera of Berlin, that they could give her an opera score at 8:00 AM, and the opera stage at 8:00 PM6. She and Orville provided similar value (and often sang together) at the Met, Orville having performed three new operas in one week prior to the 1919 holidays. In fact, combining the Society of American Singers, Ravinia, Scotti Grand Opera, and the Met, Orville had learned and presented eight new operas in 1919.
Performers would appear in operas, in satisfying their Met contract, but also in Sunday night concerts, special performances (galas, fund raisers, etc.), and at any of four Met venues. Primary was the Metropolitan Opera House at 39th Street and Broadway, but most performers also appeared several times each season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Philadelphia Opera House (formerly Hammerstein’s), while many also traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for a week of opera during late April. Brooklyn and Philadelphia offered opportunities to try new performances or artists in new roles. These locations saw regular Met presentations, but not always with the same cast as might appear in Manhattan. Orville’s two Met performances of Lucia were at Atlanta and Philadelphia, the latter also witnessing his only known appearance in Tosca.
More Americans were also arriving at the Met. Tenor, Charles Hackett, had debuted in the spring of 1919, just prior to Orville. Tenor, George Meader, made his first appearance at the beginning of the 1921-22 season, on the stage with Orville. In between had come soprano, Cora Chase, whose brief career may have been shortened more by her marriage than by her singing, when she wed her childhood sweetheart from Haverhill, Massachusetts. Both being world travelers, she had followed a similar course to that of Felice Lyne, going abroad with her mother while still in her teens for study in Italy, to be discovered there by Gatti-Casazza and signed to a three-year Met contract. Her future husband, John Williamson, had meanwhile become a foreign war correspondent for the New York Times, and was Times Washington correspondent when they married. They thereafter lived on Long Island and elsewhere.
After his fall 1919 debut, January 1920 began gradually for Orville, with repetitions of La Juive and La Boheme. On January 19 Orville presented his Cavalleria Rusticana for the first time at the Met. A pleased New York Times reported that Orville was the “chief distinction of the performance”, continuing, “Not only his singing was remarkably fine in its power and pathos, in the beauty of its tone and the dramatic expression he gave it, but his acting filled the part with more of the significance of the character than has for a considerable time been observed in performances of Mascagni’s well-worn opera at the Metropolitan. The esteem in which Mr. Harrold is held by the audience has been steadily and deservedly increased since he appeared here first at the beginning of the present season.” Orville followed this with a demonstration of stamina and intelligence.
The new year had Met casts scrambling for stand-ins to cover a rash of influenza and cold victims, which continued to plague them on January 24 as they prepared to present Carmen to a special group of French dignitaries and their Ambassador, at a benefit for New York’s French Hospital. Gatti-Casazza turned to Orville, who was healthy if nothing else, after two of the Italian tenors had been found to be incapacitated. Orville had already spent the day working on another new role to be debuted the following weekend, and had seemingly not sung Carmen since 1914 at the Century Opera. With no time for rehearsal, Gatti-Casazza rolled the dice on Orville and came up with7, an extraordinary first appearance for the Metropolitan and will doubtless be repeated in the regular series. The New York Herald described it as8, “one of the best heroes of that opera the Metropolitan stage has presented in recent years. He was dramatically strong and vocally in the best form Metropolitan audiences have heard him yet.” The French entourage complimented the Met on Orville’s fine pronunciation of the French libretto. Such was the stuff of Orville’s renegotiated contract. A fringe benefit for Geraldine Farrar, as Carmen, was that she had a Don Jose whom she could enjoy really pushing around and getting physical with, for Caruso had been avoiding her increasingly realistic physicality.
With a decade and a half of stage experience, Orville continued responding well to new opportunities and challenges in the Met’s hectic world, and to an extent, his first season was a rush to get fully up to Met speed and repertoire. The new role he had been rehearsing was tenor lead for the January 31 world premiere of Cleopatra’s Night, starring Frances Alda. The tenth American opera presented by the Met, this was composed by Henry Kimball Hadley, the Bostonian who had premiered Bianca at the Society of American Singers in 1918. Cleopatra’s Night ran for six performances during the spring of 1920, the last conducted by Hadley, plus three performances the following season. (Hadley went on to a career as an orchestra conductor, primarily with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.) The pace continued, as Orville sang La Boheme on February 13, after seven hours rehearsing during the day for yet another new role, but still netting hearty applause and complementary critical review for a robust performance9.
During his 1918 rebuilding, Orville had placed himself for management with New York’s Walter Anderson agency, who distributed brochures and had published such items as his “comeback” articles in music-related magazines. With advancement to the Met, he shifted to management by the Wolfsohn Musical Bureau, which years earlier had brought Madame Schumann-Heink to America. Wolfsohn began publishing full page broadsides in Musical America and Musical Courier magazines proclaiming Orville’s achievements. These quoted glowing critical reviews of his continuing new Met roles and generally endeavored to increase his reputation and public recognition to build Orville’s audiences and commercial value. Wolfsohn had extensive contract associations with American and foreign promoters who could offer concert and other engagements outside of the Met. The earliest of these broadsides appeared in the January 24, 1920 Musical America, focused on Orville’s Met triumph in La Boheme during late December, 1919.
With a Met career launched, Orville began recording during February of 1920 for the Victor Talking Machine Company at their studios in Camden, New Jersey. He continued with them for his five Met seasons, often recording during summer off-time, but also occasionally during opera season. These are mostly one-sided 78 RPM recordings, numbering over two dozen titles, and with their large production are the most common of his records.
Orville next debuted as Parsifal on February 19, his first known performance of Wagner. A number of things were new, since the Met had not presented Parsifal in three years because of the war. Scenery was completely fresh, nearly the entire cast was singing Parsifal for the first time, and the libretto was a recent English translation, since the Met was not yet returning to German opera. The performance and its text were well received, lines streaming more like English literature than an awkward translation, although it was noted that future presentations would flow more smoothly as the newly initiated cast became more practiced. While the character, Parsifal, is an innocent young adventurer, whom Orville could only match on the third count, he achieved a convincing portrayal with a combination of acting and firm yet sensitive singing with crystal diction. A Wolfsohn broadside highlighting a repeat of the role the following December recounted six laudatory reviews in six different New York papers, indicating the popularity of both Orville and opera during the period9.5. The interesting observation on the February performance regarded pronunciation, as Richard Aldrich noted in the New York Times that10, “the total number of comprehended lines was disappointingly small.” It was not expected that American audiences would need to read text from the program. Orville’s diction was excellent, as was that of baritone, Clarence Whitehall, who sang very clearly in several languages. Beyond them, “Words, phrases, were often to be caught; a whole line or a whole sentence, unfortunately, rather seldom.” When the tables turned, European performers were no better than Americans at being understood in foreign opera, and numerous singers were often incomprehensible in their own tongues.
Another Orville “comeback” story appeared during March 1920, this time in a tabloid newspaper supplement called The World Magazine, describing how Orville and Blanche had met and parted years earlier, after which Orville became a literal “has-been” 11. It then recounted their reunion and rebuilding, to where Orville had returned as the Met’s Don Jose. The continued appearance of such articles is sufficiently consistent as to likely constitute a deliberate campaign directly from Blanche and Orville, since the articles contain personal details and photos and span several different of Orville’s management firms. While the articles note a downturn of fortunes, they are positive narratives presenting nearly a Horatio Alger story built on the force of Blanche’s and Orville’s personal union. Orville must have felt some such power of relationship, having previously had contrastingly supportive and destructive marriages.
As spring progressed, Orville was in a Sunday night Met concert of popular Italian arias, a special concert at Carnegie Hall several weeks later, and an Oscar Hammerstein memorial concert at his old Manhattan Opera House on March thirtieth. Orville’s final debuting Met role of the season was Faust during late April, in an “All-American” presentation with Geraldine Farrar as Marguerite. (He had earlier sung Faust with the Met over in Brooklyn, but not at Broadway and 39th Street.) The progressing state of opera, combined with lingering wartime patriotism, completely filled the house to hear all principal parts sung by Americans, who had previously sung them either at the Met or elsewhere. Reviews assured that the rush was completely artistically justified, prolonging each scene with curtain calls. It was noted that12, “the tenor contributed no less than the prima donna and basso”, and that, “Marguerite’s garden sealed the triumph.” Finally, “Urban’s garden (architect and Met set designer, Joseph Urban) blossomed from fiction to reality, when the house rained bouquets from the boxes and front rows, as it has not done with so free hand since the recent “No Flowers” rule. The two men picked up a dozen great bunches and piled them in Miss Farrar’s arms until she ran off the stage. Then (Clarence) Whitehall tossed the last bouquet to Harrold, who deftly sidestepped, grinning, behind the curtain and left the audience roaring with amusement and applause.”
Days later Orville concluded his inaugural Met season with Parsifal. He had succeeded because of talent, depth of stage experience and an easygoing personality that worked will with management, cast, and audiences. With no time for enjoying the glow, he was in Atlanta, Georgia the following week, as the Met set up for summer opera there. He just had time for his usual roles in Lucia and Madame Butterfly, and then was away again.
Orville immediately set out traveling with the second Scotti Grand Opera spring tour, which had grown considerably. Starting the first week of May, they were to visit twelve cities throughout the South and Southwest, then turn north to end in Indianapolis a month later. There were new sets, with a cast of nearly all Met singers, and nearly all Americans, accompanied by additional Met chorus and orchestra, summing to over a hundred members on their special train. Additionally, their repertoire had expanded to eight operas, and was well attended despite charging nearly Broadway rates16. Among their adventures, they loaned sets to the Met summer opera setting up in Atlanta, crossed the Mississippi on “floats” by moonlight to face flooded streams and rivers throughout Texas, collected only gold and silver (there were virtually no bills) in the “wild west” environment of the Tulsa oil fields, and packed up by candlelight in flooded Springfield, Missouri to then wade to the train. Scotti was invariably hissed by appreciative audiences as the villain in L’Oracolo, while bravos and applause for Orville’s aria in La Boheme were reported to virtually “stop the show” in New Orleans17.
Orville had relaxed some while in Houston on the Scotti tour, accompanying Blanche’s younger sister, Rachel Malevinsky, to a luncheon meeting of the Business Women’s Club18 (she apparently dealt in real estate). He enjoyed the cooking, as both sisters apparently made excellent lemon pie, and announced that he was looking forward to summer at his Connecticut home. Rachel lived with the oldest of the Malevinsky sisters, Helene, plus a younger sister, Anna, with their parents nearby. Similar to Blanche, Helene went by the last name of Malley, suggesting a family connection to the name. They may have legally changed their names, as Blanche used Malli on passports she received prior to marrying Orville.
Orville had worked continuously since completing his overhaul in the spring of 1918, and was perhaps feeling sufficiently secure as to take a break. He did not return to Ravinia for the summer of 1920. On the other hand, Wolfsohn Musical Bureau announced at the beginning of June, just as the Scotti tour returned to New York, that Orville was among a number of opera performers for which it had summer engagements in London19. It is not clear that Orville took that trip, however, as he apparently lingered nearby New York for the summer.
Such lingering occurred at his new country retreat in Connecticut, which Orville had alluded to in Houston. During the previous October, just prior to his Met debut, Blanche had purchased from New York widow, Clara Rhatigan, a house and several parcels of land she had accumulated in West Norwalk Connecticut13 between 1914 and 1916. This was located near the Darien town line, and not far from the Silvermine District between Norwalk and Wilton, where numerous arts and entertainment personalities had country homes. Blanche and Orville had more like a small farm, which it literally became as Orville built a duck pond by damming the creek, a chicken run, pig pens, and eventually plowed fields on foot behind two white horses14. It was later reported that they had found the area when visiting an adjacent farm belonging to one of Blanche’s nieces, who could only have been Dorothy, daughter of brother Moses. They soon purchased their own, with outbuildings and a farmhouse on twenty three acres. The estate was called BoLe, where the first syllable was for Blanche and Orville, and the second was for two relatives named Larry and Edward15, unidentified and assumed related to Blanche, since no candidates appear in the Harrold line. The bottom portion of the house was finished in attractive stonework, as were a garage and springhouse, and Orville added a barn of substantial proportions. As the opera season closed in April 1920, they began extensive improvements on the farmhouse that continued into the fall. Orville appears to have spent the summer of 1920 enjoying his family and surroundings, and taking in a Broadway musical.
Patti Harrold had spent the 1919-20 season at the Park Theatre, still going by Adelina, in the chorus and as an understudy with the Society of American Singers. While she undoubtedly gained voice and stage experience, singing regularly in their Gilbert and Sullivan productions, the casts apparently remained sufficiently healthy that she got discouragingly little front stage exposure20. As opera ended, she was consequently attracted to spring’s main Broadway event. Author and actor, James Montgomery, had written between 1908 and 1917 a half-dozen books and scripts that found modest success as New York plays. By 1917 he had improved his commercial success by converting several of these to musical comedies, but continued pursuing a play based on his “Cinderella story” called Irene O’Dare. After being turned down by several producers, he teamed with a new pair of songwriters, Harry Tierney and lyricist Joseph McCarthy (no relation to the senator) to switch this into another musical comedy, Irene.
Montgomery joined with producer, Carle Carleton, and Joseph Moran, part owner of the new Vanderbilt Theatre, to finance production. Irene, the musical, opened at the Vanderbilt in mid-November, 1919, staring Edith Day as Irene, for whom the part was seemingly created. Between charm and music, Irene succeeded hugely, one of the first musicals of its type, and was often copied afterward. Edith Day married Carle Carleton, producer and her manager, who then sold his part of the Broadway production to Montgomery, taking Edith to England in April 1920, where they opened Irene in London. The musical proved equally successful there, expanding eventually to the Continent. Edith Day Carleton soon divorced, remarrying to her stage “prince”, and continued on to a successful career in London west end theatre.
Irene was positioned to benefit from several period trends. Entertainment was embracing both women and America’s frontier image. Puccini’s opera La Fanciulla del West had enjoyed a highly publicized 1910 world premiere at the Met, with Caruso and Emmy Distinn, based on the David Belasco play Girl of the Golden West. (New York producer Belasco had also written the play behind Madame Butterfly, based on an English novel, and built the Belasco Theatre, where his ghost reportedly still resides.) Belasco’s play was somewhat inspired by the first female action superstar, Annie Oakley (a Greenville, Ohio Quaker), much publicized in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and at sixty-one still giving shooting exhibitions when Irene opened. (She met her husband while defeating him in a high stakes shooting match.) The All-American young woman was transforming from damsel to heroine, epitomized by clean-cut Midwestern girls, of which genuine articles were a rising Broadway commodity. The image blended with suffragists and the recent 19th Amendment to celebrate action at home and on a local scale. Women had helped win the war, flapper girls were wearing skirts above the knee, and even wearing pants, and women were joining the workforce in large numbers. The image of the independent frontier woman continued into mid-20th century, peaking with Oklahoma, among the first musicals to surpass Irene’s long Broadway run.
Another trend was adult themes. Art entertains, evokes, and provokes. Sexuality aside, a single 1907 Met performance of Strauss’s Salomé was sufficiently repelling that it was banned from the Met over the next twenty-seven years. Salomé sang shockingly to St. John the Baptist’s severed head, embracing it and kissing it on the lips, after which she was ordered killed by her father. (The stunned audience exited in silence.) Seductress Salomé was sometimes portrayed onstage in her Dance of the Seven Veils wearing only a body stocking, which could be exciting, while one of Geraldine Farrar’s opera costumes consisted solely of a skirt, assisted by several strategic jewels. New York dancer and singer, Valeska Suratt, who appeared with Orville at the Palace Theatre, had a show closed for indecency. Paris dancer, Gaby Deslys, who had shared the Hippodrome stage with Orville in 1916, sometimes danced semi-clad, segueing naturally (so to speak) into Josephine Baker’s Paris performances just a few years later. The early 20th century was leaping so rapidly into modern openness that New York Mayor, Jimmy Walker, signed the 1926 padlock law. Theaters would be padlocked and casts imprisoned for portraying sex outside of marriage, prostitution, homosexuality, or outward sexuality. Mae West was jailed for three days in 1927 for writing and starring in her play, SEX.
Irene was not at all sexually graphic. While it may have lost a few patrons, it was sufficiently inoffensive to enjoy the longest Broadway run for eighteen years to come, along with at least four simultaneous road tours appearing throughout America. And yet, it would perhaps have been padlocked for juxtaposing an interesting woman with an interesting man. At the least, it moved into openly gender-bending roles.
Remaining modest throughout, Irene O’Dare is the enterprising daughter of a Manhattan widow struggling to maintain the family music store. After investing in the modern convenience of a telephone, Irene answers it one day to receive a piano tuning job from a wealthy Long Island bachelor. Smitten by Irene, but separated by their social stations, he contrives to keep her in his life by engaging her in a scheme with his wacky cousin and the cousin’s gentleman friend, who is a flamboyant cross-dressing fashion designer called Madame Lucy. (Young Busby Berkley played Madame Lucy in one of the road shows21.) Irene takes over marketing, posing with several of her friends as high society women wearing Madame Lucy’s creations, and arranging fashion shows for the clothing line. She is thus transformed from a simple girl wearing a second-hand Alice-blue dress (a light blue that became immensely popular after adorning the 1906 wedding dress of Alice Roosevelt Longworth), to a high-style socialite. Despite Irene’s concerns over continuing the ruse, and misunderstandings promoted by meddling mothers, Irene and her true love finally tumble completely for each other and warble away to happiness.
Much of Irene's premise and image of period fashion business was a burlesque on Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, an influential founder of 20th century couture and its marketing. A titled English woman who had survived two shipwrecks, the latter being the Titanic (and had also been booked on the Lusitania's last voyage), she operated shops in London, Paris, New York, and Chicago, under the name of Lucile Ltd.. Besides innovating light and free-flowing dresses and tea gowns, often with elaborate stitchery and embroidery, and wrap style coats, she introduced live "mannequins" and mannequin parades, the beginning of live fashion shows and catwalks. Among wealthy and notable customers, she had designed fashions for Paris dancer, Gaby Deslys. Lady Lucy had been a twenty-year icon of modern fashion when Irene introduced “Madame Lucy”, and was so completely on board with this parody of her career that she designed dresses and fashions for the musical. Irene's advertising made note of the fact that dresses were designed by Lucile Ltd.. Irene O'Dare appeared onstage wearing a range of flowing embroidered gowns, plus an ermine wrap, which are seen in the show's many publicity photos. With its long Broadway run, the complete elaborate wardrobe had to be totally remade at least once.
Patti Harrold, a genuine Midwestern girl, wandered into the Vanderbilt Theatre during late April 1920, just as Edith Day departed. (Adelina was dropped, since Orville had recently made the Harrold surname amply marketable in New York.) She approached James Montgomery for a part in his production, who offered her (again) a chorus position, but soon made her understudy to the starring role. Patti was exactly the same age as Irene, having voice training and stage experience with both SOAS and Hammerstein productions, attractive features among a generally young cast. It is possible that either or both of Orville and Hammerstein may have influenced Montgomery, although period publications stated that Patti earned the position on her own merit22. Montgomery had just formed the Vanderbilt Production Company to mount Irene road shows, so that Patti rehearsed the role with them for several weeks, then rejoined the Broadway chorus23 at $75 per week24.
Now two-thirds owner of Irene, springtime found James Montgomery becoming wealthy, while changes rapidly followed the exit of Edith Day. In just weeks, seventeen year old Jeanette MacDonald was brought from the chorus into a speaking part, while Patti emerged from the chorus when Adele Rowland (Irene the 2nd) suffered voice problems one Friday in late May. (History equivocates on whether Adele’s troubles were real or feigned). Montgomery teed up Patti for the following night, who practiced for much of the next twenty-four hours. She debuted25 as Irene on Saturday, May 29, about a quarter of the way into Irene’s 675 performances. Layering Cinderella reality over the musical plot, Patti completed the show’s long run, becoming the most popular and durable Irene. In a Cinderella continuation, Patti received occasional breaks by mid-1921 from young Irene Dunne26, another Midwest girl just arrived in New York, later to become “the best actress to never win an Academy Award”.
New York suddenly had two Harrold Cinderella’s, and Patti had steady employment at one location for the next year and a half. The role had its challenges. Irene must act, sing, and dance. She has the bulk of the musical numbers, many of which are typical operetta material, but some of which are in the new idiom of jazz. Irene is a babbling nineteen year old lass who rattles on constantly about herself and all else, so that the part accelerates rapidly from opening curtain, and must flow continuously and smoothly to seem in character. The actress has little time to think, so must recover naturally from errors or lapses, as Irene might have behaved. The role called for a bouncy vivacious Irene, and Patti fit quickly into the role, stating that it came naturally to her so that she was essentially playing herself27. Publicity photos soon followed, taken at both White Studios and at the studio of Edward Thayer Monroe.
In its “Plans of Musicians” section, during the first week of June, 1920, the New York Times reported simultaneously that Patti Harrold had made her debut as Irene’s prima donna, and that Beth Martin, daughter of former Met and SOAS tenor, Riccardo Martin, was appearing in a New York play28. By sheer coincidence, the article also reported that a New York psychic, who claimed that the spirit of Adelina Patti had promised to teach her to sing, had held a séance to retrieve the departed soprano. Unfortunately, the temperamental singer had failed to appear, to which a disappointed participant had declared, “same old Patti in a different world.”
Patti Harrold then went on a weight loss drive for her new permanent role, having drifted up to 148 pounds29. While theatre work constituted considerable exercise, she danced and played tennis and golf as much as possible, while claiming to have subsisting for a month on nothing but fruit. She admitted that this compromised her health, but reduced her to 122 lbs., netting compliments from audiences and interviewers. Meanwhile, as a struggling young starlet, she still modestly shared an apartment with Miriam Voellnagel, her old roommate from their days on the Redpath Chautauqua Circuit30.
Patti started in the Irene chorus while Orville was traveling the South with the spring Scotti opera tour. The Scotti crew were likely aware, as there must have been regular contact with Met New York offices. Orville certainly knew by the time of their last stop in Indianapolis, almost his hometown. The Indianapolis Star had reported on May 23rd that Patti was in the Irene chorus, and she would have immediately wired home news of her promotion, or even used the modern convenience of a telephone, as Irene had done. The Scotti Grand Opera Company arrived at Indianapolis during the last week of May, filling the auditorium of Murat Temple31, North America’s largest Shriner temple. They opened with Orville’s La Boheme on the 27th, two days before Patti debuted as Irene on Broadway, during the Scotti three-day Indianapolis run.
Orville remained in Indiana after Scotti folded his spring tour and returned east. The time would have been spent celebrating Met opera and Patti’s success, with parents and family in Muncie. Also, Orville’s son, Paul, was nearing the end of his high school junior year, and Orville may have remained in Indiana until Paul was out of school. Orville was back in Indianapolis on Sunday, June 6, participating in a Centennial Concert, celebrating the date on which the Indiana legislature had resolved to move their state capitol to centrally located Indianapolis. Held at the state fairgrounds Coliseum, the event included a 500 voice choir, and Orville appearing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the latter under the directorship of Alexander Ernestinoff, Orville’s early coach and mentor32. With new country estates and new careers blossoming back east, Paul began a two year sabbatical from high school and lived with Orville for at least part of the time, during which Orville rented a car for him to use. Orville finally had stability, so that he remained in Connecticut for the summer of 1920, enjoying both his career and children.
Following Patti’s success in Irene, Photoplay Magazine of July 1920 announced that she had had a movie audition with David Griffith33. This would have been D. W. Griffith, among the first to relocate movie making west to Hollywood, and still shifting among a group of studios after presenting Birth of a Nation, the first full length feature film in 1915. He was in the midst of a series of successful movies during the early 1920’s that ended with the box office failure of America in 1924, after which his career declined. This was the silent movie era, raising some question of how well suited Patti, the musical performer, might have been for such parts. In any event, nothing is known to have come of this opportunity, which would not be her last movie audition.
Irene continued to fill the Vanderbilt Theatre through summer heat, while the cast and creators made occasional benefit appearances. The Irene starlet’s rise, on her own merit, was a charming success story that received notice in the October Munsey’s Magazine and elsewhere. With rotogravure printing and the flood of WWI photographs, the New York Times had begun a tabloid newspaper publication called Mid-Week Pictorial in 1914, several decades before Life Magazine, which continued until 1937. The New York Tribune began a similar section, as did the New York Sunday Times, which became the ubiquitous Sunday supplement. A standard Mid-Week Pictorial motif after the war was a full page collage of bust portraits and brief descriptions around various entertainment themes. Patti became the first Harrold in one of these, during 1920, with one of the “ermine wrap” publicity photos from Irene, on a page of Broadway theatre personalities.
The younger Harrold worked steadily through the year, while the older one seemingly relaxed until the Scotti Grand Opera Co. launched a major fall junket. Scotti’s 1920 fall event was a seven-week coast-to-coast field trip beginning in mid-September34, on which Paul apparently accompanied his father. They stopped in seventeen American cities in fourteen states, plus Vancouver and ended in Montreal at the extremes of Canada. After a first performance in South Bend, Indiana, they spent two weeks reaching Vancouver, divided a week between Seattle and Portland, a week each at San Francisco and the Los Angeles Convention Center, then a fortnight heading through Salt Lake and middle-America to finally pass through Toledo and onto Montreal on October 30. Their train carried a number of added Met soloists, plus a complete chorus and orchestra of virtually all Met performers, led part of the time by the Met’s conductor Gennaro Papi. They again presented eight operas, Faust in French and the remainder in Italian.
Met rehearsals for the 1920-21 season must already have begun as the Scotti tour returned to New York. As he had for all of his Met seasons except one, Caruso sang opening night, Monday November 15, in La Juive, with Orville again singing the role of Leopold. The next night Orville performed Faust in Brooklyn with Geraldine Farrar, and the season was rolling. His Met career became more routine, having previously built repertoire and a position of standing in lead roles. His friend from Scotti opera tours, Mario Chamlee, was now on a similar course, debuting as one of several new Met tenors on November 20, as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. After the 1917-18 season as a Met soprano, Ruth Miller Chamlee had been giving voice lessons and performing with Scotti tours and at Ravinia. The couple now had its second Met career. Gatti Casazza had also brought in a new Italian tenor, Beniamino Gigli, at the start of the season. He quickly began appearing in new roles, of which La Boheme and Cavalleria Rusticana overlapped with Orville, so that they somewhat alternated in these operas.
Another Met career was on a downward trajectory with a series of December incidents. During Sampson and Delilah, on December 3, Enrico Caruso was hit in the back by an accidently falling pillar in the scenery, which perhaps had little to do with ensuing events, as his wife felt that his health had been declining since a lengthy summer tour. (He had long indulged generously in food, wine, and tobacco, so that his health may not have been the most robust.) Within days he developed a chill and a cough, with dull pain in his side. During a presentation of D’elisir d’amore at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, on December 11, Caruso suffered a throat hemorrhage and the performance was cancelled after one act. He remained unwell, but made three more December appearances, concluding with La Juive on Christmas Eve. Orville again sang Leopold, while Caruso suffered through his last Met performance. His discomfort grew intense over the holidays, when he was diagnosed with pleurisy and empyema. There began a series of surgeries to drain fluid from his chest and lungs, after which he returned to Italy, where he died in August of 1921 at age forty-eight.
Following Caruso’s stunning holiday exit, Orville sang in a Met Sunday night concert on January 9th, but did not appear in an opera until January 15th, when the Met presented its long awaited first performance of Louise, a French opera by Carpentier that had launched the career of Mary Garden. Louise had been premiered in New York by Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera in 1908, but had been staged only occasionally since then by the visiting Chicago Opera Company, likely using Hammerstein’s old sets. There were fresh sets at the Met, along with special effort with the chorus and orchestra to create Paris street music, since, to a considerable extent the city of Paris was a character in the opera. (Humble dressmaker, Louise, leaves her family to join her artist lover in Paris.) Geraldine Farrar and Orville were again paired in the lead roles, although with less passionate interaction than in Carmen, while the male lead offered much less substance to embrace than did the female lead, who interacts more with the character of her father.
With about one performance per week, Orville continued appearing in Sunday night concerts (which fulfilled his contract, just as opera performances did) and Louise throughout January and February, with Madame Butterfly added at the Philadelphia Opera House the day after Valentine’s Day. He had just sung on February 20, 1921, at the funeral of Sylvester Rawling, music editor of the New York Evening World, when his mother, Emma Chalfant Harrold, died in Indiana on the evening of February 24, as he was appearing in the fifth performance of Louise. Patti almost certainly accompanied him home for the funeral and for his mother’s burial at Beech Grove Cemetery in Muncie.
After returning from Indiana, Orville debuted in his second Wagner role as lead tenor in Lohengrin, opposite Florence Easton as Elsa. This was also sung in English, and Orville, again, filled the role on short notice. It is not apparent that he had ever before sung this opera, so had to absorb it in little time. This proved to be a popular performance that was repeated a half-dozen times, along with Faust, Carmen, and La Boheme, to fill Orville’s 1921 spring season. Also, Orville’s granddaughter had notes from an article in the New York Telegraph that Patti and the Irene cast presented a benefit concert at the Met on the afternoon of March 31, while Orville sang Rigoletto that evening35. Met records have the Duke in Rigoletto sung by Charles Hackett that evening, so that one of the reports seems incorrect, although Orville might have stepped in at the last minute. It was apparently rare for two members of the same family to have appeared on the Met stage in one day.
Met performers were again in Atlanta during late April, where Orville’s La Boheme was a sensation, opposite Lucrezia Bori (who had rejoined the Met after a six-year hiatus, because of throat surgery) as Mimi, and before an audience of five-thousand36. While they sweated in the heat, performing in the role of poets and artists freezing their hands in a frigid Bohemian garret apartment, Atlanta was convinced that it had witnessed the finest opera ever presented there. The Atlanta Georgian (“A Clean Newspaper for Southern Homes”) declared, “Frankly, many of us were amazed at Mr. Harrold’s singing……with the first bars of that greatest of all tenor arias, the “narrative” of Rodolfo, he held his great audience spellbound……That, of course, was Harrold’s great moment. Nothing in the opera, however beautiful, quite approaches the “narrative”. But whenever Harrold’s voice was heard again, in the duets with Scotti and with Bori, it was just as strong and impassioned and beautiful37.” Among several opera-related articles in the paper, one critic opened with a digression bemoaning, “that the present prohibition law is the most outrageous infringement that was ever perpetrated upon the rights of man!!!” Returning to opera, he praised Miss Bori as an exquisite and adorable moonbeam, who moved the critic, as well as the entire audience, to open weeping with her death in the last act. It was no wonder, he praised, that Mr. Harrold acted his grief so well, and sang it so gloriously38.
Orville’s second Met season ended with a New York performance of Madame Butterfly on May 7. He was soon in Indianapolis39 playing an engagement with the Mendelssohn Choir at Caleb Mills Hall, where it was noted that he was seemingly fatigued at the beginning, but rose to full vocal power as the evening progressed. Orville was again accompanied by pianist Emil Polak, who had been with him during the teen years, and who again played several solos. Among American vocal selections were The Eagle, by Polak, and At The Well, by sometimes Met conductor, Richard Hageman. Orville and Polak also appeared in Anderson, Indiana and other locations during his time home. Amidst these Orville also opened the twenty-eighth May Music Festival at the University of Michigan, in an evening concert accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Following singing engagements, and among the main purposes for this trip, Orville then brought his father back with him to Connecticut. Following Orville's mother's February death, John Harrold had closed his affairs in Muncie and was moving to Orville’s farm for an indefinite period40. Blanche was then perhaps hosting three generations of Harrold fellows, as Orville’s son may have yet been around, and the three generations are captured together in a photo, the group undoubtedly catching a performance of Irene. As a consequence, Orville was again absent from Ravinia for the summer of 1921.
Orville's father had been interviewed in Muncie, back in early May, as he prepared to move to Connecticut41, stating that Orville's younger daughter, Marjorie, was singing in the chorus of Irene. Patti had been trying to coax Marjorie to New York to begin seriously studying stage and singing, for according to family lore she was at least as talented as Patti. (Paul also had an excellent voice, but was more inclined toward athletics.) Their grandfather's statements indicate that Marjorie had gotten to New York for at least some of the time after completing high school. However, she may have returned to Muncie, for Patti stated in an interview a half-year later that the night before Marjorie was to leave for New York, she disappeared to marry a Muncie boy named Floyd Foster42. This did not permanently derail their New York plans, but the marriage never sat well in the family, and was destined to become tragically unpopular. In the meantime, Marjorie was perhaps in Connecticut for the summer, and Orville was as immersed in family as he would ever be again, enjoying contentment at the high point of his life. He had few summer engagements, excepting a benefit for a Bridgeport children’s home43 that included Norma Talmadge, and was the high point of the local social season. That fall’s Scotti opera tour of was thus the only one in which Orville did not participate.
Within the family and in the press, Orville’s Connecticut farm was discussed as being in Darien, raising some confusion because he died in Darien. The farm was in West Norwalk, and was sold in 1926, years before Orville died. Visitors likely arrived there via the Darien train station, as the most convenient stop, and Orville perhaps promoted the misperception. Darien was an address of distinction, which Orville used even when signing his Met contracts. Once they arrived, guests found a country gentleman’s farm having a large house with decorative stonework. Besides the barn and animals, Orville had German shepherds, with opera related names such as Parsifal, Kundry, and Mario (Chamlee). There were gardens around the house, a country casual interior, and sunny porches across the south side. A number of rooms were furnished in wicker tables, chairs, and couches, and some areas were decorated by Blanche with a collection of lucky elephants gathered from her various travels. There was also a French cooking and wait staff, who spoke little English. Paul later recounted spending periods at the house when Orville and Blanche were away, struggling to communicate with the staff44.
Fall of 1921 brought another opera season, with new Met debuts for Orville. He also caught up with Patti by being pictured in a Mid-Week Pictorial magazine spread entitled Opera Singers of International Fame. He was shown in costume as Rodolfo, while Mario Chamlee was also pictured, in addition to Antonio Scotti and Met tenors, Beniamino Gigli and Giovanni Martinelli.
Fall of 1921 also brought changes for Patti. Irene closed on Broadway during October, after which the “original” cast joined other road crews touring across America for much of the next nine months. They started in the east and moved westward, accompanied by publicity and local interviews. Amid this, there began circulating a fable that 19th century soprano, Adelina Patti, was the godmother of Irene star, (Adalene) Patti Harrold45. The general storyline was that Orville had sought voice training in London, had a daughter while there (1899), and that the famed soprano had participated in the christening and presented a gold ring (or gold cup, or christening dress) to the family. In reality, Orville never left the American Midwest before 1906, and was never outside the country until Hammerstein sent him to London in 1911, when Patti was age twelve. It is believed that Lydia Locke and Orville, the reigning London tenor of 1911-12, did meet Adelina Patti, who would certainly have heard that Orville’s daughter was named after her. Lydia, in her motivational talks during their Midwest tours of 1912-13, stated that she had received in London similar “hard work” advice from Adelina Patti46. Patti Harrold might have had or carried some token that the soprano had passed to her through meeting Orville. While that is speculation, the godmother story is fabrication.
The fifth performance in the opening week of the 1921-22 Metropolitan season was the U.S. premiere of Die Tote Stadt on November 19. The best-known opera by young Erich Korngold, fifteen years before he went to Hollywood, it was also the first Met airing of German language since 1917. The opera had premiered in Germany about a year before, and the Met production served as a vehicle for the American debut of Viennese soprano, Maria Jeritza, opposite Orville in the lead role. The opera itself is an unusual work of dissonant style and strange protracted dream sequences that are difficult to follow, based on a Belgian novel that possibly flows down to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The protagonist, Paul, mourns endlessly for his deceased wife, Marie, in the dead and dark medieval-seeming city of Bruges, an allegory for post imperial Vienna after WWI, when the opera was written. Paul finally concludes from his dreams that life is for the living, so that he must leave Bruges and begin anew. Amid all this, the audience was, “..cordial, even in moments of perplexity…more friendly than enthusiastic47.”
Die Tote Stadt was a lengthy opera that presented extended and difficult scores for its main characters, especially Paul. Tall and graceful Jeritza made a dramatic debut, in which it was noted that she was required to perform, “..shrieking, such strenuous shrieking as to arouse pity and concern for her beautiful voice48…” Meanwhile, Orville sang, “a part more brutally treated by the composer than that of the heroine49.” The Met had originally planned Johannes Sembach for the role, a German tenor who approached baritone range at his lower end. However, like William Tell, this opera required dwelling amid high C’s and D’s, where few tenors are at ease. One critic noted, “Orville Harrold has done nothing more to his credit since his debut at the Metropolitan than his delineation of Paul, a fanatic person who finds a little calm only at the very end of the opera. The music is of a frightful tessitura, there are successive pages of the score when a majority of the notes are above the staff. He did not come through unscathed as to quality, but he did sing many phrases of charm and appeal, and he succeeded in making a thankless rôle a fairly convincing one50.” The Times described the role of Paul as, “much uninterrupted singing, much outpouring of high tones in full voice,….difficult and ungrateful in its dramatic outline51.” It was a musical workout that considerably stressed the voice, and was doubly difficult since Orville had to stretch his linguistic talent to become proficient in German. An exciting new opportunity for Orville, he performed Die Tote Stadt seven times at the Met over a nine week period, plus once at Philadelphia in the spring, and with his rising popularity sang forty times overall for the season. Although not the twice-a-day forced march of the Hippodrome, it was a strenuous season that took a toll on Orville’s voice, already highly taxed over his career.
In planning life without Caruso, Gatti-Casazza had brought over noted Italian tenor, Aureliano Pertile, with a special contract for fifteen performances through the current season, at $800 per performance. Pertile debuted on December 1 as Cavaradossi in Tosca, opposite Maria Jeritza, who somewhat obscured his performance, but Pertile became amply popular as the season continued. Gatti-Casazza also deflected some attention away from tenors by hiring famed baritone, Titta Ruffo, who then sang with the Met throughout the 1920’s. Deflections aside, there was scrambling over who would fill both old and new tenor roles with Caruso gone.
Throughout the fall and holidays, and into January, Orville appeared in Die Tote Stadt, Sunday night concerts, and several operas he had previously performed, such as Boris Godunov and Lohengrin, the latter again with Maria Jeritza. Then, in the third week of January, he performed as the Czar in the U.S. premiere of Snegurochka, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This was a fairytale opera, also known as The Snow Maiden, in which Lucrezia Bori again sang beautifully in a “petite flower” sort of role. French language was substituted for the Russian, the event proving sufficiently popular that it was repeated three more times during the spring of 1922, and again the following spring.
In quick succession during the last week of January, 1922, Orville sang the seventh presentation of Die Tote Stadt on the 28th, a Sunday night concert on the 29th in which he performed Act III, Scene 3 of Lucia, virtually an extended dramatic solo, followed by Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Brooklyn on the thirty-first, the first time he had sung that opera since 1919 in Ravinia. He sang the last opposite Amelita Galli-Curci, who had finally been lured from Chicago, in a performance repeated at the Met several times through the spring. The day after Brooklyn, February 1, Orville sang at Carnegie Hall in a special memorial concert of Gustav Mahler’s Lied von der Erde (Song of Earth), for its United States premiere. He had been improving his German with Die Tote Stadt, and had to make another of his quick studies for the single presentation of this difficult symphonic poetic oratorio, under Met conductor Arthur Bodanzky.
Winter and spring continued with a number of Orville’s relatively recent roles, such as Louise, La Boheme, Carmen, and Parsifal. Besides Die Tote Stadt at Philadelphia in late March, Orville had also appeared there in late February as Cavaradossi, in his only known performance of Tosca, which was either simply a fill-in, or was deemed an unsuccessful role for him. During the final weeks of April, 1922, Orville completed his third Met season with the seventh performance of Snegurochka and his final fling with Geraldine Farrar in Carmen, in her second to last Met performance. Four years younger than Orville, Miss Farrar had enjoyed twenty years in the top tier of grand opera. Her voice was falling off its peak after 672 Met performances, so that on April 22 she sang her Met farewell in the opera Zaza. Performers who had ushered in opera’s golden age at the turn of the century were making their exits, seemingly with Orville holding the door. Their disciples, such as Rosa Ponselle, would extend the era to the end of the 1920’s, after which the Depression would reduce opera’s social presence. Opera would begin losing the generous space it had received from numerous critics in numerous newspapers, and recede to a smaller place in the public consciousness.
Orville was again with the Met in Atlanta during the last week of April, pleasing crowds in Carmen (referred to as “the greatest individual triumph of the Atlanta operatic season52”), opposite Florence Easton, and in Faust four days later. He was making a splash around town, giving a performance at the nearby federal prison, with young Met soprano Frances Peralta, and riding to a minor league baseball game in a motorcycle sidecar driven by fellow adventurer, Cliff Wheatley, sports editor for the Atlanta Constitution. Wheatley, a WWI aviator, had five times referred to the University of Georgia football team as “bulldogs” in a 1920 article, for which the name and mascot have remained, after which he died in 1925 (at age twenty-eight) of lung complications from a WWI poison gas attack. Orville’s baseball companions that day spoofed him by discussing the game in mock-operatic-French, to which he retorted, “Say, who the hell do you fellows think I am? I was born right here in the United States, and speak English, not Chinese53.”
Within a week, Orville was off on another spring Scotti Grand Opera tour of the South, pretty much a mini-Met road show. Performing thirty-six times in twenty-seven days, they followed primarily their standard route, through Birmingham, New Orleans, Texas, up through Nashville, and then through Ohio to a completion in Buffalo. Orville likely saw his sisters-in-law along the way, and Texas was again suffering spring floods, as it had on every tour. As they arrived back in New York City during the first week of June, Orville’s La Boheme was noted as one of several personal triumphs of the trip54. Following a trend for both opera and Orville, this was the final Scotti Grand Opera tour, as it was just not possible for the large entourage to cover their train and accommodation expenses. But, for the moment, Orville had a little relaxation time at his Connecticut farm, after a strenuous season.
Blanche Harrold’s sister, Nona Croft, was living back in New York at this time, operating a mid-Manhattan interior decorating business. She made news during the spring by becoming the victim of a stock swindle, regarding the Page Motor Corporation. Major Victor W. Page, of Farmingdale Long Island, was a legitimate automotive engineer, author, and entrepreneur who had previously produced some cars, and reportedly raised one and half million dollars in 1922 by issuing beautiful stock certificates showing an early convertible automobile. Unfortunately, only about 128 cars were manufactured, with some uncertainty as to whether even those were all genuine functioning vehicles. His promoters falsely stated that this new enterprise had produced thousands of cars that were sold in Mexico, so that stockholders ultimately sued for fraud. When Nona Croft had a New York policeman assist her in serving a summons on the Page sales manager, the policeman “turned white and exclaimed: “I’ve got $100 invested in that stock myself.”
Elsewhere, other family members were moving about the country during spring, 1922. Marjorie Harrold Foster and her husband had arrived in New York during winter, where she began training for musical comedy55. They briefly visited home, in Muncie, during early spring, and then returned east in preparation for a new show opening. Meanwhile, Patti was spending the spring seeing America on a grand scale. From Boston in January, the Irene cast had been through Kansas City in February, Salt Lake City in March, Helena in April, and Bismarck in May56. In various interviews, she had made clear the continuous hard work required for such a show business life (which she later sometimes referred to as “this lousy business”, because of its constant demands when a show was playing57). She had been doing Irene for over a year and a half, including a sixty-two week run of seven and eight performances per week58.
Cross-country interviews continued highlighting Patti’s rapid rise, her opera singing father, her diet, and other such details, with Patti always presenting herself as merely a simple and fortunate (albeit hard-working) young woman. Like her father, she was plain-spoken and without the affectations of many high-profile personalities. She expressed in various interviews ranging thoughts regarding her career. She harbored intentions for opera training, although her voice was light (she referred to it as “small”), which she hoped to improve with coaching and maturity59. She had a five-year contract with the Vanderbilt Production Company that would keep her in musical comedy, but considered studying serious voice and languages abroad after that60. On the other hand, she also had a light spirit, responding when asked about singing opera with her father61, “No, I never expect to, because I would rather make people laugh then cry, and make them glad rather than sad…The soprano heroine is simply plunged in woe from the rising of the curtain until the going down of the same….I want to remain the light-hearted heroine and always have a happy ending.”
Patti lacked affectations onstage as well as in personal life. Audiences and interviewers alike got a vivacious and exuberant Patti without drama, pathos, or histrionics. While her father personified opera in both his life and career, her voice and persona were without opera in either life or career. In many regards, she was more of a singer than an actress, portraying mainly herself, who was well suited to musicals and operettas.
A subject that did not arise in interviews was that she had gotten married along the way! While the tour was in Waukegan62, Patti married on June 16, 1922 to Jack McElroy, who had been for two years a dancer in Irene. Her family became aware only in mid-July, as Patti left Muncie after a two week break spent home with her mother63. Whatever their feelings, Orville and Effie could not have been too stridently critical of her impulsiveness, being as Patti had been conceived out of wedlock, and both of Orville’s subsequent marriages had stemmed from stage affairs. Orville’s daughters, and even his grandchildren, were adventurers and risk takers from the same tree as their father.
There are no indications that Patti ever took the McElroy name, certainly not on the stage, and also not on a passport obtained a year later. The couple appeared to have remained together during much of 1922, but there were press reports by February of 1923 that the couple had separated64. Irene was considerably more durable, having a brief 1923 revival at Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre, a 1940 film version with Ray Milland, and a 1973 Broadway revival staring Debbie Reynolds. Meanwhile, circumstances had the Harrold sisters and their husbands all together in New York for the remainder of 1922, working on a new project with the Vanderbilt Production Company.
With several seasons of solid Met experience, Orville’s American-boy success story continued to provide popular copy. A biographical interview appeared in Etude magazine65 during June, recounting some of his youthful adventures and vaudeville years, as well as opera in London and New York. He also penned a brief biography that appeared in Details Magazine sometime during the year. Such interviews and articles began to lose their “comeback” nature, and settle into “hard work” narratives describing the long trek from Midwest choruses, through vaudeville, to grand opera.
Orville was not in New York (or Connecticut) with his daughters over the summer, having returned to Ravinia, accompanied by Mario Chamlee and certainly their wives. As Orville had done previously, they likely rented a house on the lake, and enjoyed the area, as well as Chicago, which was readily accessible by train. Besides opera, they played golf (there is a photo of them on the golf course, in which their caddie is stated to be Orville’s French chef) and seemed to have a summer of fun. Again among Met artists, Orville performed over twenty times and in a number of his lead roles, including La Boheme, Pagliacci, Tales of Hoffman, Rigoletto, and Martha. He frequently appeared opposite young new soprano, Queena Mario, who was debuting with the Met in the fall. Several operas, such as Lakme and L'Elisir d'Amore, were unique Ravinia roles that he had performed nowhere else, as was L’Amico Fritz. With the Scotti Grand Opera gone, Ravinia was among dwindling opportunities for traveling adventures that he always enjoyed. Orville was basking in ample stage time, accompanied by familiar and enjoyable personalities, in roles that had come to mark his career. He may also have sensed that he, personally, had dwindling opportunities for traveling opera adventures, singing under the stars, and appearing in roles that had come to mark his career. Indeed, after the summer of 1922 Orville had only one other serious opera engagement outside of the Met.
Following Ravinia’s August closing, and a tremendous amount of singing over most of the previous year, Orville enjoyed several months of relaxation before beginning fall opera. Meanwhile, his daughters rehearsed through the fall on a new Broadway musical, and son, Paul, returned for his high school senior year in Muncie. A little older and more settled than the other boys, he focused on a three-letter year of athletics.
Grand opera for 1922-23 got underway with Orville appearing in Boris Godunov on November 15, for the second Manhattan performance of the season. Two nights later he performed in a new production of Der Rosenkavalier, another opera in which he appeared with Maria Jeritza. In this case he was in an untitled supporting role, known simply as the “Italian Singer”, which nonetheless was a difficult part sung in high tessitura, which he sang “extremely well66”, “Orville Harrold sang the superfluous but very difficult tenor air, "Di Rigori," with opulence of voice and the necessary touch of affectation67.” The semi-comical Der Rosenkavalier became popular, so was repeated a number of times over the season, although not always with Orville. L’Amore dei Tre Re was presented on the day between Orville’s first two performances, debuting a new tenor, Edward Johnson, who went on to a fifteen year Met career. As with Beniamino Gigli, Johnson overlapped with Orville, sometimes singing the part of Grigory in Boris Godunov. The Met made sure that there were multiple performers capable of singing each part. Orville had commonly stepped in on short notice to replace others; others would replace him.
Following the first week of opera, Orville got ahead of Patti in making the Mid-Week Pictorial magazine, among a grouping in the November 23rd edition entitled, American and Foreign Singers in Opening Operatic Season. He was pictured in another similar tabloid pictorial at about the same time, called, World’s Greatest Male Operatic Singers. His debuts and performances of the previous season had ranked him among top opera artists, especially in New York. There were similar pictorials of top female opera performers during this period, highlighting women of the Met, most of whom Orville had appeared with.
After Der Rosenkavalier in Brooklyn and a Sunday night concert, Orville and Maria Jeritza again sang Die Tote Stadt in late November. One reviewer had predicted that this was a novelty opera that would not last beyond two seasons, which proved correct, but there were still more performances to come. Perhaps suggesting a required rest, Orville did not perform again for a week and a half, which was another presentation of Die Tote Stadt. A substantial part of the break time had been for rehearsing a new opera.
After a three-year hiatus, the Met presented a new production of Thais on December 14, which again brought together Maria Jeritza and Orville, in his last new Met role. The story revolves around a Greek courtesan who undergoes religious conversion to become a nun, offering plot twists and sensuous scenes. Jeritza was a statuesque blonde who could keep opera glasses focused, but was afflicted with some quirkiness of movement. Theater, of course, abounds with unexpected falls, collisions, and makeshift recoveries. Florence Easton had once made a tumble down stairs seem innocuously in-character. Jeritza had previously had an exciting tumble down steps in Cavalleria Rusticana, and on another occasion, slipped off a couch in Tosca and ended up singing prone on the floor. For the opening of Thais, the Met had the courtesan, after rejecting the philosophical appeals of a departing gentleman, “spring after him with a leap that rattled the boards of one of Urban's platforms; then, with a hysterical laugh and gestures of frenzied helplessness, she tottered and fell to the stage-level below, the crash resounding through the opera house68.” She completed the scene singing, unseen, from her new location.
This all must have appealed to Orville’s sense of humor. During one rehearsal for Cleopatra’s Night, where his character contrives a sneak meeting with Cleopatra by cleverly emerging from her pool, Orville rose up over the pool’s edge clad only in a towel, diaper-like around his waist. Jeritza had her adherents and detractors, her fans responding generously to her unexpected events with applause and curtain calls. For Orville’s part, “Mr. Harrold made more than a puppet of Nicias. He succeeded, in fact, in creating a character where the librettist and the composer failed to do so. Here was a Nicias who suggested the banquet table, Bacchanalian orgies, luxurious and effeminizing ease. He sang the music better than New York has heard it sung since the Hammerstein days when Dalmores appeared with Miss Garden and Renaud69.” Orville’s voice and acting continued to please, and while some critics found Thais “musically vapid”, it remained on the schedule.
Extending on from Orville’s previous-season peak of forty appearances, the 1922-23 season was off to an even stronger start, accumulating a high water mark of thirteen appearances by new year’s eve. Combining the previous Met spring, summer at Ravinia, and the Met fall, Orville had debuted in five new operas during the year, at the top of his career. The 1922 holiday occurred amidst a sprint that began with Der Rosenkavalier on December 23, and ended with Carmen on January 4, during which he sang in seven operas and Sunday night concerts over thirteen days, including another performance of Die Tote Stadt. This was in contrast to some previous stretches that had averaged below two performances per week. Orville always stepped up when asked, and always projected energy and full voice, so that a busy season of difficult tessitura and high power was wearing thin. He may have known at Ravinia that he was approaching the bottom of his vocal well, and Gatti-Casazza may have cashed in on a similar hunch while Orville’s voice lasted. By all indications, after a season-opening rush of heavy vocal labor, the instrument was again broken by the end of January. The good news was that Orville had already signed his Met contract for the following 1923-1924 season.
Winter and spring continued with presentations of Thais and some of Orville’s popular roles such as La Boheme, Lohengrin, and Carmen, but at a much slower pace. There were only five appearances during February, including Orville’s (and the Met’s) last staging of Die Tote Stadt. March likewise saw only five appearances, including Carmen, Parsifal, and spring presentations of fairytale Snegurochka, with sprite-like Lucrezia Bori. Orville’s voice was not returning, even with resting time, so that there were only four appearances during April, including a season-closing La Boheme in Atlanta. Following a record-rapid start through mid-January, Orville’s fourth Met season, and career, had turned upside down to conclude at a new low of thirty-four total performances. Overuse had once more damaged the voice that been the source of his life’s story, so that Orville’s Met career appeared headed for an early sunset.
As 1922-23 opera progressed, Paul’s senior year back in Muncie progressed from fall football, in which Muncie was ranked second in the state, to winter basketball, which was already Indiana’s athletic passion. As with Orville’s Met season, Muncie basketball also began at a hot pace, remaining there to second place in the state final tournament. (Paul was top scorer in both football and basketball.) Orville reportedly received Muncie basketball news clippings, which he showed to associates70, many of whom would have met Paul. While Orville and daughters built a musical family tradition, Paul began a legacy of basketball. Almost a quarter century later, his son led Muncie to a state championship, being declared Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” (he was also a good singer). From there, he took the University of Colorado to third place in the 1955 NCAA finals, one of Colorado’s few trips to the tournament. With a family trait of wanderlust, Orville’s grandson next went through a career as a Navy aircraft carrier pilot, and then settled in for years of teaching and marriage in Japan, before coming back to America with a hobby of flying and gliding. Meanwhile, his sister followed a parallel career teaching at American high schools in Europe and north Africa, before returning to the United States. This branch of the family was not destined to remain on the farm.
Back in New York, the Harrold sisters had opened at the Vanderbilt Theatre on Christmas day, 1922, in a new musical presentation of the Vanderbilt Production Company called Glory. Patti played the heroine, Glory Moore, while Marjorie sang in the ensemble. A natural follow-on to Irene, Glory was another musical comedy, scripted and scored by James Montgomery and the same musical team, along a similar story line, and with some of the same actors, including the main couple. Glory is a country girl who eventually marries the boy who left town and returned wealthy. The plot apparently developed in a novel manner, and was more complex and subtle than was usual for musical comedy. In a review titled ‘Glory’ Makes Hit With Pretty Tunes, Patti Harrold Charming, the reviewer remarked, “Miss Harrold was always a charming heroine, playing her scenes which bordered on pathos with a reticence, and her comedy scenes with magnetic vivacity71.” The music was noted as irresistible, and Patti’s songs as, “especially well sung,” most importantly the closing piece; “An audience which leaves the theatre humming is a pleased audience72.” Glory lasted for two months (until February 24) for a medium-weight run of seventy-four performances, which was another forced march averaging about two performances per day, with occasional days off.
The forced march was the nature of Broadway theater business, which was, after all, a business. Irene’s long run was obviously unusual, so that Broadway’s basic economic recipe necessarily depended on more modest success. The standard show schedule allowed about fifty performances per month, and if attendance remained steady, the show could hope to cover its startup expenses (scripts and music, sets, costumes, rehearsals, rents, etc.) sometime into the third month. For investors in a high-risk business, another expense to be covered was carryover loss from failed shows. Shows were probably operating comfortably in the black as they approached two hundred performances, which likely had created sufficient popularity that they could mount a successful road tour. Sets and costumes already existed, and touring casts could frequently comprise less expensive actors than in the Broadway original. Touring stops of only a few performances would be well attended and lucrative, functioning on less expensive stage labor along the way. So, Broadway’s economic recipe was based on a three to four month New York run, hopefully followed by a solid road tour. A modest show could hope for a reasonable Broadway return with a three month run.
Glory earned Patti another portrait in Mid-Week Pictorial magazine, after which the Vanderbilt Production Company was in Philadelphia during April and March of 1923, where they were visited by Patti’s mother, Effie. The theatrical company then sailed from New York on St. Patrick’s Day for England and the Continent, apparently for a summer tour that included a London show entitled So This Is London73. This may have been in conjunction with the English Irene company, and it is unknown what other shows they presented where. Patti and Marjorie continued receiving occasional American press, with photos, discussing such matters as hairstyles and Midwestern girls on Broadway. Marjorie and Floyd Foster probably lived during Patti’s absence at her apartment on West 78th street. He had obtained a salesman’s position with the Turner Toy Company of New York74, and they resided at Patti’s and with Patti for some time. Patti filed for divorce during late September75, amid Midwestern press rumblings regarding the “matrimonial jinx which seemingly has haunted the Harrold family for years76.” Noting that Orville had finally settled down with a wife of the “intellectual stimulus” variety, enjoying life among chickens and cows, Patti was quoted as declaring that “Jack is a peach77,” but that it was time to end the marriage. They were divorced78 on November 22nd, 1923.
During mid-May, just as the opera season ended, Ruth Miller Chamlee had purchased a sixteen acre home and grounds in Wilton, Connecticut79, located about twenty minutes’ drive from Orville’s farm. (Top tier opera being lucrative, the Chamlees paid this off in two years). They may have found the property through Ruth’s voice lessons. Two adjacent homes were owned by Middlebrook family members, of which one was the father of Joseph W. MIddlebrook, successful New York lawyer, whose second wife, Jeanette Shimans Middlebrook (his office assistant during his first marriage), aspired to grand opera. Jeanette had studied voice as a child in Brooklyn, and spent a significant part of the WWI years living in Naples, Italy to study voice and opera there80. While no absolute proof has surfaced, there are enough opera and real estate proximities to strongly suggest a Chamlee-Middlebrook-Harrold, connection, leading to another suspected intersection later in Orville’s life.
It appears that Orville was not engaged anywhere over the summer of 1923, and was likely devoted mostly to resting his voice at his Connecticut farm. Patti had been leaving the country as his Met season was deteriorating, so that Blanche was one the few individuals in his personal life, beyond the Chamlees, who had an idea of how is career was going. The American-boy success image was still succeeding in publications. His tribute article to Hammerstein had appeared in Theatre Magazine during April81, providing interesting insights into both their careers, and making clear the affection that Orville had for the irascible impresario. The timing was perhaps ironic.
During the fall and into 1924, Patti apparently pursued her plan of coaching for grand opera82, although it is unknown with whom. Other opportunities would then arise for her as the year progressed. Meanwhile, in November, 1923 the Chamlees hosted at their new country “farm” a picnic and publicity photo opportunity with their son, Mr. and Mrs. Theo Karle (popular New York concert tenor), Orville and Blanche Harrold, and Mr. and Mrs. Ottkar Bartik83 (Met ballet director). Met fall rehearsals were getting under way, and Mario Chamlee was hoping to commute from Connecticut for the season, or at least spend weekends there.
Orville had a Met contract as the 1923-24 opera season approached, but did not have a career. Rather than the usual mid-November opening, the season began on the 5th with Thais, and without Orville. Not only did he not sing any new roles during this season, he did not perform most of his standard Met roles of previous years, such as La Boheme, Faust, Parsifal, Thais, Madame Butterfly, and Cavalleria Rusticana. Other tenors were stepping into Orville’s parts. Armand Tokatyan, who had begun a twenty-five year Met career the previous season, sang Nicias in Thais, Tiriddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, and Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. Mario Chamlee performed Faust, Uin-San-Lui in L’Oracolo, and Grigory in Boris Godunov. Of the Italian tenors, Beniamino Gigli sang Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly and Rodolfo in La Boheme, while Giovanni Martinelli starred in Carmen and Faust. Martinelli also sang Arnold in William Tell, one of the roles that had launched Orville’s opera career, a number of times during 1923 and 1924, although it is not known if these were in the original key. Another event of the period was the debut of an American basso from California, Lawrence Tibbett, who would remain friends over the years with Orville and the Chamlees. Orville first sang on November 17, in Der Rosencavalier, which was particularly suited to his high tenor. He sang twice in L’Oracolo (once in Brooklyn), repeated Der Rosencavalier, and appeared in several Sunday night concerts near the holidays, for a career low of only six performances in six weeks prior to the new year. Orville no longer had a voice that could keep him at the Met, and as the holidays passed he stepped into the worst year of his life.
Orville was performing only occasionally in the new year, and rarely in entire operas on the Met stage. He appeared in two Sunday night concerts during January, in which they presented complete acts from Faust and Carmen. During the first week in February, he sang his usual role as Edgardo in Lucia, presented at the Philadelphia Opera House. The following week, in mid-February, he was again in a special concert for the benefit of the Met Emergency Fund, singing another act from Carmen. Rather than performing on alternate days, as he had during his busiest Met periods, Orville was averaging one performance during alternate weeks, and after Carmen, would not appear again for nearly a month. Most of the slowdown was because of the condition of his voice, which likely required added resting time between performances. There was another reason for the extra time off during February.
About a week after his latest concert, word arrived at the Met on the morning of February 20th that Orville’s father had died, back in Muncie84. Orville was on a train that afternoon, for a funeral at his father’s home and a reunion of his parents at Beech Grove Cemetery. In keeping with fairly substantial family longevity, his father had lived to age seventy-one. Orville may have lingered in Muncie to see his son, Paul, and other family before returning to New York and his last round of Met performances.
On March eighth he sang his first complete opera on the Met stage since December, as Win-San-Lui in L’Oracolo. Apparently because of limited vocal endurance, he performed again only after three weeks, in a repeat of L’Oracolo. Orville sang his last Don Jose in Carmen on April fifth, into the closing month of spring performances. His last opera was Boris Godunov, followed by the season’s last Sunday night concert, in which he sang Una furtiva lagrima from L'Elisir d'Amore and participated in the sextet from Lucia. He did not travel to Atlanta, and finished the 1923-24 Met season with only fifteen appearances. That brought Orville to a career total of 160 Met performances. He had made no Victor recordings during this opera season, but caught up somewhat by recording his last four pieces for them during April. His recording contract ended simultaneously with his Met contract and opera opportunities.
Orville’s five-season Met career was relatively brief compared to some Met tenors who endured for decades. He was always an unrestrained singer, so that Oscar Saenger had had to perform voice repair back in 1910. While Orville perhaps had confidence in his vocal resources during nearly two decades in New York, they were finally expended by 1923. It had been said of Emma Trentini, Orville’s leading lady at the Manhattan Opera and Naughty Marietta, “Smartest singer I ever met. She never talked or sang out loud and when she did it was always one octave lower. She saved her full voice for a real audience85.” Her falling out with Victor Herbert occurred because she had refused an encore that he had requested of her during the final performance of Naughty Marietta. She preferred to save her voice86. Orville would have known her style, and certainly knew the risks, but lived his career at a faster pace. Also, Gatti-Casazza may have used his American tenor as something of a consumable asset. In her autobiography87, Francis Alda stated that Orville’s voice had been damaged by overuse, and Die Tote Stadt would certainly have been a significant stressor of the period.
Lacking spring Scotti opera, Orville and Patti filled the month of May, 1924 with a series of concerts throughout Indiana to benefit the Paul Dresser Memorial fund. Born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1859 as J. Paul Dreiser Jr., an older brother of American novelist Theodore Dreiser, Paul Dresser had wandered between priesthood studies and petty crime to an early career as a vaudeville troubadour and minstrel show entertainer. This was accompanied by a considerable and successful outpouring of songwriting, so that he had migrated to New York by the 1880’s, where he formed the music publishing house of Howley, Haviland, & Dresser. Through the 1880’s and 1890’s, Dresser published a hundred tunes meriting the newly minted title of “hits”, which earned both acclaim and fortune. The most popular was “On the Banks of the Wabash”, which was the second best seller of sheet music during the 19th century, became the Indiana state song in 1913, and had just been recorded by Orville for Victor during his last month at the Met. The opening line, “Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields”, described Orville’s brick farmhouse birthplace throughout the 20th century.
Dresser’s songs were largely romanticized remembrances of 19th century life, which lost popularity with young audiences after the turn of the century, in an increasingly urbanized and mechanized age of ragtime. Reckless generosity and poor business practice brought Dresser was penury and poor health, for which he died in 1906. Adding insult, Back Home Again in Indiana was written in 1917, plagiarizing lines, rhythm and music from Dresser’s greatest legacy, which his brother, Theodore, fought for some years. With his image fading, the Paul Dresser Memorial fund had been established in 1923 to erect a monument in his hometown of Terre Haute. Patti and Orville Harrold paralleled Dresser as Hoosier musicians, constituting the Indiana equivalent of Caruso and Adelina Patti. Their tour began on May 4, at the recently built Cadle Tabernacle, a unique Indianapolis landmark88.
Built in 1921 by E. Howard Cadle, the tabernacle had a capacity of 10,000, plus room for another 1400 in the choir loft. Its façade was of an incongruous Spanish mission style, with an entrance modeled after the Alamo. Cadle was an Indiana entrepreneur who had made, lost, and remade several fortunes, acquiring religion along the way to overcome a youth of drunkenness and gambling. The operation was part business and part religion, available to preachers, evangelists, speakers, and entertainers, and hosting over the years Billy Sunday, Oral Roberts, and Martin Luther King. The tabernacle was reportedly the largest evangelistic meeting hall in America, proving as successful as his previous enterprises, so that Cadle drove a Cadillac and flew his own airplane. (The site is now occupied by Firehouse Square Townhouses.)
The concert tour was inherently popular for its all-Indiana theme. The tour committee had stirred enthusiasm with endorsements for both Dresser and the Harrolds from John Philip Sousa, Victor Herbert, and others89. Harry E. Paris again managed the tour, in which Orville opened with solos from Martha, Patti enacted a part from Irene in costume, and they were accompanied by Emil Polak, who had been pianist with Orville and Lydia Locke during their 1916 concerts90. Emil Polak soloed as well as participated in the scene from Irene91. Finally, Patti sang the operatic Caro Nome from Rigoletto, after which she and Orville sang various duets. The first ostensible joint performance for Patti and Orville, the tour was important to both, especially Orville, in establishing family connection and companionship in their artistic and professional passions.
Crowds filling the Cadle Tabernacle became sufficiently large and unruly around entrances and local streets that police were called to restore order, providing some of the best publicity for the rest of the tour92. Among various Indiana cities, Patti and Orville gave three performances in a Harrold homecoming at the auditorium of Muncie’s Central High School, where Patti had graduated in 1917, and Paul had graduated just the previous year93. Their May concerts were so well attended that Harry Paris arranged a return to Cadle Tabernacle on June 1, still accompanied by Emil Polak, with a similar selection of opera, show tunes, Polak solos, and Harrold duets. There was no newspaper discussion during the Indiana tour of Orville leaving the Met or finishing opera, or that his career was significantly changing.
Discussed instead was that Orville was relaxing for an extended (and perhaps nostalgic) home visit. It was stated that94, Old friends who have met him have remarked that his success has not spoiled him. Harrold has found unusual enjoyment in meeting the people “who knew him when.” If anything, it was suggested that his opera selections were intended to explore preferences for the coming season, which may have been true. It was also said that he had turned down several engagements, one for a six-week summer contract at New York’s Hippodrome, and another for a coast-to-coast opera tour being organized by Geraldine Farrar95.
As spring of 1924 passed, the summer presented down time for both Patti and Orville, probably spent at his Connecticut farm. Patti enjoyed gardening there, and fall theatre work was falling onto place for Patti and Marjorie. For the near term, Patti and Orville took the opportunity for a joint appearance booked for the Labor Day reopening week at the Hippodrome. It was now managed by the Keith-Albee interests, and the Harrold duo was to present a singing variety act conveniently similar to that of their May Indiana tour96.
Patti and Marjorie were to begin fall rehearsals for a new musical comedy, scheduled for a New York opening around the Christmas holidays97. Marjorie and Floyd Foster were living at Patti’s apartment, where there was a disagreement during mid-August such that the Foster couple left for a fortnight’s break at home in Muncie (family lore is that Patti threw them out). Near the end of the month, vaudeville news columns announced Patti and Orville were opening at the Hippodrome98, when news arrived early on Friday, August 29th that Marjorie had been killed in an Indiana automobile accident.
Hippodrome management quickly arranged a private drawing room car and berths for Orville and Patti on that afternoon’s Southwestern Limited to Indianapolis99. At Indianapolis, several return reservations were made for Sunday and Monday on the Pennsylvania Special. Meanwhile, the Hippodrome also arranged for a replacement act, including Belle Storey, who had been Orville’s starring partner in the 1915 Hippodrome spectacular, Hip Hip Hooray!. As Orville and Patti headed west on Friday, news of their presence spread through the train, reaching Ethel Lynch and her mother, who were returning from visiting her mother’s parents in Connecticut100. Ethel had been a schoolmate of Orville’s son, Paul, at Muncie Central High School, so that the women arranged to meet Orville in his car. Patti was so distressed that she was unwilling to see visitors, but Orville sat with them for some time. Whatever the overall events, the intimacy of the tragic moment became part of courtship between Paul and Ethel, such that she ultimately bore Orville’s only grandchildren.
Marjorie had arrived in Muncie about ten days previous to the accident, receiving something of a celebrity reception. Having been gone nearly twenty years, Orville was not so freshly in mind, while his Broadway daughters had enthused a new generation of civic pride. On Thursday evening of the 28th, Marjorie and Floyd had gone to a dance near Anderson, Indiana, between Muncie and Indianapolis, in the Maxwell coupe of a friend named Paul Karlen101 (whose father was Muncie fire chief) and his date, Marie Rathel102. The Fosters were both riding in the front passenger’s seat, Marjorie sitting in Floyd’s lap, when the car left the road on a curve, the right front side striking a telephone pole, while going about fifty-five miles per hour (about the full speed of the automobile). The telephone pole was broken into three pieces, and Marjorie was thrown about twenty feet. While the other three were, surprisingly, not seriously injured, Marjorie appears to have been hit by part of the telephone pole, suffering severe crushing damage to one side of her head103 and nearly severing an arm104. She was alive, but never regained conscientiousness before dying early Friday morning at the Anderson hospital.
Marjorie’s mother, Effie, did not arrive at the hospital early enough to see her alive, which would have been a disturbing sight in any event. Her son, Paul, had the unfortunate and unforgettable experience of identifying the body at the morgue, before it was taken to Muncie. Friday’s Muncie headline read, MARJORIE HARROLD MEETS DEATH, capitalized across the top of page one. Paul Karlen originally claimed that he had been blinded by oncoming headlights, but by Saturday it had been established that he had been drinking, while a resident near the accident scene stated that his car had been speeding and that there had been no other automobile105. Karlen was charged with involuntary manslaughter, while funeral arrangements were finalized. Incredibly, a cousin of Marjorie’s in the Kiger (maternal) family was killed in an automobile accident in a nearby county, ten hours after she died106. They might have met on Sunday at a Kiger family reunion, which must have become a dismally subdued gathering.
Orville and Patti would have arrived in Muncie on Saturday morning, hardly rested, going to Effie’s residence on South Madison Street. While Patti almost certainly remained at home with her mother, Orville stayed at the Roberts Hotel, where he received a number of consoling telegrams. There were messages from Hippodrome manager, Mark Luescher, Edward F. Albee of the Keith-Albee, Mrs. Enestinoff, the wife of his old Indianapolis mentor, and Julie Witmark, vaudeville singer and producer, as well as a member of the Witmark family of music publishers. There are family stories of Orville at the wake, sitting on the porch with Effie, to no avail. Effie would not be consoled, and would take no comfort in Orville. Burial was on Sunday, beside Orville’s parents at Beech Grove Cemetery. Orville was at the cemetery for the second time in a year that had also seen his career end. He would return to Beech Grove Cemetery only once more.
Paul Karlen remained in the Muncie area, and it is unclear if he was prosecuted to completion for the accident. Five years later, in October of 1929, he was involved as a student pilot in an airplane crash near Muncie. He had gone up with his instructor, an experienced WWI pilot, on a day of severe cross winds, when the plane crashed in a cornfield and burst into flame. Having partially extricated himself, Karlen was helped out by a passing mail carrier, but then returned to the burning airplane to save his instructor. The instructor died at the scene, while Karlen died of burns later that night107.
After nearly forty recordings, a myriad of opera companies, and all manner of other theatre, 1924 pretty much ended Orville’s musical outpouring, although he did not totally leave music or stage. Some biographies suggest that he returned to vaudeville, but too few specific dates and venues have surfaced to support this. As with the Paul Dresser tour and August 1924 Hippodrome engagement (which probably never occurred) many of his later public appearances were with Patti, and mostly in New York. He worked the 1926-27 opera season with a touring road company, which ended his public career. He no longer traveled as a lifestyle, but primarily remained geographically near Patti and a small group of friends and in-laws, all of whom eventually relocated to California. He was occasionally heard on radio during the early 1930’s.
Gatti-Casazza reportedly stated that Orville suffered a shortened career for having entered opera too late in life108, but that hardly seems the case. Orville perhaps entered the Met too late in life, especially for a tenor who consumed his voice at a high burn rate. His energetic style may not have been destined for a thirty-year career, but he had broken into top tier opera in 1910, with the possibility of remaining there. Oscar Hammerstein’s productions and casts in New York, Philadelphia, and London were at the level of the Met and Covent Garden. Even Naughty Marietta was a lavish production, far above vaudeville and classic burlesque, being one of the first truly major Broadway musicals. None of Hammerstein’s performers were absorbed by the Met, which aimed to exorcise the competition, and in any event, Hammerstein refrained from putting Orville on the auction block by keeping him under contract. While London society was not supporting Hammerstein, numerous London critics were freely rating Orville amid opera’s top tenors.
One might ask what created the valley between London and the Met, recognizing that the question represents a primarily artistic viewpoint. There appears less of a valley on the basis of other professional, financial, or stage considerations. While being encouraged toward opera by his Indianapolis mentor, Alexander Ernestinoff, before going to New York, Orville had participated in a variety of choirs, social clubs, musical productions, and orchestras. Viewing Orville’s overall career as that of a general musical entertainer, the teen years in New York followed a similar course, along with the realization of grand opera. He would sing at the drop of a hat, in concerts, vaudeville, liberty bond drives during the war, Gilbert and Sullivan.
Several years after Orville’s retirement, Met conductor Arthur Bodanzky stated that opera was declining, in part because of new artists of limited background109, by which he may have included Orville. An Austrian classicist who had been assistant conductor to Gustav Mahler in Vienna, Bodanzky was accustomed to principal performers who had a decade of experience before reaching major operatic venues. He was also accustomed to families who could routinely mount their own string quartets, and the state of twentieth century music in America did not meet his standards. Unquestionably, Rosa Ponselle was merely exceptional when she stepped out of vaudeville and into opera, while she had become exquisite a decade later. As Bodanzky pointed out, America did not have adequate schools for operatic training, nor did it have a large network of smaller opera companies that could prepare young performers. Finally, Bodanzky lamented the substitution of modernism for classic lyric opera, the latter presenting melody such as in “Butterfly”. After all, he pointed out, “who cannot hum at least two tunes from it?”
Short of tapping the limited supply of European artists, as Gatti-Casazza did at the Met, growing American operas could not hope to present such highly experienced singers. An American operatic farm system could evolve only over time, and would differ from the European model, where opera companies were ubiquitous. The European talent pool would become increasingly expensive, until even Europe could not afford it, a process cut short by the Great Depression, which made opera itself barely affordable.
Orville had the good fortune to arrive in time for a piece of opera’s golden age, and when he joined the Met he did have well over a decade of experience, although not all in opera. A number of his associates had similar experience, coming up through lesser companies such as the Aborns’ and Century Opera, and major opera under Hammerstein. Even vaudeville prepared opera performers for what is still a form of stage entertainment. (Opera struggles with the choice between pure musical presentation and acting, but the audience presumably should benefit by having their eyes open.) Some critics seem bothered that Orville spent part of the mid-teen years in “second-rate” opera companies, which was virtually inevitable in America during WWI to build exactly the background that Bodanzky recommended. At the same time, Orville avoided the lower level of lesser available opera companies, such as Fortune Gallo’s San Carlo Opera Company. Orville gained experience and repertoire at Century Opera, Ravinia, and the Society of American Singers, where each had a share of Met-level performers.
Such companies failed unfortunately often, but Orville was an adventuresome survivor, not an idealistic artist. Far beyond surviving, Orville forged his most lucrative contract under such circumstances. For one who reveled in musical entertainment, a Hippodrome spectacular was hardly to be dismissed, even at a cost (and he had to know that it would cost his voice). Afterward, at his low point, he began at Ravinia to rebuild his opera career. He endured, remained popular, and did the work required to reach top opera. He had the discipline and stamina for success, and once at the Met, demonstrated intelligence and skill in assuming his roles.
Even at the top of Orville’s career, there were those who gave him unfavorable reviews, and most period tenors were always second to Caruso. As one Hammerstein biographer described110, The cheers for his (Orville’s) London debut were a maximum that declined afterward, perhaps unjustly, and during his later career he was usually regarded as a tenor who sang when Caruso could not or was dead. This is one of the grossly unfair things that happened to practically every tenor in the world during the last ten years of Caruso’s public life: all, even the best, were regarded as unsatisfactory substitutes.”
Even disregarding existence in Caruso’s shadow, Orville’s persona and career quite confounded those steeped solely in opera. Most performers grew up in opera and sang little else; opera was a complete and enclosed world of art and life. Orville did not have classic European training, he gambled with his opportunities, and he devoted a substantial portion of his performing lifespan to “lesser” satisfactions. In Robert Tuggle’s book on the Met and opera’s golden age111, the section on Orville dwells more on his life outside the Met than inside, as if the rough American trek to art and life were a strange and fascinating adventure, and Orville an opera interloper. Perhaps more literally, compared to opera’s refined European image, it was as if Orville had sprung out of the wild American West and into the Met. At the least, certainly, he was not the average opera star, which could be seen in his concert career. Orville’s concert entertainment came from vaudeville and the American experience. There was something for everyone in the audience: opera in costume, art songs for serious voice (ala Sarah Brightman today), popular songs, show tunes, and Irish songs. John McCormack (another Hammerstein discovery) perhaps followed a similar course, leaving opera (which seemed to stress him) to become an immensely popular concert tenor.
In his Etude interview, Orville stated that he had a repertoire of over thirty operas that he could perform on an hour’s notice. A careful accounting arrives at a list of thirty-eight operas in which he performed, with five additional complete operettas and shows, along with numerous opera acts and pieces from Sunday night concerts, plus many individual songs from various concerts elsewhere. There were seven song books for compete operas in residue from his estate that passed down through Patti, in addition to several compilation books of operatic songs. Notable was a 1918 soft cover Ricordi publication of La Boheme, which was among his best-received Met roles. Also present were Rigoletto and Aida. Somewhat surprising were hardcover editions of Valkyrie and Les Huguenots, for which he had no known appearances, although these could have been used for concerts. There was also HMS Pinafore, which could have been either his or Patti’s from the Society of American Singers.
It may have been that the occasion of Marjorie’s death was when the family became aware that Orville was leaving opera. The impression is that the two events became associated in family perception, such that the tragic occurrence appeared to influence a decision on Orville’s part. While there is some juxtaposition of circumstances, Orville’s operatic fate had already been determined for some time, joining a group of factors that made 1924 an extremely discouraging year for him.
Marjorie’s death forever marked the family, and she was commonly referred to afterward as “Little Marjorie.” Although Patti’s actions may have been reasonable and justified, she never shed the guilt of her role in the events leading to the accident, and was said to have suffered something of a nervous breakdown after the funeral112. Orville perhaps suffered similar guilt. His passions had shaped the family and much that followed. Without miring in psycho-babble, his daughters married impulsively, likely to establish stability and permanent companionship. The tragedy certainly disturbed issues and differences that had been resting forgotten and forgiven, and Orville could not have escaped some regrets in the weight of the moment. Patti thereafter spent considerable time with Orville and Blanche at Bo-Le in Connecticut, participating occasionally in local benefits and events. Over Orville’s career and frequent travels, home had been Indiana, where his family was. After 1924, home was simply where his family was, and his relationships with Blanche and Patti became the staples of his life.
Complete shows and operas performed by Orville Harrold, with first performance date, the majority being leading roles:
Title Date Producer Character
The Social Whirl 1906 Shubert Brothers
The Belle of London Town 1907 Shubert Brothers Lord Drinkwell
Wine, Women, & Song ca. 1908 Mortimer Theise Harmonists Quartet
Pagliacci 1910 Manhattan Opera Canio
Cavalleria Rusticana 1910 Manhattan Opera Turiddu
Rigoletto, 1910 Manhattan Opera Duke of Mantua
Naughty Marietta 1910 Oscar Hammerstein Dick Warrington
William Tell 1911 London Opera Arnold
Faust 1911 London Opera Faust
Lucia 1911 London Opera Edgardo
Les Contes d'Hoffmann 1912 London Opera* Hoffmann
La Traviata 1912 London Opera Alfredo
Romeo et Juliette 1912 London Opera Romeo
La Favorita 1912 London Opera Fernando
Les Cloches de Corneville 1912 London Opera Jean Grenicheaux
Aida 1914 Century Opera Radames
Martha 1914 Century Opera Lionel
Madame Butterfly 1914 Century Opera Pinkerton
Carmen 1914 Century Opera Don Jose
Hip Hip Hooray! 1915 Dillingham, Hippodrome The Hero
Les Contes d'Hoffmann 1916 Ravinia Summer Opera* Hoffmann
The Bohemian Girl 1916 Ravinia Summer Opera Thaddeus
Il Barbiere di Siviglia 1918 Ravinia Summer Opera Almaviva
Manon 1918 Ravinia Summer Opera Des Grieux
Lakme 1918 Ravinia Summer Opera Gerald
Fra Diavolo 1919 Society of American Singers Fra Diavolo
Robin Hood 1919 Society of American Singers Robin Hood
The Mikado 1919 Society of American Singers Nanki-Poo
L'Oracolo 1919 Scotti Opera Win-San-Lui
L'Elisir d'Amore 1919 Ravinia Summer Opera Nemorino
La Bohème 1919 Metropolitan Opera Rodolfo
La Juive 1919 Metropolitan Opera Prince Leopold
Boris Godounov 1919 Metropolitan Opera Grigory
Cleopatra's Night 1920 Metropolitan Opera Meiamoun
Parsifal 1920 Metropolitan Opera Parsifal
Louise 1921 Metropolitan Opera Julien
Die Tote Stadt 1921 Metropolitan Opera Paul
Lohengrin 1921 Metropolitan Opera Lohengrin
Sniegourotchka 1922 Metropolitan Opera The Czar
Tosca 1922 Metropolitan Opera Cavaradossi
L'Amico Fritz 1922 Ravinia Summer Opera Fritz Kobus
Der Rosenkavalier 1922 Metropolitan Opera The Italian Singer
Thaïs 1922 Metropolitan Opera Nicias
Holka Polka 1925 Carl Reed, at the Lyric Theatre Peter Novak
* There is some uncertainty as to whether Orville sang Hoffmann in London, which he otherwise first sang at Ravinia in 1916
1. Opera In Crinoline and the Race of the Tenors, William B. Chase, New York Times, November 6, 1921
2. Men, Women, and Tenors, Frances Alda, Houghton Miflin Co. Boston, 1937, pg. 237
3. Discussion of Met wage scales is compiled from various portions of: The Golden Age of Opera, Robert Tuggle, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, 1983
4. ibid, pg. 158
5. ibid, and from a web discussion of Aureliano Pertile and other Met tenors of the 1921-22 season, by Robert Tuggle at metoperafamily.org
6. ibid, pg. 150
7. “Carmen” Sung For French, New York Times, January 25, 1920
8. More Singers Ill, Changes In Operas, New York Herald, January 25, 1920
9. Orville Harrold in “La Boheme”, New York Times, February 14, 1920
9.5 Orville Harrold (Wolfsohn broadside), Musical Currier, December 23, 1920, pg. 17
10. The Opera, Richard Aldrich, New York Times, February 20, 1920
11. The Comeback of Don Jose, article, The World Magazine, March 21, 1920, pg. 12
12. All-American Cast Sings Classic Faust, New York Times, April 20, 1920
13. Norwalk, CT Land Records for various years, researched by Melanie Marks
14. “Lohengrin” in Overalls In West Norwalk, The Norwalk Hour, Dec. 3, 1925, pg. 5
16. Scotti as Opera Pioneer, New York Times, April 18, 1920
17. Greeting to Scotti, Impresario, New York Times, June 6, 1920
18. Orville Harrold Singing In Houston, unidentified Houston newspaper, 1920 (only part of date remaining) from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
19. Plans of Musicians, New York Times, June 6, 1920
20. Art of Making Over A Plump Figure, Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922, pg. 34, and also, The Stage section of Munsey’s Magazine, October 1920, pg. 112
21. The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley, Jeffrey Spivak (The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2011)
22. The Stage section of Munsey’s Magazine, October 1920, pg. 112
24. Patti Harrold (Photoplay Magazine, July, 1920), pg. 103
25. Second Harrold Succeeds, The Muskogee Times-Democrat, August 3, 1920, pg. 7
26. Takes Name Part In Record Breaking Comedy, The New York Evening Telegram, June 10, 1920
27. Patti Harrold Rejoices in Chance to Develop, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 1922, pg. 6
28. Plans of Musicians, New York Times, June 6, 1920
29. Art of Making Over A Plump Figure, Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922, pg. 34
30. Letter from Miriam Voellnagel to Orville Harrold, July 20, 1933
31. “LaBoheme” Brilliant and Popular at Murat, The Indianapolis Star, May 28, 1920, pg. 9
32. Artists In Music Festival, The Indianapolis Star, May 31, 1920, pg. 3
33. Patti Harrold (Photoplay Magazine, July, 1920), pg. 103
34. See America With Scotti, Music section, New York Times, September 5, 1920
35. Patti and Orville Harrold on the Met stage on the same day, from hand written notes of Orville’s granddaughter, which referenced an article in the New York Telegraph.
36. Difficult For Mimi To Shiver, John Marsh, The Atlanta Georgian, April 27 1921
37. Lucrezia Bori And Harrold At Their Best, The Atlanta Georgian, April 27 1921
38. Opera Critic On The Job, Col. John Caruthers, The Atlanta Georgian, April 27 1921
39. Orville Harrold and Local Choir, Indianapolis Star, May 24, 1921, pg. 9
40. What Do You Know About Orville Harrold?, Muncie Evening Press, May 7, 1921
42. Art of Making Over A Plump Figure, Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922, pg. 34
43. Affair To Be Given For Hemlocks, Bridgeport Telegraph, July 1, 1921, pg. 13
44. Harrold Realizes Dream, Muncie Evening Press, April 15, 1978, pg. T3
45. Boston Sunday Globe, December 25, 1921, also unnamed article (The Hutchinson (Kansas) News) February 27, 1922
46. Music Notes, The New York Record, September 18, 1915, Lydia Locke credits Adelina Patti, who attended London Opera, with sage advice to work hard. From the scrapbook of Lydia Locke
47. Oscar Thompson, Musical America, unknown edition, quoted in archival section of the Metropolitan Opera Company on line database at metoperafamily.org
48. opera review, Henry Krehbiel, New York Herald, November 20, 1921, quoted in archival section of the Metropolitan Opera Company on line database at metoperafamily.org
50. Oscar Thompson, Musical America, unknown edition, quoted in archival section of the Metropolitan Opera Company on line database at metoperafamily.org
51 ‘Die Tote Stadt’ Fantastic Opera (Whole Conception Fantastic), New York Times, November 20, 1921
52. Harrold Risks His Neck, Fuzzy Woodruff, Atlanta Constitution, April 27, 1923, pg. 9
54. unnamed article, New York Times, June 4, 1922
55. unattributed news clipping from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
56. various newspaper articles: Boston Globe, December 25,1921, The Hutchinson (Kansas) News, February 27, 1922, Salt Lake City Tribune, March, 12, 1922, Helena (Montana) Daily Independent, April 30, 1922, Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune, May 5, 1922
57. from personal discussions with niece of Patti Harrold
58. Patti discussing long working periods for Irene, Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922, pg. 34, and Salt Lake City Tribune, March, 12, 1922, pg. 6
59. Patti Harrold Rejoices in chance to Develop, Salt Lake City Tribune, March, 12, 1922, pg. 6
60. Art Of Making Over A Plump Figure, Boston Sunday Globe, January 1, 1922, pg. 34
61. Harrold Likes Musical Comedy, Boston Globe, December 18, 1921
62. Divorce To Patti Harrold, New York Times, June 23, 1931
63. Stage Couple Quietly Wed, Rockford (Illinois) Republic, July 12, 1922, pg. 4
64. Changes, Pacific & Atlantic Photos Inc. photos section, unidentified newspaper, February 15, 1923.
65. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 444
66. Opera review, Richard Aldrich, New York Times, November 18, 1922
67. Review by Oscar Thompson in Musical America, November, 1922, quoted in archival section of the Metropolitan Opera Company on line database at metoperafamily.org
68. Review by Oscar Thompson in Musical America, December, 1922, quoted in archival section of the Metropolitan Opera Company on line database at metoperafamily.org
70. Harrold Rites At Mortuary, the Muncie Star, October 25, 1933, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
71. ‘Glory” Makes Hit With Pretty Tunes – Patti Harrold Charming, New York Times, December 26, 1922
73. Orville Harrold and Daughter Patti, The Kokomo Daily Tribune, May 5, 1924, pg. 7
74. Orville Harrold’s Daughter, Tipton (Indiana) Daily Tribune, August 29, 1924, pg. 3
75. Patti Harrold Sues, Seattle Daily Times, September 21, 1923, pg. 10
76. Pretty Patti Patterns Papa’s Precedent, The Lima News, October 21, 1923, pg. 17
78. Patti Harrold Gets Divorce, New York Times, November 23, 1923
79. Wilton, CT Land Records for various years, researched by Melanie Marks
80. Jeanette Shimans Middlebrook, residences, passports, and history, researched by Melanie Marks
81. My Memories of Oscar Hammerstein, Orville Harrold (Theatre Magazine Company, New York, April, 1923) pg. 64
82. Orville Harrold and Daughter Patti, The Kokomo Daily Tribune, May 5, 1924, pg. 7
83. How Operatic Stars Spend Spare Moments, The Bridgeport Telegram, November 8, 1923
84. Orville Harrold’s Father Dies, New York Times, February 21, 1924
85. She Walks All Over Rudolf Friml, 90, Los Angeles Times, September 25,1970. p. H1, quoted in article on Emma Trentini, Wikipedia.com
87. Men, Women, and Tenors, Frances Alda, Houghton Miflin Co. Boston, 1937, pg. 237
88. Orville Harrold and Daughter, The Kokomo Daily Tribune, May 16, 1924, pg. 3
89. From the Paul Dresser Memorial Committee, unattributed newspaper article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
90. Orville Harrold and Daughter Patti, The Kokomo Daily Tribune, May 5, 1924, pg. 7
91. There are various brief descriptions of the tour presentation, with more definitive details in: Want Grand Piano, Logansport (Indiana) Pharos-Tribune, May 16, 1924, pg. 1, Critic’s High Praise for Concert By Orville Harrold, Logansport Pharos-Tribune, May 17, 1924, pg. 5, and Famous Singer Comes Here Next Wednesday, Logansport Morning Press, May 18, 1924, pg. 3
92. The Harrold Concert, Logansport Pharos-Tribune, May 20, 1924, pg. 4
93. Patti Harrold in Concert With Her Father, unattributed newspaper article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
94. Harrold Will Sing At Cadle Tabernacle Today, Indianapolis Sunday Star, June 1, 1924, Pg. 2
96. News of Vaudeville, New York Times, August 31, 1924
97. Promising Life Is Snuffed Out In Auto Crash, The Muncie Evening Press, August 29, 1924, pg. 1
98. Harrold’s Daughter Dies, New York Times, August 30, 1924
99. ibid., and telegrams describing train arrangements, from the collection of Patti Harrold
100. From personal discussions with Orville Harrold’s granddaughter
101. Promising Life Is Snuffed Out In Auto Crash, The Muncie Evening Press, August 29, 1924, pg. 1
102. Orville Harrold’s Daughter, Tipton (Indiana) Daily Tribune, August 29, 1924, pg. 3
103. Promising Life Is Snuffed Out In Auto Crash, The Muncie Evening Press, August 29, 1924, pg. 1
104. Orville Harrold’s Daughter, Tipton (Indiana) Daily Tribune, August 29, 1924, pg. 3
105. Karlen In Jail After Coroner Starts Probe, The Muncie Morning Star, August 30, 1924, pg. 1
106. Relative of Girl Dies Near Marion, The Muncie Morning Star, August 30, 1924, pg. 1
107. War Aviator, Student, Die, The Logansport (Indiana) Press, October 18, 1929
108. Orville Harrold, Opera Tenor, Dead, George E. Hogue, New York Times, October 24, 1933
109. Opera Pains Maestro, The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 1926, pg. 6
110. Oscar Hammerstein I, Vincent Sheean, (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1956) pg. 318
111. The Golden Age of Opera, Robert Tuggle, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York, 1983
112. untitled short news item, The Morning (Portland) Oregonian, September 11, 1924, pg. 10
On Through the 1920s
Having started in New York musical theatre with the Shuberts in 1906, Orville Harrold had retired from New York opera eighteen years later, just as his daughter, Patti, was preparing for a new show with Shubert discovery, Al Jolson. Born Asa Yoelson in 1886, in a part Russia that is now in Lithuania, his family had come to America in 1891, and by the late 1890s he had wandered into burlesque, circus, and vaudeville with his brother, Hirsch. After various vaudeville partner combinations, Al and Hirsch had separated by 1905. During the previous year, Al had tried the gambit for a Brooklyn performance of appearing in blackface makeup, which proved to be a liberating stage tactic that would become his signature style. He lived and performed in San Francisco for several years, but returned to New York in 1909 with a new bride and a regular spot in Dockstader’s Minstrels as a blackface performer. It was there that J. J. Shubert was impressed with Jolson’s energetic and melodramatic style, signing him in 1911 for a new musical comedy, La Belle Paree, at Shubert’s New York Winter Garden Theatre, where Jolson began a series of musical appearances as a blackface performer named “Gus”.
Jolson’s dramatic stage presence and powerhouse singing launched a fifteen year run of hit shows with the Shuberts, primarily at the Winter Garden, for which he became known as “the world’s greatest entertainer”. After running in New York, shows would go on the road for extended periods. With unrelenting success, Jolson was earning as much as top principal performers at the Met, and had developed an ego of comparable proportions. If audiences were especially excited by a performance, Jolson would simply dismiss the cast and continue singing solo for an hour or more. He also developed an almost paranoid concern that his voice would succumb to career ending distress from either illness or fatigue, the latter of which was a real possibility. 1920 began a set of three of Jolson’s greatest stage successes, with a sort of world tour of song titled Sinbad. This was followed in 1921 by Bombo, which was playing Chicago in late 1923 when a combination of general fatigue and laryngitis caused him to close the show. The following year was spent recovering and working together his next hit show, Big Boy.
Jolson was an avid horseracing fan, having owned several horses since 1921, so that in Big Boy, blackfaced Gus was a likable jockey. Opening on January 7, 1925, the musical featured Jolson arriving onstage riding a genuine horse, included a horserace, and presented Patti Harrold as leading lady (Marjorie was to have been in the chorus). The show was a tremendous success, with Jolson more popular than ever, so that shortly into the run he had again stopped the show and dismissed the cast to solo for the audience. Orville and Blanche were then spending winter weeks at her Madison Avenue address, so that Orville would occasionally stop by the show to walk Patti home. As he waited and watched her onstage one Saturday evening, Jolson strolled out and took Patti’s hand, announcing to the audience1, “Listen, folks, Orville is in the wings waiting for his little girl. You wouldn’t like to keep an opera star waiting, would you? Would you mind if I send her home now and put her understudy on? I’ll sing to you while she gets changed.” He then serenaded the audience for the next thirty minutes.
Big Boy was heading toward a long run at the Winter Garden, when Jolson developed real and serious voice distress. Presentations were interrupted, to be continued a short time later, for a total of 56 performances, and then went on the road. Patti’s brother, Paul, traveled to Detroit to see her in the show2. Jolson appeared briefly during the summer in Shubert musical review called Artists and Models, but by August was again starring in a Big Boy revival at Shubert’s 44th Street Theatre, which played through December. That cast contained few of its original January members, and in Patti’s case, she was engaged in other opportunities. By the end of 1925, Jolson was also moving on, for this was his last live musical prior to his historic 1927 full length feature sound movie, The Jazz Singer.
Back in February of 1925, just after the opening of Big Boy, the American Weekly syndicated newspaper supplement had run their jocular full page article regarding the difficulties of operatic tenors being unable to avoid the attentions of admiring women3. They cited several examples of how this had troubled marital relationships for such artists, including Lydia Locke in the serial string of Orville’s marriages. Orville having been married to Blanche for eight years by that time, the couple presumably rode through the publicity as merely an amusing incident. By the end of summer, as Lydia was making the New York Times for court charges of slander, Orville and daughter, Patti, had more satisfying activities to occupy them. Similar to their interrupted plan of a year earlier, they appeared during August in the opening week of the Hippodrome fall season, still under management by Mark Luescher.
Luescher, who had been associated with the Shuberts’ early New York rise, arranged occasional Hippodrome publicity events, such as a 1917 train to transport 1500 readers of the Bridgeport Post newspaper to a Hippodrome show. Shortly after Patti’s and Orville’s August, 1925 Hippodrome appearance, Luescher’s train traveled the other direction, sending Hippodrome performers to a show under a Barnum & Bailey tent to benefit firefighters in the picturesque Fairfield, Connecticut suburb of Southport4. The master of ceremonies was Leo Donnelly, among the original stars and recently opened revival of Big Boy, and the show featured Paul Whiteman (the king of jazz) and his orchestra. Other entertainers included Harry Houdini, plus Orville and Patti, who lived nearby, and may have been instrumental in arranging the event.
Also during 1925, Orville’s son, Paul, married Ethel Lynch, who had been on the train to Muncie when Orville and Patti rushed home the previous year to bury Marjorie. Paul had started at Wabash College that fall, but had not remained in school. The couple married in Toledo, Ohio, where Ethel’s parents lived during the late 1920’s, then resided in Muncie until 1954, when they moved to Boulder, Colorado. In later years, Paul briefly recounted how he and Ethel had occasionally visited Orville and Blanche in New York, which was always a fun trip to the big city, complete with excellent theatre seats. A fascinating member of Ethel’s family was her older sister, Helen, not to be confused with Helen Lynch, the silent film actress.
The five Lynch children had been so reared by a rigidly Catholic father that by adulthood none of them retained any religious affiliations at all. (Her father also spent his last thirty years living alone.) Helen was still devout when entering the University of Michigan in 1919, but shed such persuasions while pursuing a literary career in New York. She had severed all family ties by 1930, as she became immersed in campaigns to help the unemployed and evicted during the Great Depression. Such efforts led her to soup kitchens, support organizations, and the Communist Party, and got her arrested at least thirty times5. She settled in Brooklyn, where she ran one of the largest local Communist Party organizations in the country, focused on actively helping the needy. Among her members were Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes, and Fred Hellerman, then called the Almanac Singers, but later known as The Weavers folk singing group (and later hounded by the House on Un-American Activities Committee). While this presumably did not all fit with her father’s plan, her funeral procession was accompanied by 5000 adherents after she died of pneumonia in 1938, contracted during a sit-in demonstration at the Washington Monument.
By fall of 1925, Orville and Patti were rehearsing for a new Broadway musical, in which they were to appear together. Based on a translation of a Czechoslovakian operetta by a W. Walzer, entitled Spring in Autumn, the musical had attracted stage director, Oscar Eagle, who had directed Patti in her early New York experience under Hammerstein, in the 1919 musical, Sometime. There was music by Bert Kalmer, who had composed for Ziegfeld Follies, and the dual actor and director, Busby Berkeley, was making his Broadway debut as a dance arranger6. As the publicity campaign began, the show's name was changed to Holka Polka, in keeping with its Czechoslovakian village setting. Orville and Patti played the main characters, Peter and Peterle Novak. The show opened at the Lyric Theatre on October 14, 1925 to favorable review in the New York Times, which noted that It is a, "pleasing circumstance" that conservative musicals were returning to Broadway, and that, "Orville and Patti Harrold dominate a new musical with colorful chorus". One pre-opening article was headed7, “Holka Polka A Certain Hit – Harrolds’ Starring Vehicle Is Best Operetta In Many Seasons”, while another declared that8, “This is a good musical.” A particularly charmed reviewer was quite detailed in his flowing glowing compliments9, “Holka Polka” abounds with musical gems. There isn’t an indifferent number in the whole eighteen songs.....Much more than the usual time, effort, and funds were expended….the chorus is a huge one…..From the moment that the curtain rises there isn’t a diminution in the correctly paced action…. It is tuneful and tingling right up to the last minute….Rarely have we seen so expert a cast of principals assembled for an operetta…The remarkable larynx of Orville Harrold has not lost its cunning….Patti, looking admirable and elfin, is no less an artiste. It takes a confirmed misogamist to resist falling under the spell of her charm and talent.” Holka Polka was widely rated by reviewers be a veritable fountain of theatrical excellence.
Despite press plaudits, Holka Polka folded by month's end, after only twenty one performances. Struggling young Busby Berkeley was briefly unemployed and broke, while Orville and Patti were again seeking new directions. Although Holka Polka was a commercial failure, a creative central core remained connected. Oscar Eagle proceeded to direct the Marx Brothers in two Broadway musicals, The Cocoanuts, and Animal Crackers. Both were produced by Sam Harris, a former business partner of George M. Cohan's, based on books by George Kaufman, the latter production having songs by Bert Kalmer and Harry Ruby from the Holka Polka team.
Orville and Patti continued to attract attention following the Holka Polka hubbub. Patti headed the New York tuberculosis Christmas Seal parade in late November, riding on the head of a giant elephant named Lizzie10. This was followed by several newspaper articles during early December, 1925. One stated that Orville was flirting with a vaudeville tour of Keith-Albee theatres11, although absolutely no advertised tour dates or venues have surfaced to suggest that this ever materialized. The same item mentioned that Patti had been contracted for a new Sam Harris production, starting rehearsals immediately. Orville and Patti had already appeared the previous week12 in an article in The Norwalk Hour newspaper, describing Orville's farm in West Norwalk. It discussed his boyhood farming background and recent local endeavors in that direction, as well as Blanche's country home decor and Patti's enjoyment of gardening there whenever possible. Also mentioned was that Patti was to appear in the leading female role of the upcoming Marx Brothers Broadway musical, The Cocoanuts.
Rising young playwright, George S. Kaufman, drama editor for the New York Times, had had a Broadway play running every season since 1921. His sharp wit and fast punchy lines worked well with Groucho Marx's talent for improvisation, so that Kaufman's two Marx Brothers musicals, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, were wacky comedies that elevated the brothers to Hollywood careers. The Cocoanuts was a parody of the Florida land boom that had begun unraveling during 1925-26. A hotel, The Cocoanuts, was the center of a swindle being perpetrated by Goucho Marx’s character, with a plan to sell it to a wealthy Mrs. Potter. The musical made a pre-Broadway tour through Boston and Philadelphia during October and November of 1925.
With music and songs by Irving Berlin, The Cocoanuts opened at New York’s Lyric Theatre on December 8, 1925, for a long successful run. From the timing of the articles mentioning Patti, she may have come onboard after the musical’s opening, and she is not listed in the opening night cast. She was possibly an understudy to the three female roles, Mrs. Potter, Mrs. Potter’s marrying-age daughter, and Penelope Martin, the latter a con artist. The musical underwent numerous cast changes, so that it remains unclear just when, or what character, Patti played.
Orville and Patti had another brief appearance together during early March of 1926, when the new silent movie, Irene, debuted at New York’s Mark Strand Theatre. No literal transcription, the show was based only loosely on the original Broadway musical, and as was still common during the silent movie era, when film was competing with vaudeville, the movie was accompanied by live entertainment. In this case, the Mark Strand Frolics variety production, staged by a Joseph Plunkett, included Orville and Patti Harrold for a brief run13, with some of their Hippodrome-style singing act, including pieces from the original Irene. Now almost two years removed from the Met, and having been settled for a quiet spell in Connecticut and New York, Orville began making changes.
Orville and Blanche sold BoLe, their Connecticut farm. Since leaving Indiana in 1906, Orville had lived primarily in New York City, where his daughter was now also engaged in theatre. While their farm may have been pleasingly nostalgic, Orville’s life was enmeshed mainly in New York and various musical endeavors. The property had been purchased by Blanche in 1919, and although Orville had appeared on some mortgages, it was owned solely by Blanche. On April 10, 1926 she granted the property, in its three original parcels, to a Charles Bowers. The sale included the land and buildings14, “together with all the furniture, furnishings and other articles of personal property of every kind and description owned by said grantor and situated in and about the dwelling-house on said premises.” Orville and Blanche literally closed the door and walked away from their Connecticut country life.
A few months later, Orville had signed with a new touring opera company15. By 1926, there were adverts for the Manhattan Opera Company of New York, a touring opera and ballet troupe. This new organization was closely related to Mary Garden’s Chicago Opera Company, which had grown out of Hammerstein’s old Manhattan Opera Company, as well as to Max Rabinoff, who was closely associated with Chicago opera and arts. Rabinoff had come to America as an adolescent in 1892, from what is now Belarus, becoming naturalized in 1898, at age twenty-one. Having settled in Chicago, he rose to become a successful entrepreneur, impresario, and international businessman of wealth. He rapidly became involved in popularizing the arts and foreign artists, being instrumental in organizing the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Opera Company.
Rabinoff widened his reach in 1914, as WWI began disrupting travels of international artists. The Chicago Opera ceased for a period, for which Orville’s old Century Opera Company performed a run in Chicago during late 1914. The Boston Opera Company likewise ceased operations, from which Rabinoff assembled a touring opera and ballet company16, which he operated into 1917. Among others, his Boston Grand Opera Company brought over Felice Lyne, Orville’s partner from Hammerstein’s 1912 London Opera Company, and Maggie Teyte, of Orville’s later 1918 Society of American Singers. Joining this opera contingent, Rabinoff also brought Anna Pavlova and her Russian Ballet Company (Pavlova was then living permanently in London.) The entire group toured America and Canada, performing during mid-1915 the first opera heard at Hammerstein’s ill-fated Lexington Opera House17. Having been lost by Hammerstein by the time it was completed, that venue had presented about everything but opera. Rabinoff’s troupe then played in Chicago, prior to opening of the regular Chicago opera season.
Rabinoff’s 1915 Boston Grand Opera Company tour thus shared a concept and makeup with the 1926 Manhattan Opera Company, with additional connecting threads. One of Anna Pavlova’s ballet partners was Serge Oukrainsky, who by 1916 had split with Pavlova’s troupe to form the basis of the Chicago Opera Ballet, seemingly a Rabinoff connection. There, Oukrainsky combined with another imported artist, Andreas Pavley, to build a performing and touring company, as well as starting a ballet school that pushed the Chicago arts community and its evolution toward 20th century modern dance. 1926 Manhattan Opera Company tours consequently included the Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet Company, a direct offspring of Rabinoff’s 1915 tour with Anna Pavlova.
Another thread along Raninoff’s 1915 lines was the appearance of Japanese soprano, Tamaki Miura (also called Miura Zukkury when she first arrived in America). A most untraditional Japanese woman, she had emerged from Japan, divorced, in 1911 to begin singing opera in London, where she was cast in the leading role of Madame Butterfly in early 1915. In parallel with Pavolva’s Russian dancers, Rabinoff engaged Tamaki Miura, so that she appeared in Madame Butterfly with his 1915 tour, and then with the Chicago Opera. She proved fascinating to Western audiences, becoming an enduring fixture in this role. After several years in America, she returned to London and European stages, and finally to Japan in early 1922. She was back in America by late 1922, singing with Fortune Gallos’s San Carlo Opera Company, with Aldo Franchetti as conductor18. (The Gallo Opera House, built on New York’s West 54th St. in 1927, would later become Studio 54.) By 1925, she was performing with the Chicago Civic Opera, where she had appeared previously with Rabinoff.
The Chicago Civic Opera had been formed in 1921 from the bankrupt Chicago Opera Company. Mary Garden remained as music director, and was on the board, along with railroad and utilities magnate, Samuel Insull, who still owned the electric railroad that had spawned Ravinia Park. Tamaki Miura was singing Madame Butterfly with this organization in mid-1925, along with Riccardo Martin, who had also appeared with Rabinoff’s 1915 tour. On December 11, 1925, Tamaki Miura debuted for the Chicago Civic Opera a new Japanese-themed opera, Namiko-San, written for her by expatriated Italian composer, Aldo (Alberto) Franchetti, who had been with her in Japan and at the San Carlo Opera Company. Franchetti was a wealthy Italian baron from Turin who had composed the opera, Christoforo Columbo, by 1892, and was conductor of the Chicago Civic Opera. In an interesting episode, Franchetti had begun composing in Italy an opera based on the 19th century play, Tosca, which his publisher (Ricordi) convinced him to abandon, only to hand the contract to Puccini the following day.
Aldo Franchetti was also conductor of the 1926 Manhattan Opera Company. Independent of the Chicago Civic Opera, Franchetti’s Manhattan Opera had already presented Tamaki Miura19 in Madame Butterfly during 1925, tying together the set of Chicago, Rabinoff, Franchetti connections into this new touring opera and ballet company. Intertwined in these connections, Rabinoff’s 1915 tour, a brief 1922 season by the Chicago Civic Opera in New York City, and Franchetti’s Manhattan Opera Company tours were all managed by Frank T. Kintzing of New York. So, the 1926 Manhattan Opera Company was a literal descendent and recreation of Rabinoff's 1915 opera and ballet tour, involving some of the same organizers and performers. Riccardo Martin, from 1915, was back singing with them, having also performed with Orville at SOAS, Creatore Opera Company, and the Met. By the fall of 1926, Manhattan Opera Company advertising included Orville Harrold, appearing in Rigoletto and Pagliacci.
Orville was back in opera, and back on the road. He was with the Manhattan troupe20 from October of 1926 through at least January of 1927, from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, through Omaha and Salt Lake City, to Portland and Seattle, and then back down to San Antonio. He likely remained with them throughout winter, until their season ended in about May. These were relatively short operas of limited vocal range, such that he could give genuinely worthwhile performances while remaining within his current capability. The experience was seemingly satisfying to both audiences and to Orville. It was noted of his Canio, during a December Pagliacci in Salt Lake City, that Orville’s voice was light, but that the deficiency was more than overcome by his pathos and dramatic stage presence. Orville was managing his vocal resources, and he was again enjoying Blanche’s company. They were traveling together, as they often had, stopping in Ogden, Utah during early December to visit Mrs. H. E. Brewington, a cousin of his. At that time, they stated that Patti was then performing in London21, although it is not clear in what production that might have been. As the 1926-27 Manhattan season ended, Orville had new plans, so that this tour constituted Orville’s last public opera performances.
The Manhattan Opera Company did not continue to exist, although the name was seemingly used by minor opera impresario, Alfredo Salmaggi, during the early 1930’s22. Franchetti and Tamaki Miura presented the New York debut of Namiko-San at the Selwin Theatre on June 6, 1927, which continued for a two week run, but there are no indications of another season for the Manhattan organization. Serge Oukrainsky relocated to Los Angeles that year, so that the ballet troupe may not have remained intact. Franchetti apparently took a two year post as director of the Florence College of Music at this point, although by 1929 he was again conductor of the Chicago Civic Opera. He returned to Italy in the 1930’s and died there at his Florence villa. After studying physics and music, his son, Arnold, emigrated to the United States in 1949, becoming an American composer of note at the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford.
Wherever else Patti was during December of 1926, it was announced mid-month23 that she had been engaged by John Henry Mears in the title role of a new musical comedy, Judy, an adaptation of Mears’ 1924 play, Judy Drops In. She must have been rehearsing during December, for Patti was on the road with the pre-Broadway run of Judy in January of 1927, while Orville was touring with the Manhattan opera. Initial performances were at Werbe’s Theatre in Brooklyn during the second week of January, 1927. The musical then played Boston’s Hollis Street Theatre for three weeks, from mid-January through the first week in February. It was well reviewed in Boston as a spontaneous high velocity song and dance that was fun for cast and audience alike24. The loose plot revolved around a young woman thrust out on her own, who finds herself a position cooking for four young men living in Greenwich Village. Without drama, trysts, or intrigues, the story and songs focused primarily on the fun of young lives in the exciting city bustle. At the end, it came out that the boy who Judy has secretly fallen for had also secretly fallen for her.
While Patti played the heroine, opposite Robert Armstrong, the cast included Frank Beatson, from Al Jolson’s Big Boy, as well as George Meeker, the later Hollywood character actor who earned a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Patti was described as a refreshingly “dainty and unstudied….charming heroine25” with a “delightful…simpleness and directness26” compared to the practiced ways of most musical comedy ladies, complementing a similarly simple and demure musical. Of particular note were the twelve Judy Joyous Joy Walkers, specialty dancers whose fast clever feet occasionally stopped the show, and were rated by critics as worth the price of admission. Meeker’s younger sister, Eleanor, was one of the Joy Walkers, from a family that seemed to spawn performers. She had started at age sixteen in Earl Carrol’s Vanities of 1924, with Sophie Tucker, and had been in the ensemble of The Cocoanuts.
Boston reviews also noted that Robert Armstrong was “obviously out of place in musical comedy27”, so that he was replaced by experienced musical performer, Charles Purcell. (Armstrong then pretty much disappeared, until bursting forth with Fay Wray in the 1933 movie, King Kong.) Meanwhile, attention-grabbing dancing had received nearly as much press as the remaining cast and story, likely leading to another cast change. Patti was replaced by Queenie Smith28. The same age as Patti, Miss Smith had trained in the Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet, and had danced with the Met from 1916 through early 1919 before migrating to Broadway musicals, and eventually to Hollywood. Having previously played in Boston, it was noted that her singing voice had markedly improved, while her main impact was to “introduce several spectacular dancing numbers into the show29”. The heroine’s role had shifted from her voice down to her feet.
One report described Patti as “withdrawing from the cast30” of Judy, suggesting that her departure may have been voluntary, but circumstances suggest otherwise. The Boston engagement was extended for another week, as Queenie Smith worked into the role, which she filled as Judy opened during early February at New York’s Royale Theatre. She remained with the show after spring, when it returned to Boston in mid-May for a summer season at the Tremont Theatre31.
With opera season over, Orville was likely following the lead of personal and professional friend, Ruth Miller Chamlee, going the direction in 1927 of becoming a voice coach. With his varied musical background, he had a wide range of singing and entertainment experience that he could bring to voice instruction, while technology was also broadening the client base. Opera would demand the deepest and most rigorous levels of voice development, but Orville could adjust to less demanding requirements of serious concert singers and vaudeville entertainers, including non-singing roles. These all operated in the realm of stage entertainment in front of live audiences, plus the well-established medium of recorded music, while voice was also spreading to both live and recorded mass media.
The first commercial radio broadcast license had been granted to station KDKA in Pittsburgh during late 1920, while Orville was at the Met, and when radio receivers were virtually non-existent in private homes. The earliest broadcasts had included live and recorded music, but ensuing years were required to develop commercially viable and affordable home radios, and to begin filling the residential marketplace. Radio was a step toward the inevitable decline of vaudeville and other live entertainments, but meanwhile it built an overlapping demand to train additional entertainers and singers. The other overwhelming mass medium was movies, then still called photoplays (as opposed to live stage plays, Photoplay Magazine existing into the 1980s), and then still silent. Music and voice were just reaching short length movies by 1926, but were soon to break into full length feature films and Walt Disney animations. At the same time, voice spelled terror for film actors (and studios), who could not necessarily even speak effectively, much less sing. A silent dramatic star who had never delivered lines in live theatre might have a nasal Brooklyn accent that could doom an already successful movie career. It was an opportune time voice instructors.
Orville’s career had been built on strong and precise singing, clear diction, and some amount of dramatic acting. Grasping the opportunity, he had leased studio space in Steinway Hall32 by mid-1927. The grand new hall had been opened only two years previously on West 57th St., just off of 6th Avenue, and just down the block and across the street from Carnegie Hall. Steinway Hall was quite a dramatic address, with a two-story rotunda that could seat 300 people for intimate concerts with a small orchestra, plus luxurious wood paneled showrooms and copious displays of paintings and art. Orville distributed letters, soliciting referrals, to his contacts in the entertainment industry, and used Steinway Hall as his business address for his remaining several years in New York.
There are no known client lists or statements of who Orville’s clients may have been during the years in of his voice studio. He and Blanche gave up her residence on Madison Avenue, moving to an apartment on West 58th Street, nearer to Steinway Hall. In March of 1928, they signed a release of mortgage obligation regarding the Connecticut farm, in which they stated that they resided “temporarily” in the city, county, and state of New York33. While their cross-town move was the only immediate shift, they seemed to have been entertaining more dramatic changes. From a historical perspective, there are few remaining traces of their lives from this period, as they were living much more quietly and privately than during Orville’s performing years. They were withdrawing from the public eye, and from the public record. Other than Holka Polka in 1925 and the 1926-27 Manhattan Opera Company tour, Orville had made only occasional brief appearances on stages, or in newspapers, since leaving the Met in the spring of 1924.
Perhaps tellingly, there are also few remaining traces of Patti’s life during this period, suggesting that she was living more quietly than intended for an active career. After Judy, in early 1927, little is known of her until a year later. In March of 1928, she appeared as the heroine in George M. Cohan’s musical comedy, Little Nellie Kelly, with the Trent Players, at the Trent Theatre of Trenton, New Jersey34. The Broadway original had played for the 1922-23 season, to become Cohan’s longest running musical. Nellie was a comely department store clerk who was heavily pursued by a wealthy admirer, but was dedicated to her boyfriend of modest means, for whom love finally prevails. The cast was generally of professional performers, who presented some of the best theatre to reach Trenton, but the production was far from Broadway. (A 1940 movie of the same name employed a modified storyline to test whether eighteen year old Judy Garland would have audience appeal in an adult role.)
After Little Nellie Kelly, there was another year-long hiatus in Patti’s public activity, until April of 1929. She then appeared at the unlikely venue of the Earl Carroll Theatre, at Seventh Avenue and 50th Street, drawn into a byzantine affair vaguely reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ show, The Producers. Earl Carroll was a flesh monger who produced Earl Carroll’s Vanities at this own theatre, which were lower cost versions of Ziegfeld Follies and George White’s Scandals. His productions featured the maximum number of chorus girls in minimum attire, earning frequent court appearances, which were free advertising to an unabashed self-promoter for whom there was no such thing as bad publicity. His most spectacular splash was a 1926 (Prohibition era) party featuring a nude girl in a bathtub of Champagne. After a newspaper report of the event, he denied in court having served alcohol, for which perjury he received six months in a federal penitentiary at Atlanta. The infamous party was in honor of the Texas patron who had bankrolled his theatre, and he was visited in prison by his most admiring showgirl, Dorothy Knapp.
Amid all this, Earl Carroll was an author, composer, and librettist of some skill. He wrote and produced plays, Canary Cottage (Eddie Cantor’s first musical), and several songs that remained popular into mid-twentieth century. Carroll took his talent seriously, and in one such departure, he wrote and produced a comic operetta that was35, “so clean that several critics sat up and took notice.” In his musical, an eighteenth century Venetian duke plots a wicked scheme to slay his nemeses and win the fair Fioretta, a gondolier’s daughter. Opening on February 5, 1929, Fioretta starred Dorothy Knapp, and managed a 111 performances over the remaining months of spring show season.
A substantial impetus behind the production was the desire of a wealthy patron (“angel” in parlance of the time) to promote two young composers36, George Bagby and G. Romilli (actually named Romilly Johnson). Misses Frederick Penfield, widow of the ambassador to Austria, had been born Anna Weightman, heiress to one of America’s wealthiest real estate barons. Composer Bagby was the nephew of a respected New York music promoter, who was a close friend of the late ambassador and Mrs. Penfield. (This elder Bagby had produced a long running series of several hundred morning classical concerts at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, of which at least one featured Orville Harrold, Frances Alda, other Met performers, and Pablo Casals37.) Both composers were legitimately well-educated, well-trained, and credentialed, while just venturing into New York stage. Reportedly worth $65-million, Mrs. Penfield was also just venturing into New York stage through the blind intermediary of her secretary, having somehow chosen Earl Carroll as her vehicle. It is not clear that Carroll, absent Mrs. Penfield, would have embarked on this project, but once lavishly funded, he pursued it with considerable enthusiasm.
Mrs. Penfield reportedly invested $250-thousand, apparently with no written contract or terms. There were consequently beautiful sets and costumes, and an interesting mix of personalities in the cast. The heroine was Carroll’s favorite showgirl (whom he had billed as the most beautiful girl in America), the wicked duke was respected concert tenor, Theo Karle (who had picnicked with the Harrolds during 1923 at Mario Chamlee’s farm), and some of the comic flavor was from 1920’s audience magnet, Fannie Brice. The ensemble included fan-dancer, Faith Bacon (not fan-dancing here), who became a hit at the 1933 World’s Fair. Dorothy Knapp was receiving $1000 per week38, while Brice commanded $2500, extremely high wages even for New York entertainment. The ensemble was reported as the highest paid chorus on Broadway39, partaking in a beauty contest as part of a Venetian carnival in the show. Meanwhile, Earl Carroll was paying himself $2500 per week, plus 75% of any profits.
Circumspect critics gave ranging reviews. The plot was somewhat common, but the visually lush show was musical and entertaining, while avoiding any of the jazz, kicks, and “pep” of glitzy 1920’s Broadway. It seemed to be an actual operetta, with a chance for a full season or two. Only one month into the run, likely by arrangement of Mrs. Penfield, the National Broadcasting Company presented a radio version of Fioretta on March 3rd, using its own orchestra and cast. Then, several things went awry. There was apparently some cost trimming, for Fannie Brice withdrew from the show in early April because she refused to take a 10% pay cut40. Far more seriously, the primary patron demanded changes. In general, she complained that beautiful girls were being promoted, more than the music of Bagby and Romilli. In particular, she demanded the firing of Dorothy Knapp, because the otherwise attractive woman could neither sing nor dance41. The composers reportedly wanted her replaced by Vivienne Segal, a sometime Ziegfeld Follies girl, but also a talent in later musicals, who eventually starred in 1940’s Pal Joey (it was mistakenly reported that she received the Fioretta role42). Shortly after Fannie Brice’s departure, Dorothy Knapp was succeeded by Patti Harrold43, who definitely did not replace Miss Knapp in Earl Carroll’s personal life.
Fioretta closed in mid-May, amid a chaotic aftermath. Dorothy Knapp claimed that she had a valid six-month contract guaranteeing $1000 per week. She consequently filed suit for $250-thousand against Mrs. Penfield, along with Earl Carroll, the composers, and the Vanities Production Company, for lost wages plus damage to her professional standing. Miss Knapp was rumored variously as headed toward movies, and/or being picked up by David Belasco, but by late summer had been briefly hospitalized after suffering a mild breakdown. The drama merited several appearances in full page “Sunday supplement” spreads, such as American Weekly. Composer, Romilly Johnson, from a wealthy and respected Massachusetts family for whom there was such a thing as bad publicity, was so horrified by the degrading public exposure that he committed suicide at this father’s home. Earl Carroll took Fioretta on a fall road tour. Dorothy Knapp recovered, to gain supporting roles in several Broadway shows of the early 1930’s, including one of Oscar Hammerstein II’s early musicals, Free For All.
Patti Harrold was then living on Seventh Avenue, near to both the Earl Carroll Theatre and to Orville, along with vaudevillian and occasional actor, Alfred (Fritzy) Leward Meeker. Shortly after Fioretta, they were married on May 14, 1929 at the New York City Municipal Building, both reporting to be age twenty-seven44 (Patti had just turned thirty). Under his stage name, Leonard Meeker, Fritzy had appeared in a 1926 silent film comedy, The Little Giant, and was reportedly part of a vaudeville team of Meeker and Harrigan. He was named as Leonard by many news services that reported the marriage (some also reported Leward), one of which also published the only known photo of the couple, showing dashing young Leonard clad in a trench coat45. He was the older brother of George Meeker, who had participated with Patti in the 1927 musical comedy, Judy.
By this time, George Meeker had already gone to Hollywood to appear in John Ford’s 1928 film, Four Sons. (While being a silent movie, in terms of voice, the film had a musical background.) The Meeker brothers had grown up in Brooklyn, where their father, George R. Meeker Sr., had produced and distributed minor movies during the teen years, some of an educational nature, and had become a writer. He had also been something of an avid sportsman during his twenties, participating in ice hockey and local golf events just after the turn of the century46, and George Jr. was reportedly sought as much for being a polo player as he was as an actor.
As the 1920’s drifted to a close, both Orville and Patti were living somewhat quietly in New York City. Orville had come to terms with life after opera, and his first grandchild, a girl, had been born to son, Paul, back in Muncie on September 5, 1929. Patti was striving to rekindle her musical career. (Newspaper articles of the late 1920’s often still referred to her as the goddaughter of Adelina Patti.) Patti naturally radiated a youthful and vivacious ease, and had correspondingly been typecast primarily in roles as unmarried and highly-spirited young women. While this remained her personality, she was older than fresh new stage beauties, and of lighter voice than seasoned boomers who could project dramatic vocal energy. She was in a career nether land, needing a change into roles of a more mature character and weight, given her age in an era when the average life expectancy scarcely exceeded fifty years.
Irrespective of anybody’s career details, tidal change came with the crash of October, 1929. The number of Broadway productions was markedly reduced, so that many theatres sat idle within a year. The crash was likely the reason that Leonard Meeker’s parents were living with Patti and Leonard in Manhattan47 by 1930. While the parents had once afforded live-in domestic help in their Brooklyn home, financial circumstances had changed. Meanwhile, theatrical work was increasingly difficult to find in New York. Compared to live entertainment, inexpensive admission prices made movies the economical choice for escaping the Great Depression’s dreary realities. Although early film industry had been focused around New York City, movies now came primarily from the west, where weather conditions facilitated year-round filming, and where Patti’s brother-in-law, George Meeker, already resided.
1. Jolson, Michael Freedland (Stein and Day, New York, 1972) pg. 95
2. The Orville Harrold Story, Dick Stodghill, Muncie Evening Press, April 22, 1978, pg. T3
3. Mme. Schipa’s Emotional Worries Over Her Tenor Husband, American Weekly Inc., taken from the San Antonio Light, February 8, 1925. In mid-1925, Lydia Locke was facing court charges of slandering the new wife of her ex-husband, Arthur Marks, so that by November, American Weekly Inc. had run another of their articles regarding Lydia’s many husbands and escapades.
4. Many Artists to Appear, The Bridgeport Telegraph, August 14, 1925, pg. 14
5. From Devout Catholic To Communist Agitator, Dick Stodghill, (PublishAmerica, 2007)
6. The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley, Jeffrey Spivak (The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2011)
7. unattributed newspaper article, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
8. entertainment briefs, The State Times (Baton Rouge), November 11, 1925, pg.3. Unfortunately, the show had already closed.
9. undated article from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, attributed in handwritten marginal note to Zit’s Weekly, a stage, radio, and movie weekly, Zit Publishing, 254 W. 54th St. NYC
10. Lizzie and Patti, North Adams (Mass.) Evening Transcript, November 30, 1925, pg. 7
11. brief item in Stars and Starmakers section, The Morning Oregonian, December 10, 1925, pg. 14
12. "Lohengrin" In Overalls In West Norwalk, The Norwalk Hour, December 3, 1925, pg. 5
13. Movie Reviews, Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, March 1, 1926
14. Norwalk, CT Land Records for various years, researched by Melanie Marks
15. Harrold and Miura with Manhattan Co. Next Season, New York Herald Tribune, Sunday, July 11, 1926 (no pg. number) from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
16. Opera In The House Hammerstein Built, New York Times, September 6, 1915
18. Richard Bonelli Appearances, 1915-1925, Charles A. Hooey, http://www.musicweb-international.com/hooey/bonelli-roles.htm, describing Bonelli and Tamaki Miura appearing with San Carlo Opera Company, Aldo Franchetti conducting
19. Program for an unknown presentation of Madam Butterfly, by the Manhattan Opera Company, Aldo Franchetti conducting, described within its text as prior to the upcoming debut of Nammiko-San in December of 1925
20. Opera Company Coming, Indiana Evening Gazette, Indiana, Pennsylvania, October 11, 1926, pg. 1; Orville Harrold, Salt Lake City Tribune, November 30, 1926; San Antonio’s Opera Season Starts, San Antonio Express, January 2, 1927
21. “Salt Lake Society” section, The Ogden Standard Examiner, December 12, 1926, pg. 3
22. Dallas Operatic Situation Turned Over To Salmaggi, Dallas Morning News, October 18, 1931
23. untitled item, Patti Harrold engaged for Judy by John Mears, The Syracuse Herald, December 15, 1926
24. The Hollis (Theatre) Show Is More, by T. P., The Crimson Playgoer, January 27, 1927
26. ‘Judy’ At Hollis For 2 Week Run, The Boston Herald, January 18, 1927, pg. 16
27. The Hollis (Theatre) Show Is More
28. Queenie Smith Enters Cast of ‘Judy’, The Boston Herald, January 30, 1927, pg. 5
31. Queenie Smith Dances In ‘Judy’, The Boston Herald, May 10, 1927, pg. 28
32. By October, 1927, Orville had received a response to one of his solicitation letters, addressed to Steinway Hall by Sam Shubert of the Shubert Theatre Corporation. Orville’s Steinway Hall studio was described in a later newspaper article, Why Did His Home Town Forget Orville Harrold, Dick Stodghill, Muncie Evening Press, April 19, 1978, with information provided by Paul Harrold
33. Deed, granted by Blanche and Orville Harrold to Investors Mortgage and Guarantee Company, March 12, 1928, researched by Melanie Marks
34. Trent – Nellie Kelly, description and advertisement, Trenton Evening Times, March 23, 1928, pg. 28, and March 29, 1928, pg. 29
35. American Musical Theatre, Gerald Bordman (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011) pg. 504
36. Earl Carroll’s “Fioretta” Minus Swaying Chorus, Burns Mantle, The Salt Lake City Tribune, February 1, 1928 pg. 10
37. Program for Mr. Bagby’s 258th Musical Morning, January 12, 1920, Waldorf Astoria
38. Actress Sues For $250,000, Oakland Tribune, May 17, 1929, pg. 1
39. Earl Carroll Vanities, The Brookfield (Illinois) Magnet, October 3, 1929, pg. 3
40. “Here And There” notes of the day, The Daily Independent, Murphysboro, Illinois, April 19, 1929, pg. 1
41. Various syndicated newspaper articles describe portions of the events, along with several full page stories of the somewhat sensational episode: Musical Comedy with a Leading Lady Who Couldn’t Sing, American Weekly Inc. in the San Antonio Light, and When the $250,000 Angel Dared Say the Star Couldn’t Sing, Act, or Dance, International Feature Service, in the Hamilton Evening Journal.
42. Actress Sues For $250,000, Associated Press syndicated article in Oakland Tribune. May 17. 1929, pg. 1
43. Succeeds Miss Knapp In The Title Role Of Carroll’s “Fioretta”, undated and unattributed newspaper heading and photo of Patti Harrold, from Patti Harrold’s scrapbook
44. Patti Harrold Is Married, New York Times, May 15, 1929
45. “The Meekers”, syndicated item by International Newsreel, as found in the Syracuse Post Standard, May 18, 1929, pg. 59
46. Various sports activities of George R. Meeker, New York Times, May 31, 1902, and February 4, 1905
47. 1930 Federal Census, as researched by Sharon Harrold Tadrowski