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An American Original - Orville Harrold
by Charles A. Hooey 

A late-bloomer with a glorious voice, this American tenor was insufficiently trained, sang too often, and poof...he was gone, finished, that is, as a top line artist. His problem was a lack of self-discipline that led to excesses in food and liquor consumption. But, despite these failings, he possessed an exceptional natural voice that extended to a top E, and at his best, as in his “Che gelida manina" from La Bohème, he was nothing less than sensational!
 
Orville Harrold drew his first breath on 1 October 1877. His parents, John William Harrold and Emily Harrold née Chalfont, no doubt welcomed the little tyke to the family circle at their farm near Cowan, south of Muncie, in Indiana. When Orville was nine, the family moved to Lyons, Kansas where he began to study the violin. At some point his parents discovered he possessed a fine singing voice, no surprise for them surely, for with their parents, they all were singers. In pursuing his musical training, young Orville studied harmony and singing with Harry Paris, a local vocal teacher. In time, with his parents’ blessing, the lad went off to become a soloist in boy choirs that traveled about the Mid West. He first attracted public attention when he sang at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 billed as “the boy wonder of Muncie.” In addition to his violin and vocal studies, as young men will do, he made eyes at Euphamia Evelyn "Effie" Kiger and they were married on 22 October 1898 in Delaware County, Indiana. Like clockwork, three youngsters arrived. Exercising his passion for music, Orville named them: Adelina Patti Harrold on 14 April 1899, Marjorie Modjeska Harrold, after Polish-born dramatic actress, Helena Modjeska, on 23 January 1901, and a son Paul Dereszke Harrold, after Polish tenor Jean De Reszke, in 1902. Effie often had trouble pronouncing the names of her children.
 
Harrold’s adult musical career began in 1925 when, at age twenty-five, he sang tenor with various musical organizations, still in mid-western states. To pursue his career, he moved to New York, leaving Effie and the children behind, although they remained on good terms. Like most successful families, the Harrolds were opposite types. Effie was a homebody whereas he was a gregarious individual eager to see the world. And so in mid 1906 for his first fling, he appeared with the Schubert Brothers Company at the Casino Theatre in New York in the light operetta ‘The Social Whirl.’ It ran for more than 150 performances. Then, in ‘The Belle of London Town” that opened on 28 January, 1907 in Lincoln Square Theatre, he was ‘Lord Drinkwell’ with Kathleen Clifford, Camille D’Arville and Giorgio Majeroni. Unfortunately, the show closed on 9 February. Afterwards, again at the Casino Theatre, he sang in a presentation called ‘the Passing Show’ but soon he turned to vaudeville as he considered it more stable employment since shows were scheduled through theatre syndicates.
 
But later that year, he returned to Muncie to deliver for a coffin maker in order to feed his family. On his rounds he would sing ‘La donna è mobile’ so extravagantly that some of the mourners suggested he was wasting his talents and should be storming the offices of Hammerstein and the Met. Ernestine Schumann-Heink also happened to hear him and was so impressed by his lovely sound that she urged him to drop everything and head to New York and begin proper training. He did go, clutching an invitation to meet a prominent socialite, Mabelle Hollenbeck (mother of actor Clifton Webb). She invited him to sing and when he did so, she was enthralled. The next morning, she was at Oscar Hammerstein’s office, praising the young tenor to the skies, but Oscar remained aloof. She maintained the pressure while developing a fondness for Orville, but she, as well, urged him to study. Instead he re-joined the Schubert Brothers' theatrical forces and went on the road.
 
A year passed while Mabelle saw or heard nothing of him. Then, suddenly, one afternoon, he turned up at the Hollenbeck apartment. Mabelle’s inclination was to send him packing, but he begged forgiveness so touchingly that he won her over. He said that his quartet was appearing in a vaudeville musical review ‘Wine, Women and Song’ at the Circle Theatre. When the show closed, they went back to vaudeville, taking a booking at Hammerstein’s Victoria. Mabelle began to badger Oscar into leaving his office to hear him sing. When he finally did, Oscar turned to her and demanded: ‘Why didn’t you tell me about him before?’ Icily, Mabelle responded: ‘He’s the one I’ve been telling you about for a year!’
 
At a concert of ‘Harold and Wald Songs’ prompted a perceptive comment from a Variety reporter: "Whoever is the tenor he has a wonderfully sweet voice, and with a tendency to sound tired before the finish of the act...What he should do, however, is to study for grand opera. It might require more time than he cares or can afford to give, but it would be worth it for the voice is there."
 
Hammerstein Takes Charge
Oscar was now keen… to an extent. ‘You have a voice,” he told Orville, ‘but you have nothing up here’ tapping his forehead. ‘You must study…study…study!’ Harrold agreed so Hammerstein referred him to noted teacher Oscar Saenger. After three months, Saenger let his pupil sing at the Manhattan Opera. As reported locally on 16 January, 1910, “Oscar Hammerstein sprang a surprise on the Sunday Concert audience at the Manhattan Opera House by presenting his new tenor Orville Harrold for the first time in public since he began studying to sing in opera. The program listed Mr. Mariani who would sing ‘Ridi, Pagliacci’ and ‘La donna è mobile’ but when this number was reached, Arthur Hammerstein stepped before the footlights and said, “Instead of Mr Mariani, Mr. Orville Harrold will sing tonight. Mr. Harrold is an Indianapolis boy whom my father discovered singing in vaudeville a few months ago. Since then he has been studying in New York… This evening you will have an opportunity to judge the future of this young man.” He was wildly applauded after the ‘Ridi, Pagliacci’and was forced to repeat the Rigoletto aria. After this he was recalled several times and finally he added a ballad ‘The Secret’ by John Scott. At another Sunday Night concert he sang with Mariette Mazarin, Marguerite D'Alvarez and Armand Crabbé.
 
This led to a Pagliacci with the Manhattan Opera on 18 February 1910 when, as Canio, he joined the statuesque Lina Cavalieri and Mario Sammarco. The house was jammed with all the standing room sold out. Such was his immediate success that Orville’s dressing room was piled to the baroque ceiling with wreaths from the Italian societies and bouquets sent by the women who had fallen in love with his melting eyes and coal black hair not to mention his glorious, golden voice.
 
A second operatic challenge came on 12 March as the Duke of Mantua in a matinee Rigoletto when he joined Luisa Tetrazzini as Gilda, Sammarco as Rigoletto, Henri Scott as Sparafucile and Alice Gentle as Maddalena with Anselmi conducting.
 
In 1908 Hammerstein had taken on another venture by building an opera house in Philadelphia that opened on 17 November with a performance of Carmen. Harrold appeared with the Philadelphia Opera Company on 5 March 1910 in Pagliacci with Mme Walter-Villa as Nedda, Sammarco as Tonio and Armand Crabbé as Silvio. He sang next on 26 March in a performance of Rigoletto with Giovanni Polese in the title role, Lalla Miranda as Gilda, Atala Vallier as Sparafucile. That evening he sang in a Gala Concert that brought the short-lived undertaking to an end.
 
After his time with Saenger, there was talk that Hammerstein would send Orville to Paris to study with Jean de Reszke. He did go, to study singing and the French language, but not with de Reszke. This was followed by a similar sojourn in Florence, Italy. After a tour of the US mid-west with Luisa Tetrazzini, he was presented by Hammerstein at the New York Theatre on 7 November 1910 as Richard Warrington in a revival of Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta with Emma Trentini, a petite soubrette who had joined the troupe in 1906. The show racked up 136 performances before going on tour. It was a long and arduous time for the singers, especially for Emma, but a huge money-maker for Oscar. In his main number "I'm falling in love with someone," Orville was reported to have “delivered a high E flat with dramatic flair.”
 
After Naughty Marietta closed, Orville went home to Muncie in mid-May where he performed at the Wysor Grand Opera House. He then traveled to Paris, France where Oscar had arranged for him to study with Frederick Boyer. Then, he proceeded to London to join in preparations for Oscar’s latest venture.
 
Hammerstein Pleases In London
In tackling the London market, Hammerstein believed he would find a pot of gold. As part of his plan, he had erected his own edifice, the London Opera House in Kingsway, at a cost in excess of £200,000 and had installed posh patron comforts and the finest of stage equipment. With Harrold and fellow American Felice Lyne as star attractions, Oscar offered a programme of light opera in English, beginning with Quo Vadis on 13 November 1911. Two nights later, Harrold was on stage as Arnold in William Tell with Victoria Fer as Mathilde, Henry Weldon as Walther and José Danse as Tell with Luigi Cherubini conducting. Next on 25 November he sang the first of twelve performances of Rigoletto as the Duke with Marcel Renaud as the jester and Felice Lyne as Gilda. Then on 1 December he sang the title role in Faust, Vanity Fair reporting on the event thus: “Mr. Harrold was in splendid form. The more I hear of this artist the more I feel he is one of the four greatest tenors living. His gift of crescendo on the highest notes is remarkable as he does not substitute mere noise for artistry. A beautiful tone always, whether it be loud or soft seems to be his aim.” After one particularly thrilling performance, Orville cabled Effie, “Great success and will expect you soon.” Effie being Effie, she declined, being unwilling to face an ocean voyage, especially with Christmas in the offing.  
 
After he sang in Lucia di Lammermoor on 12 December, The Evening News reacted: “Mr. Orville Harrold, who took the part of Edgardo, is one of Mr. Hammerstein’s greatest finds. His voice is really remarkable and he sings and acts with great sense of style.” And the Weekly Times of London added, “the new tenor, Mr. 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.” Then Hammerstein had his rising American stars present Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, box office receipts being bolstered by special trains that brought opera fans from nearby cities. Then in January 1912, Harrold joined Victoria Fer in La Traviata. During a Sunday Night concert, according to The Standard in London, “The feature was Mr. Harrold’s wonderful singing of the aria from Aida.” The season concluded on 2 March 1912 with emphasis on modern French works, all in direct competition with Covent Garden.
 
Although his financial return was considerably below expectations, Oscar decided to try a second season. To open on 22 April, 1912, he chose Romeo and Juliet to give Felice Lyne a chance to charm opera lovers with her girlish impersonation - eight overall - with Harrold as Roméo, Henry Weldon as the Friar, Lydia Locke as Gertrude and André Kerlane as Stéphano. Fritz Emaldy conducted. Orville’s high notes were very much intact and much admired. The tenor went on to sing in La Favorita on 24 April with Augusta Doria, Sig. Figarella and Henry Weldon. Then on 16 May, he returned for five performances as the Duke in Rigoletto with Miss Lyne and Vilmos Beck as the jester. On 1 June he sang in Faust with Berthe Cesar. Then on 10 June, he appeared in Planquette’s Les Cloches de Corneville as Grenicheux with Vinie Daly as Serpolette and Tina Rasbaud as Germaine. Gaetano Merola conducted this and five subsequent performances. Repeats of William Tell and La Traviata concluded Harrold’s contribution.
 
During the London seasons, Orville had sung in thirty weeks of opera, appearing in 112 performances, all but one of the eleven operas in which he sang were debuts, and for these he had to prepare himself with numerous rehearsals which had occupied a great part of his time. He said he was terribly lonely for he knew practically no one. However, he gradually became acquainted and could later enjoy much pleasantry at The Savage Club and the Automobile Club. He said he had sung with Felice Lyne, “We appeared fifty-six times in opera together and we also toured England, singing in different cities and hamlets.’ Of Hammerstein, under whose patronage he had flourished, Orville spoke cordially. ‘The opera house there was very beautiful, nd the operas were put on with lavish expenditure, with everything in the way of scenery, costumes and accessories as well as splendid singers to make everything complete. Mr. Hammerstein held his own at first,’ Harrold offered with a sigh, ‘but when the Christmas pantomimes began, the attendance grew less and less. Afterwards the prices were cut in half, and then the opera house was crowded night after night. But now it is given over to moving picture shows.’ Afterwards Oscar had to admit he had erred again; he'd lost a fortune. Unfazed, he returned to the US, this time to stay.
 
Back in the US, Orville was able to spend time with his family in Muncie in the summer, but soon he was active again giving the occasional concert at major towns in central Indiana, as arranged by his erstwhile former teacher, Harry Paris. Orville would sing a range of songs, and then appear in costume to sing an aria from Pagliacci to give his audience a taste of opera.
 
When Harrold visited Indianapolis for a recital in February 1913, he stayed in the plush Claypool Hotel. When it was time he made his way over to the huge and beautiful English’s Theatre, located on Monument Circle. (Both structures are now gone.) A host of excited friends and lovers of music generally had gathered to hear him deliver a varied program. At the time he gave an interview, in which he said he favored opera in English and if Mr. Hammerstein would not give opera in English, he hoped he would be allowed to sing for some other company. He concluded his interview by saying that he had been singing in Kansas and came here for this one concert. Next week he would sing in Schenectady, Buffalo and Toronto and had plans to return for concerts in Terre Haute, Evansville, Nashville, Tenn., and Columbus.
 
With LydiaBut prior to these engagements, the long years of separation had led to a parting of the ways for Orville and Effie. In London, Orville had become infatuated with Lydia Locke (see left), who, as ‘Lydia Talbot’ had also studied with Oscar Saenger. Coming home, he decided to divorce Effie on 17 February, 1913 and three days later, he married Lydia Locke.
 
At about this time, he appeared in Chicago with Titta Ruffo, and at first he felt rather overshadowed by the great Italian singer but soon he realized that Ruffo was pleased with him, because he told him that any time he wanted to go to Italy, he (Ruffo) could get engagements for him.
 
As reported in an Indianapolis newspaper on 6 May, Orville Harrold returned to the auditorium of the German House where he had taken his first step in his career. When he entered, he did so amid a storm of applause as hands were extended to greet him and shouts arose and continued until he went onto the platform. “Mr. Harrold exhibited a remarkable voice, clear, powerful and of wonderful tone quality. He chose to sing three songs from his operatic repertoire, and to the unusual power of his voice was added an especially pleasing and effectual interpretation. His program was brief but it was sufficient to give an insight into the reason for the conquests he has made and the possibilities the future holds. The songs were ‘Vesti la giubba’ from I Pagliacci and ‘All hail, thou dwelling pure and holy’ from Faust. In the last song, Mr. Harrold reached the only high C in the opera easily and with a clear and well-sustained tone.”
 
Early in June, he returned to Indianapolis to take part in a Wagner Festival concert, this time with Lydia accompanying him. Orville proudly showed off his city to her, delightedly proclaiming, ‘The trees are greener here, the skies are bluer, and the buildings the best in the world, in my eyes,’ adding that ‘the people are in a class that no other city can ever reach.’ Lydia, ‘an unusually pretty young woman, with a beautiful complexion and big blue eyes, is also very charming in manner, absolutely without any affectation or mannerisms that stage folk sometimes adopt.’ After his concert, the couple planned to spend a few weeks in a house they had rented on the New Jersey coast. However, their idyllic relationship would soon begin to fall apart. Lydia's voice lives on in a pair of duet recordings she and Orville made for Columbia Records.
 
Joins Short-Lived Century Opera
With Hammerstein legally excluded from providing opera in major cities, Orville suffered financially so he sought his release by court action from Hammerstein. Meanwhile a new company, Century Opera, had been formed by Martin and Sargent Aborn, who based their operation in a renovated theatre in Central Park West in New York. They began giving performances in September 1913, but Orville, who had aligned himself with Century, was unable to appear due to his legal entanglement until 27 January. Having sung Roméo and Juliet with Hammerstein in London, naturally he was cast as Romeo at the Century opposite Tennessee-born soprano Lois Ewell. Next, early in March, he appeared as Radames in Aida with Enrica Clay as Aida, Kathleen Howard as Amneris and Alfred Kaufman as Ramfis. Then on 24 March 1914, he took part as Lionel in a performance of Martha with Lois Ewell as Lady Harriet, Louis Kreidler as Plunkett and Bertha Shalek as Nancy. In April the company concluded its abbreviated season.
 
The company re-opened on 14 September 1914 with Romeo and Juliet with Orville and Lois Ewell repeating their roles, with the addition of bass Henry Weldon. A month later, they offered Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Orville as Pinkerton, Helen Stanley as Cio-Cio-San and Thomas Chalmers as Sharpless. Orville earned praise for his singing and for being able to make the generally dreary figure seem human. Century audiences were coming to realize that this tenor combined a fine voice with an uncommon intelligence and taste.

However, it was observed that his high notes no longer possessed the beauty and brilliance of four years ago, but now he showed more feeling, more skill in phrasing, and a delicacy of expression and romantic bearing which earned him high praise. His clear diction was also a positive element, especially in opera sung in English. Pitts Sanborn took in a performance of William Tell at the Century, hearing Harrold as Arnold "do dazzling things in this role." A Chicago tour, begun in the New Year, ended abruptly when Century Opera collapsed due to financial trouble.
 
At the close of the New York season, the Company announced it would go on tour, the highlight being a visit to Chicago for eight weeks of opera beginning near the holidays. The European war had 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 Jose. The entire presentation was praised as well above previous Aborn productions to visit while Orville was viewed as a remarkable tenor and distinct feature of the evening. 

The troupe opened in Chicago with Aida and then, on November 25, presented Madama Butterfly with Lois Ewell as 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 previously. The Century soon thereafter sang 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 feeling. (They noted that he rested in preparation, as for an athletic event.) At some point thereafter the tour ended abruptly when Century Opera collapsed due to financial trouble.

In February 1915, Harrold found himself back in vaudeville, jostling on stage at New York's Palace Theatre with Rosa Ponselle, Carl Jörn, Carolina White and even Emma Calvé, who came from Paris to "pack 'em in" for four weeks. Twice daily, they offered a wide range of musical, theatrical and dance turns, Orville showing off his "magnificent voice which he squanders like a proverbial sailor." He truly did enjoy his vaudeville exploits and would return to this medium after his opera career ended and continue until 1927.
 
Late in the summer of 1915, Orville shifted his activities to the Hippodrome in New York where he appeared as ‘the Hero’ in the musical review ‘Hip! Hip! Hooray! It enjoyed a long and happy run from 30 September 1915 to 3 June 1916.
 
Ravinia
Summer opera had not existed in the United States prior to 1912, when the phenomenon finally arrived at an outdoor park facility known as Ravinia, a scant 25 miles from Chicago. Roads were primitive or non-existent, but the invention of electric-powered railway cars made it possible for opera lovers to flock from Chicago right to the door of Ravinia. Orville helped open the 1916 season on 1 July as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Mabel Garrison as Lucia and Millo Picco as Enrico. He went on to sing in Faust, Rigoletto, Martha, Contes d'Hoffmann, The Bohemian Girl and Manon. Only portions of most operas were given, for promptly at 11 PM the train had to depart. The holiday atmosphere certainly prevailed. Orville returned in each of the next three summers, skipped 1920/1 and made a final appearance at Ravinia in 1922.  
 
Family Woes
Orville’s recent singing had proved disappointing, no doubt worsened by the stress of his marital situation. Life with Lydia soon grew difficult as these two high strung artists began to disagree. Their constant quarrels led to divorce in August 1917. Some weeks later in Central Park, he caught sight of Blanche Malli, whom he had met when she was a chorister in Naughty Marietta. He scribbled a note and threw it through the window of her passing car. This led to a resumed friendship that culminated in a third marriage on 16 December, 1917. A wise lady, Blanche realized that Orville was out-of-shape, and ‘looked terrible’ so she decided to take action. According to Mike Harrold, a cousin, ‘Blanche rehabilitated Orville’s spirit, body and voice, preparing him for the Met.’ Upon her insistence, he lost weight, began a strict exercise routine, and buckled down to serious study with Frederick Haywood to reconstitute his voice during the winter of 1917/18. The Orville-Blanche union would endure until his passing.

Society Of American Singers
As his next venture, Orville joined character tenor Albert Weiss in presenting Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor in a new English version by Henry Krehbiel, Music Editor of the New York Tribune. With David Bispham as a key participant, The Impresario opened at the Empire Theatre in New York on the afternoon of 26 October 1916. It proved to be a walloping success that spawned "The Society of American Singers." In May 1917, through a Hammerstein connection, Harrold joined this merry band that included Florence Easton, Francis Maclennan, Mabel Garrison and Riccardo Martin.
 
After a slowdown caused by the U.S. entry into the war, the American Society resumed operations on 23 September, 1918 at the Park Theatre in Columbus Circle, New York with a programme of lighter, opera comique-style productions. One offering, Ambroise Thomas's Mignon, brought Scottish soprano Maggie Teyte to the fore as a most fetching heroine. Most of her operatic work in New York occurred at this time. Later in Madama Butterfly, "she sang the finale of the first act with Orville Harrold, an admirable Pinkerton, so that both singers were recalled again and again." When Harrold appeared in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, David Bispham observed, "I delighted myself in the character part of the Jew peddler Coppelius, the doll being Ruth Miller, and Orville Harrold, as admirable as she, as Hoffmann." This frolic would continue for six months.
 
Scotti Company
Now, onto the scene came the popular baritone Antonio Scotti. As impresario, he led his grand opera company in short forays into music-loving America, initially during the Spring and Autumn of 1919, then in 1920, the Autumn of 1921 and finally in the Spring of 1922. A stickler for correctness, Scotti was rewarded with glowing reviews. Harrold was involved in L'Oracolo, Cavalleria Rusticana and Butterfly. In St. Louis he excelled as a smarmy Pinkerton with Florence Easton and Scotti. In all, Harrold took part in five of the six tours.
 
Gatti And The Metropolitan Opera Show Interest
Enter soprano Frances Alda. As explained in her book, Alda had heard Harrold at Hammerstein’s and had recommended him to Gatti-Casazza, her husband and manager of the Metropolitan Opera. He went along with her advice and signed him but gave him a series of inconsequential rôles to sing. One day during a performance for charity, he was given a strong rôle, and sang it so convincingly that Gatti allowed him to sing Rodolfo in La Bohème in Brooklyn on 18 November 1919. The Mimi on that occasion was none other than Alda herself. While this was happening, over at the Metropolitan a Gala opera concert was being given in honor of Prince Edward, who was making his first visit to America after the War. The program for the Gala included scenes from various operas, sung by the Metropolitan’s finest artists. At the close of the opera, Alda was whisked over from the engagement in Brooklyn to come onstage to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in tribute to England’s heir. “I was feeling considerable chagrin that, while this marvelous program was going on at the Metropolitan, I should be singing in Brooklyn. At least, I felt so, until I actually heard Orville Harrold sing his first Rodolfo. Then the beauty of his pure tenor voice so enthralled me I forgot about the Prince and the glitter across the Brooklyn Bridge. I forgot about my anxiety about getting to the opera house in time to change from Mimi to my Grecian costume of white crepe de Chine, draped with the flag, in which I always sang the National Anthem.
 
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.” Afterwards Gatti asked, “How did it go in Brooklyn?” “I told him, in no uncertain phrases, “Harrold had the biggest ovation any tenor ever had. Even Caruso.”
 
After his sensational debut, he was sent on tour and in Philadelphia on 19 December he sang La Bohème again with Alda. Back in Brooklyn on 30 December, he sang Faust with Farrar and Rothier. Near the end of April, he re-appeared for a Lucia in Atlanta on the 28th with Maria Barrientos and Mardones. Two nights later, still in Atlanta, he sang Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Farrar.

That autumn he was ready for the Metropolitan Opera stage but first he was needed in Brooklyn on 16 November to sing Faust with Farrar, Whitehill and Chalmers. His actual Met début occurred on 22 November 1919 in La Juive with Caruso. In the New York Times, Richard Aldrich wrote, "Orville Harrold, long known to the local operatic world, has at last reached the Metropolitan, and as Leopold sang and acted with splendid fervor. When he produced his voice with steadiness, it was heard to be an excellent one, somewhat light and with appealing qualities and his pronunciation of French was of unusual correctness." Later he thought "his voice somewhat light for Leopold" and suggested he "was still using cautiously a voice that had been hard driven in the past and was still to regain its normal power."
 
Orville had no time for reviews as Gatti needed him again on 24 November 1919 as Dimitri in Boris Godounov with Adamo Didur, since 1913 the Met's first and only Boris. Two nights later he demonstrated his versatility by singing Win-San-Luy in Leoni's L'Oracolo with Scotti, but of course he knew this role well, having sung it previously with Scotti’s own company. He would sing it again late in February. After another La Bohème on 19 December with Alda in Philadelphia, he returned to New York where on Christmas afternoon he sang Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Farrar and Scotti. Then, after La Bohème with Alda and Scotti to please New Yorkers on 29 December, Henderson (in the New York Sun) was convinced the "big and powerful" tones of old were once more at his command, while Frances Alda averred that the applause for him lasted for minutes. He wound up the year on 30 December in Brooklyn as Faust with Farrar and Rothier.

In just six weeks, he had established himself on the Metropolitan roster and he must have approached 1920 brimming with confidence. So popular now, as Rodolfo he sang Puccini’s opera again with Alda and De Luca on 17 January. Two nights later he was Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana with Easton, Perini and Chalmers. On 24 January he sang Don José in Carmen with Farrar and Robert Couzinou as Escamillo.

Then, on 24 January, when Giovanni Martinelli fell ill at the last minute, Orville stepped into the breach and sang Don Jose in Carmen with Farrar and Robert Couzinou as Escamillo. It was a banner occasion a benefit for the French School in New York so in the flag-draped parterre gaily waving sat Madame Clemenceau-Jacquemaire, the French Ambassador and Mrs. Jusserand, Marcel Knecht of the French High Commission and other dignitaries. The next day, the New York Times lavished praise on the tenor, " Mr. Harrold, without rehearsal, rescued `Carmen' from another of the changes of bill now of daily occurrence, but on his own merit he captured a critical and emphatically a French opera-loving house, The hero's `Flower Song' in the second act has not in recent years been sung with more of tonal warmth and manly ardor, and at the same time with delicacy, charm and poise typical of the Gallic stage. It was an extraordinary first appearance for the Metropolitan and will doubtless be repeated in the regular series." Albert Wolfe conducted, and in an entr'acte led `The Star-Spangled Banner' and `La Marseillaise.'

However, as events unfolded, many felt that Gatti under-utilized his Americans, Martin, Chamlee and Harrold, favouring instead his splendid Italians Caruso, Gigli, Martinelli and Lauri-Volpi. Who could blame him? Prejudice, a steadfast human frailty, ruled then as it does to this day.
 
With Frances AldaAfter a La Juive, Orville came during a matinee on 31 January 1920 to the World Première of Henry Hadley's Cleopatra's Night. As Cleopatra (Frances Alda) is about to bathe, an arrow floats in bearing a message, "I love you" and a youth is observed swimming. Suddenly he appears, dripping, having slithered up the drainpipe! Such an intrusion meant instant death but Orville as `Meiamoun' pleads for a single, wildly amorous night, after which he will gladly exit via poison. Hadley was a prolific native composer but one of the dullest. The work had two further outings with Harrold and another on 3 March with Morgan Kingston and Hadley conducting. Kingston sang the role three times in 1921.
 
In New York on 19 February, 1920 Orville assumed the title role in Parsifal under Artur Bodanzky's direction with Rothier as Gurnemanz, Marguerite Matzenauer as Kundry, Didur as Klingsor and Ananian as Titurel when the opera was given in a new English translation by Henry Krehbiel to deflect any negativity singing in German might have caused. "Much could be understood, especially in the delivery of Mr. Harrold, Mr. Rothier and Mr. Whitehill..." There would be repeats. He was active in concerts, such as the Benefit for the Company’s Emergency Fund on 14 March when he sang a scene from Faust with Marie Sundelius and Mardones. During a second benefit on 12 April, he sang in Act 3 of Rigoletto with De Luca and Barrientos. A complete Faust followed on the 19th with Geraldine Farrar. Not yet finished he had a Lucia with Maria Barrientos and a Madama Butterfly with Farrar, both with the Met in Atlanta.
 
Back at the Met that autumn, he led off on 15 November in La Juive with Caruso and Ponselle, followed on the 20th by Cavalleria Rusticana with Emmy Destinn. The next night, he shared a Verdi-Puccini Concert, offering the Quartet from La Bohème with De Luca and a pair of Maries, Sundelius and Tiffany and the Trio from I Lombardi with Ponselle and Mardones. After La Bohème on 25 November in which he was reunited with Frances Alda, Henderson wrote that the audience gave a "demonstration of pleasure as the house rarely witnesses when Mr. Caruso is not in the cast...His voice, a big and powerful organ, was in fine condition last night and he sang smoothly, with resonance, and with no small amount of feeling. He took and sustained a High C in the `racconto,' but more commendable than that feat were his good phrasing and his legato." Gatti promptly tore up his $200/week contract for four performances weekly and wrote a new one that paid up to $18,000 a season with him singing three times per week. At this time he recorded Rodolfo’s “Racconto” for Victor Red Seal, a record that would soon be prized by collectors as it shows off clearly a major, manly voice delivered with fine bearing. La Juive on 24 December proved to be Caruso's last performance, the 607th by the illustrious Italian at the Metropolitan. The rest of the season Harrold spent singing L’Oracolo, Parsifal and Faust.  
 
New York audiences knew Charpentier's Louise, thanks to Hammerstein and visiting companies but the Metropolitan Opera had not deigned to present the opera until 15 January 1921. Geraldine Farrar turned up her nose at the prospect of Harrold as Julien in her Louise as she preferred Martinelli "the only one except Caruso who can render this music and support me properly." Gatti refused, using his old world charm to achieve what he wanted. For the event itself, Farrar sang "industriously, if with no overwhelming identity with the character." Good clothes, shoes and stockings just didn't cut it. "Harrold was a prepossessing Julien but not a very dramatic one."
 
After singing Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in Philadelphia on 15 February with Florence Easton and Thomas Chalmers, Harrold returned to New York to prepare for an English language Lohengrin on 3 March with Easton as Elsa, Julia Claussen as Ortrud and Whitehill as Telramund. Two nights later they did the opera in Brooklyn. After singing Julien to Farrar’s Louise on 8 March in Philadelphia, he appeared on the 11th on the Met stage in Carmen with Easton and Whitehill with Albert Wolff conducting. He next essayed Gounod's Faust on 26 March with Rothier as Méphistophélès with Marie Sundelius and Chalmers. At a Met concert on 3 April, he offered "Recondita armonia" from Tosca and three songs: "The Eagle" by Black, "Lament of Ian the Proud" by Griffes and "Happiness" by Richard Hageman, who conducted. He then sang Lohengrin in Philadelphia on 19 April and La Bohème in Atlanta on the 26th with Bori and Scotti. Post season, he sang in Madama Butterfly on 7 May with Easton and Chalmers.
 
That autumn at a matinee on 19 November, Maria Jeritza repeated her Vienna triumph in Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, now with Harrold as Paul. In the Dead City of Bruges, Paul fantasizes over his dead wife, Marie, and while slipping in and out of dreamland, he identifies her with Marietta, a look-alike dancer. In the dual role, Jeritza scored mightily, but the opera's exceptional vocal demands played havoc with the tenor. His energetic singing of Paul is said to have impaired his voice permanently. In the rôle of Pierrot was Mario Laurenti, a baritone of great promise soon to die from spinal meningitis at age 32.
 
Vocal strain, if it did occur, was ignored as Orville plunged onwards with Louise on the 21 November and in Korngold again on the 24th before reappearing as Dmitri in Boris Godounov on 9 December. This opera had been out of the repertoire for a season, but Chaliapin, who had lost his fortune to the Communists, was anxious to appear in the West to restore both his bankroll and fame. For this first time in America, he offered Boris in Russian, his larger-than-life presence somewhat overshadowing Jeanne Gordon, Harrold and Rothier who sang in the mellower-sounding Italian. Krehbeil in the New York Times thought "Chaliapin's impersonation was heart-breaking in its pathos, terrible in its vehemence and agony." To finish off December, he sang in L’Oracolo with Scotti on the 15th, in scenes from three operas during a Christmas Evening concert, and finally a Lohengrin in Philadelphia on the 27th with Maria Jeritza. Thus Orville ended a most productive 1921.
 
Though he began 1922 in Die Tote Stadt with Jeritza in Brooklyn on 3 January, he would find in New York several new roles, each quite distinctive, the first on 23 January being Rimsky-Korsakoff's Sniegourotchka in its initial American presentation in French with Bori a lovable Snow Maiden, Harrold excellent as the Czar. French was the Met's language of choice for Russian works except Boris. Then on 31 January, he sang Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the first time under Met colors, but in Brooklyn with Amelita Galli-Curci as Rosina, Titta Ruffo as Figaro) and Adamo Didur as Basilio.
 
Vacating opera briefly, he joined Madame Charles Cahier at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday afternoon, 1 February, 1922, to sing Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. This, being the first performance of the work in this city, the New York Times the next day reported at length on the music, allotting the singers these words: “the contralto crossed the ocean to sing but this once for the sixty-second time a work, she bad often sung abroad, while the opera tenor of today interrupted his activity to master for the single occasion the difficult score. Both were cordially applauded, Mr. Harrold especially after the third song, ‘Of youth,’ and Mrs. Cahier at the solemn, almost funereal, close, when Mr. Bodanzky also shared in the popular recognition.”
 
Returning to the Met on 16 February, he sang Lohengrin, in Il Barbiere on the 18th with Galli-Curci, De Luca and Mardones and Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana on the 24th with Jeritza. Going to Philadelphia on the 28th he sang Cavaradossi in Tosca with Jeritza and Scotti. Back in New York on 4 March he sang Rodolfo in La Bohéme with Lucrezia Bori and Scotti. The next evening he took part in a Wagner concert, singing two scenes from Parsifal with Jeanne Gordon and Act I of Lohengrin with Marie Sundelius and Julia Claussen. On 10 March he sang Don José in the first of three Carmens with Farrar. Again in Philadelphia on 28 March for Die Tote Stadt, he returned to New York to sing Almaviva in Il Barbiere on 5 April with Angeles Ottein (Rosina), Giuseppe De Luca (Figaro), Adamo Didur (Basilio) and Pompilio Malatesta (Bartolo). Then, after a Turiddu on 9 April with Frances Peralta, he ended his season with Parsifal on 14 April with Easton as Kundry.
 
He launched his next Met season on 15 November 1922 by singing Dimitri in Boris Godounov to Chaliapin’s riotous Boris. Two nights later in Der Rosenkavalier, he sang a rather portly Italian tenor with Florence Easton as Marschallin, Paul Bender as Baron Ochs and Marie Sundelius as Sophie with Bodanzky conducting. After a repeat in Brooklyn on the 21st, it became a Harrold/Jeritza show at the Met. First they teamed on 29 November in Die Tote Stadt, and then in Massenet’s Thais on 14 December, Maria excelled in the title rôle to an “acceptable” Nicias by Orville and a “distinguished” Athanaël from Whitehill. The opera was repeated on the afternoon of Christmas Day as one of seven such delights the season.
 
To begin 1923, Harrold sang Don José in Carmen on 4 January with Florence Easton, Queena Mario and Jose Mardones. Next on 8 January, he sang Lohengrin with Barbara Kemp. This exciting German soprano had come from Berlin with her husband, composer Max von Schillings, to present his opera Mona Lisa in New York on 1 March. Although Orville took no part in this, he did sing the Lohengrin and in Parsifal (on 30 March) with Madame Kemp. Philadelphians were treated first to a Carmen on 13 March with Harrold, Ina Bourskaya, Nina Morgana and De Luca, and then a double dose of Sniegourotchkas on 27 March with Thalia Sabanieeva as the Snow Maiden during the matinee while Bori handled the evening’s requirement, with Harrold as Czar both times. Then on 5 April New York fans had another look at the Rimsky opera. Moving to Atlanta for La Bohème on 28 April, Harrold as Rodolfo sang with Bori, Scotti and Queena Mario as Musetta.
 
By the time the 1923-1924 season arrived, Orville was appearing infrequently, the “powers-that-be” feeling his voice had lost its bloom. He did sing three times in L’Oracolo with Scotti but otherwise his calls had dwindled to an occasional aria or in tandem with others on the popular Sunday Night concerts then in vogue at the Metropolitan. In a sense, they were useful; he could sing and be heard by his fans in different music while lesser lights had a chance to shine. Thus, on 23 December 1923, he sang the second scene of Act II from Aida with Marcella Roeseler, Jeanne Gordon, Millo Picco and Giovanni Martino. A week later he offered quartets from Martha with Mario, Perini and Didur, while on 20 January 1924, he tackled Act I of Carmen with Gordon and Act 4 with Raymonde Delaunois as the gypsy and Tibbett as Escamillo. On 5 February he journeyed to Philadelphia to sing Edgardo in Lucia with Galli Curci, De Luca and Mardones.
 
On 17 April he appeared as Dimitri in Boris Godounov with Chaliapin and an emerging Lawrence Tibbett as Tschelkaloff. Then on 20 April, when the house was packed for a concert to close the season, Orville sang "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'Amore and the Lucia sextet with Laura Robertson, Minnie Egener, Rafaelo Diaz, Arnold Gabor and William Gustafson. It was his final contribution to the Metropolitan Opera.
 
At the end of the 1923/4 season, he left the Company. For five years, Harrold had prowled the heights of “tenordom” with artists such as Caruso, Martinelli and Gigli, not to mention Giulio Crimi, Morgan Kingston, Charles Hackett and Mario Chamlee. He had also excelled in special concerts, including performances of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust.
 
For a third try at musical comedy, he appeared in Holka-Polka when it opened at the Lyric Theatre in New York on 14 October, 1925. In this show, he was Peter Novak (known as ‘Nobody’) with his own daughter Patti as his stage daughter, Peterie. The show closed on 31 October, 1925 after 21 performances.
 
Also, his creativity, together with that of Blanche, spawned a book and a comic opera adaptation, entitled ‘The Adventures of Nibble Bunny.’ Publication, however, did not occur until 1938, five years after the tenor’s death.
 
Summary And Decline
Frances Alda, who was there at the outset of Harrold’s Met career, offers her assessment of what happened: “Immediately after (his debut), Gatti began giving Harrold all the big tenor roles to sing. Even Parsifal. I protested, ‘You’re pushing him too hard. No voice can stand it.’ But my protests counted for nothing beside the facts and figures of the book-keeper’s ledger. Harrold did not command as high a fee per performance as some of the other tenors received. And he drew the crowds. The box-office receipts swelled.  
 
What happened was one of the great tragedies that can happen to a young singer who has not had the shrewd advice of a Maman Marchesi. He sang too often, and in rôles that were still too heavy for him. After a few seasons his glorious voice began to show the strain; the critics first, then the public noticed it. Harrold’s popularity waned. His career as a great tenor was over.”
 
But some blame surely must rest on the tenor. To play the "would've, could've, should've" game, would Harrold have had a more fulfilling career if he had begun earlier? Could he have found a way to pursue training more assiduously? Should he have looked more to the future and less on the present? And just suppose he HAD been able to study with de Reszke! It seems Orville Harrold squandered a mighty gift.

After his all-too-brief, halcyon days at the Met, Harrold returned to life as an itinerant musician, filling vaudeville stints and even appearing in two Broadway musicals late in the twenties. While at his summer home in Darien, Connecticut, he became seriously ill. Then his condition became grave when he was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage. He died on 23 October 1933 at age 55. Mario Chamlee and his wife Ruth Miller were present at the end. His body was transported to his native city of Muncie, Indiana, where two days later he was interred in Beech Grove Cemetery. He was survived by Blanche, daughter Patti Harrold, then a musical comedy star in Hollywood, and his son, Paul.

Acknowledgements
William Seltsam: The Metropolitan Opera Annals; The H. W. Wilson Company New York, 1947.
Robert Tuggle: The Golden Age Of Opera; Holt, Rinehart And Winston, New York 1983.
Irving Kolodin: The Metropolitan Opera; Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1966.
John Briggs: Requiem For A Yellow Brick Factory - A History Of The Metropolitan Opera; Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1969.
Robert C. Marsh: Opera Quarterly: The Ravinia Festival.
David Bispham: A Quaker Singer's Recollections; The MacMillan Company, 1920.
Julian Moron Moses: American Celebrity Recordings 1900-1925; Monarch Record Enterprises, Dallas, Texas 1993
Frances Alda: Men, Women And Tenors, AMS Press, Inc. NY 1937, reprint 1971
“Sitting Pretty - The Life and Times of Clifton Webb” by David L. Smith, to be published in 2011.

I also wish to acknowledge the assistance and encouragement of the late Jim McPherson of Toronto as well as much help provided by Michael Bott in Bermuda. Finally, for original research, thanks go to John Standen in London, England, David Wiener in Grand Forks, Michael Mongeon in Rolla, both in North Dakota

Special notes:
Note: The article that originally occupied this space was a re-working of a story by the author that appeared in For The Record, No. 24, Winter 2007-8.
Reacting to the web presentation, Professor David L. Smith in Indiana supplied newspaper clippings that have enriched this further revision. Especially welcome were excerpts from Prof. Smith’s forthcoming book about Clifton Webb.
Thanks are due to Mike Harrold as well who responded to the Internet story by providing memories from his perspective. Those seeking more detail should check out Mr. Harrold’s most extensive report also on the Musicweb International site.

Other Orville Harrold pages
- Discography
- Chronology
- Roles

 


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