Sorry, sopranos and baritones – you’ll never be worth more than a tenor

When I started my research into gabinetes fonográficos (establishments who sold phonographs and gramophones, and also produced and sold their own recordings around 1897-1903), I was quite struck by their pricing strategies. Nowadays, we can expect certain minor variations in the prices of recordings from the same label (that’s without taking into account deals, sales, clearances, etc.), but in the era of the gabinetes such differences were quite extreme: a wax cylinder containing 3 minutes of music could cost as much as 30 pesetas and as little as 3,5, depending on the genre of the piece, the celebrity status of the singer and – perhaps more decisively – their voice type. The following advertisement by Sociedad Anónima Fonográfica, published in Boletín Fonográfico in 1900, shows how well-known, highly sought-after tenors such as Julián Biel and Enrico Giordano could command 15 or 20 pesetas for their opera recordings, whereas baritone Francisco Pertierra had to make do with 4 for his zarzuela recordings.

Which proves that tenors are and have always been worth more than anyone else, of course… 🙂