The Joys of Research

The Joys of Research, or, Why I Love the Internet (and Libraries!)

Some time ago, when I was digitizing the Richmond Times-Dispatch Photograph Collection, I came across several photos showing artists from the Metropolitan Opera Company posing in various locations around the city.  Some indentifying information was scrawled on the back of the photos which divided them into two groups; a visit in 1929 and a visit in 1930. I wanted to see if I could find out anything else about these visits in order to provide a fuller description of the images. 

Like any good researcher, I Googled “Metropolitan Opera history” and then went to the best result –  From there it was easy to click on “Archives,” “MetOpera Database” [database!] and “Keyword Search.”  My keyword was “Richmond, Virginia,” and several results popped up.

The first results were details of the four (yes, four) operas the Met performed in Richmond during April of 1930.  Not only were the operas and dates listed, but the full cast lists as well.  This made correctly identifying and spelling the names of some of those pictured in the photos very easy! 

Great news for the 1930s photographs, but what about those dated 1929?  According to the database, the Met did not come to Richmond in 1929.  So who were these mysterious (and incorrectly identified) opera singers?  Back to Google – I did have some names from the back of the photographs, so I searched each one. Most did not bring results, but a few singers were identified as being members of the  San Carlo Opera Company (also out of New York).  Looking up San Carlo was not as satisfying as the Met; just basic information, and no database!

I then decided to visit the Valentine’s Archives to check out what we might have on file.  I was led to the vertical files which contain all sorts of clippings, brochures and ephemera on a myriad of topics relevant to the history of Richmond.  In the “Music/Opera” section, I found a folder entitled “San Carlo Opera Company!”  Guess what was inside – copies of all eight (yes, eight) programs for the operas the company performed in Richmond in January of 1929!  Essentially the exact same result as my Metropolitan Opera search, but in hard copy.  How exciting to find information in two very different, but equally effective ways.

So here it is:

In January 21-26, 1929, the San Carlo Opera Company, under the management of Fortune Gallo, performed eight operas at the 15-month-old Richmond Mosque (now the Altria Theater).  These operas included La Traviata, Il Trovatore, La Tosca, The Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, Lucia Di Lammermoor, Romeo and Juliette and Aida.

San Carlo Opera Company gathered at the base of the Christopher Columbus statue in Byrd Park.


Seven female performers from the San Carlo Opera Company posed outside a brick building.

In April 28-30, 1930 the Metropolitan Opera Company, with conductors Vincenzo Bellezza, Louis Hasselmans and Tullio Serafin, performed four operas at the Richmond Mosque Theater. These operas were La Taviata, Aida, Les Contes D’Hoffmann, and L’Elisir D’Amore.

Four male members of the Metropolitan Opera Company, including Armando Petrucci (prompter), Angelo Bada (tenor), Beniamino Gigli (tenor) and Millo Picco (baritone).


Philine Falco and Aida Doninelli of the Metropolitan Opera Company.  Falco performed in La Traviata and L’Elisir D’Amore and Doninelli in Aida and Les Contes D’Hoffman. 

– Laura Carr, Museum Technician