Orville Harrold: Opera High and Low


Orville Harrold (1878-1933) was a rare singer in that he had extensive credits in opera, operetta, musical theatre and vaudeville (i.e. moving freely up and down between “high” culture and “low” with apparent ease). A farm boy who grew up in Kansas and Indiana, he first sang in school and church choirs. He was a married man of nearly 30 when, with the encouragement of Ernestine Schumann-Heink, a contralto at the Metropolitan Opera, he moved to New York to try his luck as a professional singer in 1906. His first parts were in operettas and traveling vaudeville revues. In 1909 Oscar Hammerstein heard him perform, invested in his training and began presenting him with his opera companies in New York, Philadelphia and London. The balance of his career was a giddy yo-yo of opera in major America cities, operetta (e.g. the original production of Victor Herbert’s Naughty Marietta in 1910), musical comedy (e.g., Hip! Hip! Hooray with Nat M. Wills, Toto et al, 1915-1916), and out-and-out vaudeville and venues like the Palace. He starred at the Metropolitan Opera from 19119 to 1924. Throughout the last years of the twenties, he strictly toured in vaudeville.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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