Mario Valle

Although Mario Valle was a reasonably well-known singer at his time, this is quite a mystery.

Valle was a baritone with a very long career, always with itinerant opera companies: Carlo Rosa and Moody Manners in the UK (from 1909 onwards), Bracale and Castellano in Latin America, and primarily the San Carlo Opera Company all over North America, from 1919 to at least 1949 (in the last years of his career there, he was primarily a stage director, and sang only occasionally). He was Tonio in the very first operatic film, a 1931 US production of Pagliacci. He died in New York City in 1951 from leukemia.

The start of his career had been at a very young age as a chorister in the Vatican, from where he went to Spain first, and then, see above, to the UK. His date of birth (at an unknown location, but in Italy in any case) is given as 1892 by Roberto Marcocci, but that's a mistake: it was really 1882 (as per information from the Henry Y. Porter collection at Tufts University).

As far as recordings of Valle's voice, they would seem to be quite elusive: apart from that Pagliacci film, Roberto Marcocci once listed exactly one record by Valle, Largo al factotum and Vôtre toast on Rishell Record no. 3115. Whether any copies (of the film or of the Rishell disc) have been preserved, remains to be seen (or rather, heard).

Now what has all that to do with our tenor encyclopedia? Well, according to Marcocci, Valle used the name Mario Vail while in the UK; and he still did so in South America, when appearing with the Castellano Company at the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires in 1915: cf. the English-language Buenos Ayres Herald of July 2nd, 1915, for a review of "Mario Vail", and the August 3rd edition of the same newspaper for a (departing) steamship passenger list that includes a "Mario B. Valle" amongst opera singers such as Tina Poli-Randaccio, Aristide Anceschi and Pietro Gubellini, all of whom sang also in Santiago de Chile that same year, along with Valle (this time using his civic name).

And Roberto Bauer lists a Berliner Record (no. 52511) with a "Romanza" from Les pêcheurs de perles, made in Milan on July 5th, 1900, by a certain "Mario Vaite"; Bauer says that Vaite was a baritone, and that he also used the name – Mario Vail. So "Vaite" and Valle would have to be the same person, which is all the more probable as "Vaite" seems more Latvian than Italian, which would, on the other hand, be most incongruent with the first name Mario and the recording location Milan... so "Vaite" seems like a misspelling already before knowing anything about Mario Valle. I suppose this is one of the cases where somebody had a difficult time deciphering the handwriting of the responsible engineer in the recording logs, and so Valle may have become Vaite. (A gorgeous example of such a failed attempt at translating handwriting into print is to be found on a Lyrophon record in my possession: in Amsterdam, Silvano Isalberti recorded an all-but-unknown aria from Tosca, which goes by the semi-Italian, semi-Dutch title "Eluce van le Helle".)

Back to Mario "Vaite": Kelly knows the matrix number of his Berliner record (785 G), and says the "romanza" is – "Mi par d'udir ancora"! So did Mario Valle attempt at being a tenor at the tender age of 18? In order to figure out, we would need to hear the 1900 Berliner of "Mario Vaite", and preferably also either Valle's Rishell disc or his singing in the 1931 Pagliacci film. Please: if anybody happens to have either of these recordings, digitize and share them! And for the specific case of Berliner no. 52511, an Italian collector is willing to pay a princely price for that record; if you have it, and are willing to sell, please contact Historical Tenors, and you'll be duly connected with your prospective buyer.

Reference: Orlando Álvarez, Ópera en Chile, 2014

Go Home