View Full Version : Looking for a good home: Opera Collection from 60s and 70s

2010-12-17, 11:25 AM
Not sure where to start with this...

My father-in-law loved opera and recorded & cataloged (index cards) hundreds of hours from the radio during the 60s-80s(?). We have hundreds of reel2reel tapes that we hate to toss - much love/work went into the collection.

Can anyone here point me or provide guidance on what to do with a collection like this?

Any thoughts would be appreciated

thank you

2010-12-17, 12:36 PM
ya might wanna contact the folks over at archive.org

wish i had the time and space to take on this project, sounds like an amazing collection!

2010-12-18, 06:29 AM
I'll head over to archive.org too, thank-you very much, AAR.oner

It is pretty amazing collection - A lot of Saturday Afternoon @<hidden> the Met, I think. My wife recalls her father listening and taping, jumping up to skip commercials and such. I'm guessing somewhere around 400 tapes - cataloged two ways (in recipe boxes/index cards). Lots of love, care and time went into this - I hope we can find a good home

2010-12-18, 11:15 AM
You might also try a local university's library or music department. My alma mater had a massive collection of classical & jazz recordings. Maybe even the Library of Congress, they do lots of preservation/archiving of music.

2010-12-18, 11:50 AM
Wouldn't that be problematic? I mean these recordings being bootlegs (probably) and the institutes you mention being 'official'?

2010-12-18, 02:15 PM
They are off-air recordings, not bootlegs. Given the length of time they span, some of them could easily be the only existing copies of the shows. No problem at all.

2010-12-18, 05:46 PM
Do you NEED to do anything with it?

Why not keep it in clean, dry conditions and really take your time over finding someone who really wants or needs it? It sounds like it could be real 'treasure trove' for someone like your father-in-law. Have you considered whether or not the Met might be interested? There may be performances in there that they've considered lost for years, by artists who may have passed away long ago...... There may be record labels that specialise in this. If you're feeling business-like, you may have the starting point for your own record label.

You could, of course, transfer it and torrent it here. mdshrk1 has made a vocation out of jazz and classics here.

Would you have the time or the inclination to transcribe the record cards into a format that could be circulated to interested parties? Word doc, text doc or similar?

It would also help others if you had some indication of what speed they were recorded at, what track config they have (2 or 4 track), what size of reels they are on, and crucially - what tape type. There's serious issues with Ampex tape of a certain era, and you may find these to be unrecoverable

2010-12-18, 08:40 PM
Interesting topic,

Google the 'Savory Collection', take a read of something special re recordings from the 30's and 40's. A story that this one resembles.....

From the NY Times




Once you read this you might change your mind.

2010-12-18, 11:02 PM
No real NEED to do anything, just offered to research options for my Mother-in-Law. I'll attempt to contact some of the suggested sites/institutions suggested here.

I'll also take a look at the tapes to see if I can gather more info on tracks speed and such, perhaps attempt to sample a few if the player works. I'll take a closer look at the indexes too - see if I can better describe the collection.

Thank you for all the suggestions

2010-12-19, 02:41 AM
That is nice of you to offer up the collection.
You're a good dude - Merry Christmas!! :icon_hug:


2010-12-19, 04:22 AM
"After making the recordings, Mr. Savory, who had an eccentric, secretive streak, zealously guarded access to his collection, allowing only a few select tracks by his friend Benny Goodman to be released commercially. "

Does this remind anyone of anyone....?

2010-12-19, 05:12 AM
Jan 2010 saw the 100-year anniversary of radio broadcasting from the Met - I don't know if they dug out any recordings for the event, but that would have been an ideal time to approach them with your collection.... they may still be interested, though.






2010-12-19, 05:25 AM
I'll also take a look at the tapes to see if I can gather more info on tracks speed and such, perhaps attempt to sample a few if the player works.

"The Player" = the original recorder that he used? This may give some clue as to the type of tape - make/model, sometimes speed and track configuration are specified on front panel, sometimes on the rear.

Take great care with the tapes. It may be best to spool them backwards and forwards prior to playing. You might want to investigate if you can do this on your machine without 'lacing' the tape via the headblock, to reduce any wear on the tape. I routinely do this with my tapes from the late 1970s, which are showing signs of their age.

Ask here or PM me if you want to discuss more.

2010-12-20, 06:51 PM
Not sure if it is the original, but (probably) the last deck used by my father-in-law is in the basement with the tapes - I think it's an AKAI. The deck and and tapes are a few hours from here, so I will bring some of this home the next time we visit. I'll post more details and start transcribing and sharing the contents of index cards somewhere online ... I have a feeling that the gang on this forum will let me know if collection is worth it!

I suppose I'd also need to find a local stereo shop to check and clean the tape deck since it has been in storage for >20 years with the tapes. I have a usb/RCA-Jack gizmo for the computer that can probably be used to digitalize a sample. Hmmmm ... this is beginning to feel like a hobby!?!

Regardless how this all pans out - I truly appreciate the feedback and encouragement here. My mother-in-law has no idea what an 'online forum' is, but is tickled that the discussion is going on. Thank you all for that!

Merry Christmas

2010-12-20, 09:12 PM
keep us posted, this sounds like an amazing archive of a genre that isn't covered nearly as well as rock & pop has been

let us know the deck make/model as well, there are some excellent resources out there for repair &/or maintenance

2010-12-21, 03:00 AM
I'm sure you can find online guidance on how to clean it. Honestly, it's not rocket science.

Essentially, head cleaning fluid on a Q-tip, applied to certain strategic areas (not the rubber pinch wheel - there's special cleaner for that)

Again, ask here if you want some guidance. Don't just send it to a local dealer without any indication that they specialise in open-reel or have some credentials that they've dealt with servicing them before.

When you power the deck up for the first time, run it for a bit without a tape in place. Select fast forward, rewind a few times. Select Play. Clean it thoroughly first, and frequently. I'll post more later.

2010-12-22, 11:08 PM
perhaps you can get in touch with this guy http://www.goodsoundclub.com/ It would definitely be a good home for them

2010-12-28, 11:08 AM
perhaps you can get in touch with this guy http://www.goodsoundclub.com/ It would definitely be a good home for them

From the site manifesto, it appears the owner is a Software Engineer with a weird rag-bag of kit festooned with cuddly toys.


Why him?

2011-04-26, 05:46 PM
I'm back .... It was a busy winter

Here's an update ... I brought the following home during our last visit
- The Deck: an AKAI 4000db
- one box of tapes (approx 50), according to tape #'s there are probably >300 total
- Index Cards - two recipe boxes (packed), one indexed by opera, the other by performer

Other observations
- no obvious indication of recording speed
- all appear to be on 7" reels - either 3600 or 2400 ft tapes (RCA, Scotch, 3M and Memorex in sample box).
- Tape labels or indexes card do seem to note Stereo recordings.
- Some tape boxes contain clippings from opera news or high fidelity magazine describing the recording (e.g. Article from 1975 Hi-Fi magazine that describes a 1960 RCA recording of Leonard Warren as Rigoletto).

I guess I'd like to first sample the tapes to make sure they're ok - perhaps convert one to wav file or something - as sanity check before I do too much transcribing of index cards.

Can someone direct me on testing/using AKAI deck and building a contraption to capture to PC, including recommended file format - wav? I have ability to capture from RCA Jacks - but not sure about the deck set up - e.g. amp and such.

2011-04-26, 09:36 PM
As to how to use it, you'll have to ask someone here that has a reel to reel. But as to "building a contraption to capture to PC" that's not really something you can build. You'll have to A: buy an audio card for a desktop computer that'll allow for high quality audio, B: buy an external device that will allow the same thing, or C: get someone you know to do it for you or borrow their equipment.

Basically you want something that will convert the analogue audio to digital with out making it sound different.

PS i looked up AKAI deck's and noticed some models had Dolby B noise reduction. If your deck has that, check to see if the tapes have any indication that it was used. If it was, flip it back on for playback and the signal should sound less noisy.

2011-05-07, 01:02 PM
The 4000DB is essentially the same as the 4000DS that I have a couple of rooms away.

It was a two-speed machine, 3.75 and 7.5 inches per second. Speed change is achieved by placing an outer sleeve on, or removing from the capstan. It's a four-track machine, so you could find the tapes recorded with an A and B side.

Line output should be two L/R RCA sockets. Connect these to the Line In on your PC or recording device. If you want to make a project out of it, can I suggest a different approach to recording to PC might be to invest in a professional Hard-disk/CDR Recorder such as an Alesis Masterlink, or similar Tascam machine?

If you need to know anything about the machine, please ask