Bootleg Opera: Sounds and Identities in the Ehrenreich Recordings 1960s-2010s

Moeckli, Laura (8 July 2019). Bootleg Opera: Sounds and Identities in the Ehrenreich Recordings 1960s-2010s In: Agency and Identity in Music, IMS Intercongressional Symposium. Luzern. July 7–10, 2019.

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In typical testimonies of bootlegging practice in rock concerts, interviewees tend to describe their motivation for illicit recording as a dedication to the preservation of cultural heritage beyond the hegemony of record companies, concert venues and even artists themselves (Heylin 1995). Analogously, the opera enthusiast Leroy Allan Ehrenreich (1929-2016) could not have agreed more with this perspective. His collection comprising around 15’000 hours of private opera recordings from New York’s main opera venues (Met, NYCO, Carnegie Hall, Caramoor, etc.) was donated to the Bern University of the Arts (HKB) in 2017 with the specific request of making available for research any contents thereof which may be valuable for posterity. Among the many questions posed by this unusual collection, this paper focuses on the unique sounds of musical experience that enrich and enfold our understanding of operatic practices, identities and networks. The times, spaces, bodies and motions of New York opera feature tangibly on these tapes in the creaking seats, coughs, murmurs and applause as well as in the physical sounds of instrumentalists and singers performing. While such features are usually perceived as disturbing artefacts to be erased or minimized in commercial recordings, I argue that it is precisely in the unedited quality of these “high fidelity virtual sounds” (Clarke 2013) that the scientific and indeed artistic value of such otherwise imperfect recordings emerges. In addition, a prominent ‘noise’ heard on these tapes, the voice of Ehrenreich himself, often in conversation with friends, is considered as a(n) (a)typical voice of the NY opera-going public, a member of the marginal yet potentially influential network of opera bootleggers active during this time. Drawing on perspectives from sound studies, material and cultural studies as well as performance and recording studies, this paper explores some post-structural approaches to bootleg opera.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation


Moeckli, Laura


M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study




Laura Moeckli

Date Deposited:

29 Jan 2020 17:18

Last Modified:

20 Aug 2022 09:53

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