1948 - 1953

Cetra-Soria was an American opera label established in 1948 by Italian entrepreneur Dario Pellegrino Soria (1912—1980) and his wife Dorle Soria (former Jarmel). It was one of the world's first record companies to release full-length operas on LP format. Cetra-Soria exposed many unfamiliar Italian singers to North American audiences in the post-war era, and generally solidified the "golden standard" of quality and packaging for all contemporary opera labels.

Born and raised in Rome, Dario Soria immigrated to the United States in 1939, fleeting the Nazi occupation of Italy. He married Dorle Jarmel, publicity director of The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1942. Dorle worked with Arthur L. Judson, founder of Columbia Artists Management and Columbia Broadcasting System, since 1929. She most likely introduced Dario to Judson, and he worked as CBS programming director from 1943 till '48. An avid opera aficionado, Dario had been collecting records since WWII, and by September 1946, began importing the Italian label's Cetra 10" shellac catalog in States. Two years later, as Columbia's revolutionary 12" long-playing format broke through on the North American market, Dario realized its potential specifically for opera. (Up to this point, the only obvious way to hear complete operas at home was radio, as broadcasters utilized professional 16-inch 'transcription' 33⅓ RPM discs. Most consumer releases were 10" singles with just selected arias and excerpts. Entire albums were scant, as boxsets with up to sixteen discs got cumbersome and pricey; shellac is significantly heavier than vinyl).

In 1948, Dario established a new record company, Cetra-Soria Records, to re-release Cetra's broadcasting catalog (and subsequently, vast RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana archives) on long-playing albums. Cetra-Soria introduced innumerate Italian singers to overseas audiences: Ferruccio Tagliavini, Italo Tajo and Ebe Stignani among the earliest, and, perhaps most notably, Maria Callas; others include Pia Tassinari, Cloe Elmo, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Cesare Siepi, and Giacinto Prandelli. The label issued early Giuseppe Verdi's operas (practically unknown at the time) and less-exposed Giacomo Puccini work. Cetra-Soria's releases gained fame for impeccable production quality. Notably, they came with complete bi-lingual librettos in Italian and English; this layout subsequently became standard for all classical labels. (According to William Fense Weaver, one of the most authoritative operatic translators, Dorle J. Soria envisioned and insisted on printing such extended booklets.)

In 1953, when Dario Soria sold the label to Capitol Records, Cetra-Soria had the most extensive opera catalog on LP in the world. Capitol shut down the imprint sometime in the '60s and directly licensed and repressed Cetra's roster in the USA. (Not exclusively, however, since Everest also distributed some of their records since 1966).

Source: archives.nypl.org / worldradiohistory.com / 78discography.com