When I was in college my roommate, Louie Capone, turned me on to opera and especially old Red Seal Victors. Louie had a huge collection. I collected quite a few myself. I found some real classics in junk stores. When Louie and I parted company (He went to the University of Florida where he earned a PhD in physics despite having only 5% vision in one eye and totally blind in the other)
The best of the bunch in my collection that I remember was a Riccardo Stracciari, I forget the song, but it was quite rare. The other was Caruso singing the bass aria, Vecchia Zimarra (Old Cloak), from La Boheme. It was not published, I believe, until the 1940’s. It was on some sort of red plastic, not unlike a 45, but it was played at 78 rpm. After Caruso recorded the aria he said “Maybe we better break him up.” Fortunately they didn’t. On the flip side of the record was the alto who sang Musetta telling the story. Here’s the description from the web site www.enricocaruso.dk
During a performance of La Boheme in Philadelphia, Segurola, the basso, who was about to sing the “Coat Song” (“Vecchia Zimarra” from La Boheme), turned to Caruso and whispered “I’ve lost my voice”. Caruso replied, “You just stand still and move your lips and I’ll sing it for you”. And so, with his back turned to the audience, Caruso sang the aria for Segurola. Segurola then acknowledged the cheers from the audience, who didn’t realize that it was Caruso who had done the singing.