From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Théâtrophone ("the theatre phone") was a telephonic distribution system that allowed the subscribers to listen to opera and theatre performances over the telephone lines. The théâtrophone evolved from a Clément Ader invention, which was first demonstrated in 1881, in Paris. Subsequently, in 1890, the invention was commercialized by Compagnie du Théâtrophone, which continued to operate till 1932.
Similar systems elsewhere in Europe included Telefon Hírmondó (est. 1893) of Budapest and Electrophone of London (est. 1895). In the United States, the systems similar to théâtrophone were limited to one-off experiments. Erik Barnouw reported a concert by telephone that was organized in the summer of 1890; around 800 people at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga listened to a telephonic transmission of The Charge of the Light Brigade conducted at Madison Square Garden.
The Eça de Queiroz novel A Cidade e as Serras (1901) mentions the device as one of the many technological commodities available for the distraction of the upper classes.