Opera Rara is a British non-profit recording company, founded in the early 1970s by American Patric Schmidand Englishman Don White to promote concerts of rare and/or forgotten operas by bel canto era composers such as Italian composers Gaetano Donizetti, Giovanni Pacini, Saverio Mercadante, and Federico Ricci, as well as French composers of the 1830s forward such as Giacomo Meyerbeer.
The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
Bel canto —with several similar constructions —is a term with several meanings that relate to Italian singing.
The company's activities were later expanded to include the "Verdi Originals" series, which included the BBC's presentations of original versions of operas by Giuseppe Verdi which are better known in later, revised versions. An example of this group would be Verdi's Macbeth .
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.
Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name. Written for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, it was Verdi's tenth opera and premiered on 14 March 1847. Macbeth was the first Shakespeare play that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage. Almost twenty years later, Macbeth was revised and expanded in a French version and given in Paris on 19 April 1865.
For many years Opera Rara was sponsored heavily by the Peter Moores Foundation. In 2011 Stephen Revell, the managing director of Opera Rara announced that conductor Mark Elder would join as new artistic director.
Sir Peter Moores was a British businessman, art collector and philanthropist who was chairman of the Liverpool-based Littlewoods football pools and retailing business in the United Kingdom between 1977 and 1980..
Sir Mark Philip Elder is a British conductor. He is the music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England.
The label's first "complete" opera, Meyerbeer's Il crociato in Egitto , was performed in concert in 1972 and featured the soprano Janet Price. It was the work's first revival in over 100 years, and was of such great interest to record collectors that it was almost immediately issued by several "pirates". Donizetti's Maria Padilla (again featuring Price) followed soon afterwards.
Il crociato in Egitto is an opera in two acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer, with a libretto by Gaetano Rossi. It was first performed at La Fenice theatre, Venice on 7 March 1824. The part of Armando was sung by the famous castrato, Giovanni Battista Velluti; the opera was probably the last ever written to feature a castrato. It is the last of Meyerbeer's series of operas in Italian, and became the foundation of the composer's international success.
Janet Price is a Welsh soprano particularly associated with the 19th-century Italian bel canto repertory. She has been married to composer Adrian Beaumont since 1963.
Maria Padilla is a melodramma, or opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Gaetano Rossi and the composer wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's play. It premiered on 26 December 1841 at La Scala, Milan. The plot is loosely based on the historical figure María de Padilla, the mistress of Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile.
Other early concerts included Maria de Rudenz , Torquato Tasso , and Rosmonda d'Inghilterra (Donizetti), L'Etoile du Nord (Meyerbeer), as well as two Mercadante operas: Orazi e Curiazi and Virginia . All of these represented the first performances of these works in many years. Concert performances, leading to the issuance of recordings by the company, continue to be given at London's Southbank Centre with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Prominent amongst conductors of these works is David Parry and Mark Elder.
Maria de Rudenz is a dramma tragico, or tragic opera, in three parts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Salvadore Cammarano, based on "a piece of Gothic horror", La nonne sanglante by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Julien de Mallian, and The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. It premiered at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, on 30 January 1838.
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem Gerusalemme liberata, in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the Siege of Jerusalem. Tasso suffered from mental illness and died a few days before he was due to be crowned on the Capitoline Hill as the king of poets by the Pope. His work was widely translated and adapted, and until the beginning of the 20th century, he remained one of the most widely read poets in Europe.
Rosmonda d'Inghilterra is a melodramma or opera in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Felice Romani originally for Coccia's Rosmunda (1829). It is based on the legend of Rosamund Clifford.
In 1977, Opera Rara issued its first recording of Donizetti's Ugo, conte di Parigi , with a cast including Janet Price, Yvonne Kenny, Della Jones, and Christian du Plessis.
Ugo, conte di Parigi is a tragedia lirica, or tragic opera, in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after Hippolyte-Louis-Florent Bis's Blanche d'Aquitaine. It premiered on 13 March 1832 at La Scala, Milan.
Yvonne Kenny AM is an Australian soprano, particularly associated with Handel and Mozart roles.
Della Jones, is a Welsh mezzo-soprano, particularly well known for her interpretations of works by Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and Britten.
Other singers who have participated in Opera Rara's recordings include Renée Fleming, Jennifer Larmore, Joyce El-Khoury, Angela Meade, Nelly Miricioiu, Vesselina Kasarova, Chris Merritt, Marco Lazzara, Mark Stone, James Westman, Bruce Ford, and Anthony Michaels-Moore.
In March 2014, Opera Rara celebrated its 50th complete opera recording with the release of Donizetti’s Rita (Deux hommes et une femme). Conducted by Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder, Rita was the first studio recording of the newly restored critical edition of the score.
The label's biggest contribution to classical recordings is the large number of "world premiere recordings" in their catalogue. Listed by composer, these include:
The recordings indicated by one asterisk (*) are excerpts.
The recordings indicated by two asterisks (**) are technically not world premiere recordings, since they had been performed earlier by Opera Rara, and these earlier performances were issued by pirates. However, they are included in this list since the world premiere recording is still an Opera Rara performance.
Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante was an Italian composer, particularly of operas. While Mercadante may not have retained the international celebrity of Gaetano Donizetti or Gioachino Rossini beyond his own lifetime, he composed as prolific a number of works as either; and his development of operatic structures, melodic styles and orchestration contributed significantly to the foundations upon which Giuseppe Verdi built his dramatic technique.
Giovanni Pacini was an Italian composer, best known for his operas. Pacini was born in Catania, Sicily, the son of the buffo Luigi Pacini, who was to appear in the premieres of many of Giovanni's operas. The family was of Tuscan origin, and just happened to be in Catania when the composer was born.
Felice Romani was an Italian poet and scholar of literature and mythology who wrote many librettos for the opera composers Donizetti and Bellini. Romani was considered the finest Italian librettist between Metastasio and Boito.
Patrizia Ciofi is an Italian operatic coloratura soprano.
Salvadore Cammarano was a prolific Italian librettist and playwright perhaps best known for writing the text of Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) for Gaetano Donizetti.
Gabriella di Vergy is an opera seria in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti written in 1826 and revised in 1838, from a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, which was based on the tragedy Gabrielle de Vergy (1777) by Dormont De Belloy. Prior to that, the play was itself inspired by two French medieval legends, Le châtelain de Coucy et la dame de Fayel and Le Roman de la chastelaine de Vergy.
Nelly Miricioiu is a Romanian-British operatic soprano singing a large repertoire ranging from bel canto to verismo.
Gaetano Rossi was an Italian opera librettist for several of the well-known bel canto-era composers including Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Saverio Mercadante in Italy and Giacomo Meyerbeer in one of his early Italian successes. Other composers with whom he worked included Simon Mayr, a composer and Donizetti's teacher, as well as the prolific Giovanni Pacini.
Bruce Ford is an American operatic tenor, particularly associated with Mozart roles and the bel canto repertory.
Domenico Reina was a Swiss bel canto tenor, notable for creating roles in the operas of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Saverio Mercadante, and other Italian composers.
Marco Arati was an Italian operatic bass active during the 1840s through the 1880s. Although he occasionally appeared at other opera houses in Italy, he was primarily committed to the Teatro di San Carlo where he sang roles for more than four decades. Even though he was one of the preeminent singers of his day, there is little known about his life.
Giovanni Battista Verger was an Italian operatic tenor and impresario. He particularly excelled in the operas of Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti.
Gaetano Fraschini was an Italian tenor. He created many roles in 19th century operas, including five composed by Giuseppe Verdi. His voice was "heroic ... with a baritonal quality, ... yet Verdi and Donizetti appreciated his ability to sing softly and with subtlety." An Italian biographer has pointed out Fraschini's role in extending the longevity of Donizetti's operas, while at the same time accelerating the ascent of Verdi's repertory. He was indeed the most prominent singer who facilitated the transition from Donizetti to Verdi. Fraschini sang over one hundred roles and Verdi placed him at the top of his favorite tenors' list and described him as a "natural Manrico" for his Il trovatore. Fraschini also played a pivotal role in the success of many operas by Pacini and Mercadante.
Marietta Sacchi was an Italian operatic soprano who had an active career during the 1820s and 1830s. She mainly performed in comprimario and soubrette roles, and appeared at most of Italy's major opera houses and at His Majesty's Theatre in London. She notably created roles in the world premieres of operas by Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Simon Mayr, Giovanni Pacini, Luigi Ricci, and Giuseppe Verdi. She also excelled in parts from the operas of Gioachino Rossini.
Teresa Ruggeri was an Italian operatic soprano who had an active career from the 1820s through the 1840s. In 1827 she portrayed the role of Zarele in the world premiere of Giovanni Pacini's Gli arabi nelle Gallie at La Scala in Milan. She performed in several more world premieres at that house, including Francisca in Gaetano Donizetti's Maria Padilla (1841), Anna in Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco (1842), and Viclinda in Verdi's I Lombardi alla prima crociata (1843). Other roles she performed at La Scala included Baroness Aspasia in Gioachino Rossini's La pietra del paragone (1829), Giannetta in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore (1835), Alisa in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (1839), The Marquise of Birkenfeld in La fille du régiment (1840), and Giovanna in Verdi's Ernani (1844) among others.
Giacomo Roppa was an Italian operatic tenor who was active career in Italy's most important opera houses from the 1830s through the 1850s. He also made appearances at the Liceu in Spain. He is best remembered for creating the role of Jacopo Foscari in the world premiere of Giuseppe Verdi's I due Foscari in 1844.
Adelaide Borghi-Mamo was an Italian operatic mezzo-soprano who had an active international career from the 1840s through the 1880s. She was married to tenor Michele Mamo and their daughter, soprano Erminia Borghi-Mamo, also had a successful singing career.