Opera Rara is a London-based opera company and recording label which specialises in recording and performing forgotten operatic repertoire from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Founded in 1970 by bel canto enthusiasts Patric Schmid and Don White, Opera Rara's recordings are internationally distributed by Warner Classics. In September 2019, Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi succeeded Sir Mark Elder as Artistic Director.
Opera Rara launched in the 1970s with a series of concerts of 19th-century operatic arias performed at the Southbank Centre, St John’s Smith Square and Wigmore Hall in London. The company presented its first complete opera - Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto - in 1972 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, marking the first performance of the opera for more than 100 years. It subsequently performed at the Bath Festival, Camden Festival (where its first staged production was Donizetti’s Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali ) and Sadler’s Wells. A rise in pirated recordings broadcast by BBC Radio 3 of Opera Rara performances led to a decision to issue its own recordings. In 1978, it released its first: the world premiere studio recording of Donizetti’s Ugo, conte di Parigi starring Janet Price, Yvonne Kenny, Della Jones and Christian du Plessis. The opera itself had been reconstructed by Patric Schmid from the composer’s autograph manuscript.
In July 2018 Opera Rara gave the world premiere of Donizetti's L’Ange de Nisidain collaboration with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A live recording taken from those performances was released in March 2019. The score had been reconstructed over a period of eight years by Italian musicologist Candida Mantica. The first complete staging of L’Ange de Nisida was subsequently given at the 2019 Donizetti Festival in Bergamo.
The company has also performed and recorded works by other 19th-century composers, including Bellini, Massenet, Mayr, Mercadante, Meyerbeer, Pacini, Rossini and Ambroise Thomas. Under Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder (2011-2019), the company began to explore works by French composers of the same period including Gounod and Offenbach, as well as verismo operas from the turn of the 20th century.
In recent years, Opera Rara has given annual concert performances of operas either at London’s Barbican Centre or The Royal Festival Hall, usually preceded by a week–long recording in the studio. The company has collaborated the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hallé, Britten Sinfonia and London Philharmonic Orchestra; and with conductors David Parry, Maurizio Benini and Daniele Rustioni. Opera Rara has now worked with Royal Opera House, Covent Garden four times and in addition to past appearances at the Edinburgh International Festival, made its BBC Proms debut with Rossini's Semiramide in 2016.Opera Rara’s first international collaboration was in 2019 with the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Since 1970, Opera Rara has released over 100 recordings including 60 complete operas - many of which are world premiere recordings - an “Il Salotto” series, artist collections, highlights, anthologies and compilations. Its studio recordings have received awards from the International Opera Awards, International Classical Music Awards, Opus Klassik Awards, Edison Klassiek Awards and Oper! Awards.
Over the years, Opera Rara has established close relationships with a number of singers, including Bruce Ford, Colin Lee, Della Jones, Yvonne Kenny, Jennifer Larmore and Nelly Mircioiu in the early years, and in recent years, Joyce El-Khoury, Michael Spyres, Ermonela Jaho, Albina Shagimuratova and Daniela Barcellona. Opera Rara gave its Patron Renée Fleming her first recording opportunity in 1994 with the studio recording of Donizetti’s Rosmonda d’Inghilterra.
In 2020, Opera Rara announced a new relationship with the Italian publisher Casa Ricordi, making its 43 performing editions of operas available to rent to opera houses and festivals around the world.
The Opera Rara Music Library – now The Foyle Opera Rara Collection – moved to a permanent home at The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 2018. Comprising more than five thousand volumes, the Collection includes first and early editions of 19th-century Italian opera scores by composers such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Mayr, Mercadante, Pacini, Ponchielli, Leoncavallo and Mascagni.
Below are all the operas, listed by composer, which Opera Rara has produced complete recordings of. The recordings indicated by one asterisk (*) are world premiere recordings:
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, living 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.
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.
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.
Luigia Abbadia (1821–1896) was an Italian operatic mezzo-soprano known for her fine voice, secure technique, and a strong temperament. Possessing an uncommonly wide range, Abbadia sang several roles traditionally portrayed by sopranos in addition to roles from the mezzo-soprano repertoire.
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is an Italian opera singer. He has been called a bass-baritone, though he himself prefers the term basso cantabile.
Andrea Leone Tottola was a prolific Italian librettist, best known for his work with Gaetano Donizetti and Gioachino Rossini.
Michele Benedetti was an Italian bass particularly associated with Rossini roles.
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.
Giovanni Battista Verger was an Italian operatic tenor and impresario. He particularly excelled in the operas of Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti.
Elisa Orlandi (1811–1834) was an Italian opera singer who was active at major opera houses in Italy from 1829 until her sudden death in 1834. Possessing a wide vocal range with a significant amount of coloratura facility, she tackled roles from both the mezzo-soprano and soprano repertoires. She is best remembered today for portraying the role of Giovanna Seymour in the world premiere of Gaetano Donizetti's Anna Bolena in 1830.
L'ange de Nisida is an opera semiseria in four acts by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, from a libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz.
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.
Raffaele Ferlotti was an Italian operatic baritone who had an active international career from the 1830s through the 1860s. He was a regular performer in Italy's leading opera houses, especially La Scala, and created roles in several world premieres. On the international stage he performed in operas in Austria, England, France, and Spain.
Fanny Eckerlin (1802–1842) was an Italian mezzo-soprano who also sang contralto roles. During her career she was highly regarded, drawing favorable comparisons to Benedetta Rosmunda Pisaroni, but today she is remembered, if at all, for her association with the early career of Gaetano Donizetti, including creating the title role in his first publicly-performed opera, Enrico di Borgogna.
Jolanta Omilian, real name: Jolanta Omiljanowicz-Quattrini, is a Polish opera singer, soprano drammatico d'agilità, singing mainly belcanto and dramatic soprano parts.