Opera Rara

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Opera Rara is a British non-profit recording company, founded in the early 1970s by American Patric Schmid [1] [2] and Englishman Don White [3] 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. [4]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

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 artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

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 Verdi 19th-century Italian opera composer

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.

<i>Macbeth</i> (opera) opera by Giuseppe Verdi

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. [5]

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..

Mark Elder British conductor

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.

<i>Il crociato in Egitto</i> opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer

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.

<i>Maria Padilla</i> opera by Gaetano Donitetti

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.

<i>Maria de Rudenz</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

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 Italian poet

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.

<i>Rosmonda dInghilterra</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

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.

<i>Ugo, conte di Parigi</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

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.

World premiere recordings

The label's biggest contribution to classical recordings is the large number of "world premiere recordings" in their catalogue. Listed by composer, these include:











Jean-Baptiste Wekerlin

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.

See also

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  1. Elizabeth Forbes,"Obituary: Patric Schmid: Co-Founder of Opera Rara", The Independent (London), 14 November 2005
  2. Patrick O'Connor, "Patric Schmid: Impresario dedicated to the revival of bel canto operas", The Guardian, London, 15 November 2005
  3. Elizabeth Forbes, "Obituary: Don White", The Independent (London), 6 May 1995
  4. Patric Schmid, "Opera Rara and its Donizetti Recordings", in Bellotto (ed.), p. 419: "Since 1970 Opera Rara has been performing the operas of the nineteenth century. In those twenty-two years, we have revived operas by Mercadante, Offenbach, Pacini, and Meyerbeer."
  5. Interview in Spanish "Durante gran parte de la historia de Opera Rara, el sello se ha beneficiado de la filantropía de Peter Moores, hombre de negocios con 79 años a sus espaldas, quien ofreció a la entonces joven Joan Sutherland la cantidad de dinero necesaria para que interpretase roles de óperas desconocidas. Revell concluye que “con la desaparición del apoyo que nos otorgaba la Peter Moores Foundation, hemos tenido que reinventarnos para seguir llevando a cabo la visión de Patric. Necesitamos sobrevivir y desarrollarnos como una entidad de importancia, plena de salud y vigor.”"
  6. March, Penguin Guide, notes that "Unlike most Opera Rara issues, this one does not provide texts".
  7. Elizabeth Forbes, The Independent obituary: "an entirely new opera with text by Don White and music by Offenbach from La Boîte au lait and other sources".