Opera Rara is a British non-profit recording company, founded in the early 1970s by American Patric Schmid and 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Ugo, conte di Parigi ORC1
- Gabriella di Vergy ORC3
- Ne m'oubliez pas ORC4
- Maria Padilla** ORC6
- Emilia di Liverpool ORC8
- L'assedio di Calais ORC9
- Rosmonda d'Inghilterra** ORC13
- Zoraida di Granata ORC17
- La romanzesca e l'uomo nero ORC19
- Francesca di Foix ORC28
- Belisario ORC 49
- Ginevra di Scozia ORC23
- Emma d'Antiochia ORC26
- I Normanni a Parigi* ORR249
- Maria Stuarda* ORR241
- Orazi e Curiazi** ORC12
- Zaira* ORR224
- Sofonisba* ORR237
- Ricciardo e Zoraide ORC14
- La Cour de Célimène ORC37
- La Laitière de Trianon chamber opera
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.
- Elizabeth Forbes,"Obituary: Patric Schmid: Co-Founder of Opera Rara", The Independent (London), 14 November 2005
- Patrick O'Connor, "Patric Schmid: Impresario dedicated to the revival of bel canto operas", The Guardian, London, 15 November 2005
- Elizabeth Forbes, "Obituary: Don White", The Independent (London), 6 May 1995
- 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."
- 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.”"
- March, Penguin Guide, notes that "Unlike most Opera Rara issues, this one does not provide texts".
- 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".
- Bellotto, Francesco (ed.), L'Opera Teatrale di Gaetano Donizetti: Atti del Convegno Internazionale Di Studio, Bergamo, 17-20 Settembre 1992 (Proceedings of the International Conference on the Operas of Gaetano Donizetti. Bergamo, 17–20 September 1992). Bergamo: Comune di Bergamo, 1993 ISBN 8875923930
- March, Ivan, The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs: Yearbook (2002/2003), Penguin Group, 2003ISBN 0140515305 ISBN 0-14-051530-5