Since 1978 Opera Rara has been recording the rarest of 19th century bel canto operas. Founded by Patric Schmid and Don White, this registered charity is probably the only recording company in the world that 'makes recordings purely for the love of, and enthusiasm for, this largely forgotten music.
The Observer
'The Opera Rara label, one of the quietly heroic enterprises, has rescued many forgotten 19th-century operas from obscurity, chiefly from the bel canto era, and making live performance a priority.'
To date Peter Moores Foundation has enabled Opera Rara to produce 43 bel canto operas, recitals by featured artists, the series Essential Opera Rara and Verdi Originals. To view Opera Rara's complete catalogue, visit:
Patric Schmid, Artistic Director, Opera Rara 1972- 2005
Patric Schmid was an indefatigable and inspirational champion of bel canto opera. He arrived in the UK from Texas in 1969 - encouraged by Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge to pursue his huge passion for bel canto opera - Donizetti in particular. In the ensuing 36 years, through his laid-back humour, lightly-worn knowledge and enthusiasm, Patric inspired, enlightened, cajoled, encouraged, whole shoals of people to share his interest and joy in the bel canto repertoire. Patric died whilst celebrating the twentieth opera by Donizetti to be recorded by Opera Rara - Il diluvio universale - just before a live performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 6 November 2005. Happily his legacy lives on in the on-going recording work of Opera Rara, under the stewardship of Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder and the dedicated Opera Rara team. Below are some insights Patric proffered - in his inimitable style - into the main composers in Opera Rara's catalogue.
'Opera must make people weep, shudder and die through singing.' wrote Sicilian-born composer Vincenzo Bellini. He created the most difficult role for a soprano - Norma. Verdi wrote of his 'long, long melodies, such as no one has ever written before'. This melodic style influenced Italian opera from Verdi through to Puccini.
'Research revealed a list of nearly 70 operas. All of those heroines with racy sounding names ... and few of them available. Donizetti was one of the first Italian composers to show real theatrical flair. But it was the way he wrote for voices that I found exciting - inspiring even.'
'Mayr was German by nationality but Italian by adoption. He was one of Italy's most respected composers, but possibly more importantly, he was the young Donizetti's illustrious teacher, after he helped found a music school, and, crucially, the link between Mozart and Rossini.'
'Mercadante's operas were received with the kind of enthusiasm we associate with successful Donizetti premieres. At his best he has what we think of as Verdian touches here and there. Or does it? Perhaps Verdi responded when he heard this music in the theatre.'
'The Italian operas are the fascinating part of his legacy not the French grand operas like Robert le Diable or Les Huguenots. In Italy, Meyerbeer was enthralled by Rossini's music (who isn't?). His reaction was not to imitate but to develop a style of his own.'
'Arguably Offenbach is best known for launching the can-can on an unsuspecting world but he is also responsible for Viennese Operetta which is based on his work.... delightful music invigorated here by Don White's witty and irreverent translations.'
'Pacini was hugely prolific. He wrote his first opera, Don Pomponio, while a teenager. In a very different way from Donizetti or Mercadante, the characters in Pacini's operas express themselves in quite individual vocal personalities. This makes for fine duet writing.'
'Rossini became the dominant force of Italian opera in the early nineteenth century. When remarkable singers, like Bruce Ford began to appear, to me this said one thing: Andrea Nozzari, one of Rossini's favourite tenors. Music written for him is recognisable by its intricacy and extraordinary compass.'
As much teacher as composer, he won the 1832 Grand Prix de Rome and went to Rome to study for three years. He became an ardent admirer of the Italian cantilena and melodic tradition. His opera, Mignon was one of the most successful operas in French history.
'Performed as they were originally heard, these BBC recordings of Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Les Vêpres Siciliennes, La Forza del Destino and Don Carlos will delight the Verdi specialist and general opera enthusiasts alike.'
Mozart - The Supreme Decorator
Opera Now
'This is a fascinating disc, exploring two aspects of Mozart's creativity... Splendid performances throughout from Montague, Cullagh and Futral, and excellent playing from the Hanover Band under Sir Charles Mackerras, who supplies the information notes:' 'It is appropriate to look into two aspects of Mozart's composition... ornamenting his own vocal music to heighten the expressiveness or the brilliance of an aria by the judicious addition of extra notes, effects and cadenzas. The other aspect... is that of Mozart the Borrower.'
A series dedicated to recording the highlights of the more neglected operas. Each opera is presented on one disc but with full libretto and English translation allowing the listener to place the selection, containing the heart or essence of a work, in context.
Yvonne Kenny:
'beautiful and agile lyric soprano' William Matteuzi:
'stratospheric, silky smooth singing' Bruce Ford:
'has few equals today in this kind of music'
22 October 2016