This website is devoted to English opera, i.e. opera with an original English libretto, written during the Victorian Era
and which aspired to rival continental opera of the day.
The era can be divided into two. The first part covers 1834-1866, whose chief protagonist was Michael
William Balfe but in which other composers, such as John Barnett, Julius
Benedict, Edward Loder, George Alexander Macfarren and William Vincent
Wallace, also played a significant part. Many of their operas enjoyed
initial success but few managed to hold the stage until
century and even they had largely disappeared within
the first few decades. For them, Italian
opera was the main competitor. The second part, which
stretched from 1876 until 1901,
was a rather more disparate effort, often under the
aegis of the Carl Rosa Company, with, once again, some initial
success but ultimately failure to gain a hold in the repertoire.
Here the competition was more general with German opera,
primarily Wagner, becoming an increasingly important
focus is on composition and performance of Victorian
English opera in Britain and primarily in London, the
key centre of activity. However, pointers
to its history elsewhere are given on the Other
Guðrún Ólafsdóttir and Francisco
Javier Jáuregui have recorded a CD of English and Scottish Romantic Songs for voice and guitar ( EMEC Discos ). It is an interesting collection with unique examples
from lesser known English opera composers such as Barnett, De Pinna and Lee. Unfortunately, the recording is marred by the singer's distant and hollow acoustic.
The libretto for Mary á Beckett's Agnes Sorel has now been added. A list of sources, many online, for all English opera librettos between 1834 and 1870 can be found at Librettos.
Arnold Ian Smith has written a book entitled The Essence of Victorian Opera: The Unheroic and the Heroic Middle-Class Tastes and Mores (Edwin Mellen Press, 2014) in which he puts forward the thesis that the lack of impact
and persistence of English opera in the Victorian era was essentially due to the influence of middle class morality that shunned the heroic and overtly emotional. Unfortunately priced at around £150 ($250), this is not a casual purchase.
An article of the changing ways that female singers were titled in the first half of the 19th century can be found here and one on the later history of Barnett's The Mountain Sylph
Retrospect Opera are planning recordings of Loder's Raymond and Agnes and Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate while Victorian
Opera Northwest are planning to record Balfe's Satanella
Paul Rodmell has recently published a book that
covers in detail the last third of the Victorian
era in his Opera in the British
Isles, 1875-1918. (Farnham, UK:
Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2013)
collection of recordings and scores of some
early 19th century theatre, art and
popular songs is available at http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/douglass/music/index.html. A range of British and Irish music is available at https://www.mediafire.com/?yqrs5q7n92j17.
SOMM have released
a CD (SOMMCD
0131) of Wallace Songs sung by Sally
Silver with Richard Bonynge at the piano.
An excerpt from "Through the
pathless forest drear"
can be heard here
and from "Bird of the Wild
The Beauty Stone
This Chandos recording (CHAN 10794 (2))
with the BBC National Orchestra of
Wales under Rory Macdonald
is the first fully professional recording of the opera and features Elin
Manahan Thomas, Toby Spence, Rebecca Evans, Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Alan Opie.
for more details.
Music Trust are offering a
number of recordings of English Opera, both
Victorian (see here
for list) and 20th century, as well as opera
in English. They have just added the 1968
recording of Benedict's The Lily of Killarney.