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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 and is sometimes titled English Romantic Opera.  Its chief protagonist was Michael William Balfe but 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 the 20th 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, notably Wagner, becoming an increasingly important influence.

The 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 Centres page.



The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is giving a concert performance of Weber's Der Freischutz at the Royal Festival Hall on June 7, see here.  This opera was enormously influential on English opera of the Victorian era.

Naxos have just released Victorian Opera Northwest's recording of Balfe's Satanella on Naxos 8.660378-79. Satanella is sung by Sally Silver and the orchestra is conducted by Richard Bonynge, who also prepared the score. It includes just the musical numbers and not the dialogue.

cover  The Boydell Press has just published Musicians of Bath and Beyond: Edward Loder (1809-1865) and his Family, edited by Nicholas Temperley. It includes considerable material on Loder's operas and opera life in general at this time. See here.

A CD of Loder's piano music played by Ian Hobson is available on Toccato Classics (TOCC0322). The booklet with an excellent introductory article by Nicholas Temperley is available here.


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 guitar accompaniment, although well done, gives a certain uniformity of sound to the collection while the singing is not always idiomatic but the main drawback is that the recording is marred by the singer's distant and hollow acoustic.

The libretto for Joseph De Pinna's The Rose of the Alhambra and Mary á Beckett's Agnes Sorel have 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.

Retrospect Opera are planning recordings of Edward Loder's Raymond and Agnes and Ethel Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate.

A collection of recordings and scores of some early 19th century theatre, art and popular songs is available at

A range of British and Irish music is available at

The Oriel Music Trust are offering a number of recordings of English Opera, both Victorian (see here for list) and 20th century, as well as continental opera in English. They have just added the 1968 recording of Benedict's The Lily of Killarney.

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