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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.

 

NEWS

The Library of Congress in the US has made available scans of many librettos from this era. Several are duplicates of librettos available elsewhere but there are several for which this is the only source. Links to the different opera librettos (shown as "LoC") have been included on the librettos page.  Note that their system brings up the pages in such a way that the image progressively sharpens. Sometimes this can take some time and refreshing the page may help. The system also does not always bring up the image but it can usually be found by going to the gallery view.


Arcadian Opera are planning to perform Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers in October 2018.


Victorian Opera Northwest are looking for subscribers to help fund a recording of Cellier's Dorothy with Majella Cullagh and conducted by Richard Bonynge. See here for details.
 

A paper presented at the “Opéra sans Frontières: Musicians and Migration in a Globalised World” conference, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, 12 September, 2017, on George Herbert Rodwell's A Letter to the Musicians of Great Britain can be found here


Routledge have just published Kurt Gänzl's, Victorian Vocalists.  It's a collection of lively biographies of 100 Victorian singers from different countries and backgrounds but all of whom have some connection through singing opera (Italian and English) in London. Written in Kurt's inimitable, chatty style it is very readable and a mine of information although without references if you want to follow up on any point and without an index if you want to cross reference. The printed edition comes in at a hefty £185, although it is available from various sources at around £150. The e-book version is under £36.  The singers covered are listed here.


Earlier this year Routledge also published Benedict Taylor's Arthur Sullivan: A Musical Reappraisal 


Retrospect Opera have just released their recording of Solomon and Burnand's Pickwick . See here for details. This follows their well received recording of Ethel Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate, see here. The opera featured on BBC Radio 3's "Building a Library". The podcast can be found here. The opera is also being played on the BBC's Opera Matinee on Thursday, March 9 at 14.00 (UK time) - see here . It will be available there for 30 days after broadcast.


CRQ Editions have made available an off air recording of Balfe's The Bohemian Girl from a Covent Garden production broadcast on August 18, 1951. This was conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham using an edition put together by Dennis Arundel and himself with some altered text, inclusion of material from the French and German versions and recitatives rather than spoken dialogue. It suffers from sub hi fi sound but there are only a handful of places where the sound is particularly problematic. On the plus side, its origin as a staged performance together with Beecham's conducting gives it a flow and dynamism rarely encountered in Balfe performances today and no doubt stemmed partly from the fact that Beecham and his orchestra were still aware of the opera's performing tradition. The cast - Roberta Peters, Edith Coates, Anthony Marlowe, Murray Dickie, Jess Walters, Howell Glynne - are excellent and Peters, after a bit of an uncertain start and perhaps occasionally being over conscious of her English pronunciation, is superb.  It comes on a 3CD set, CRQ CD134/136.


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.

 



A 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.

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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