Opera Rara is a British record label, founded in the early 1970s by American Patric Schmid and Englishman Don White to promote concerts of rare and/or forgotten operas by Giacomo Meyerbeer and Donizetti and such other bel canto composers as Giovanni Pacini, Saverio Mercadante, and Federico Ricci.
The label'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.
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, Nelly Miricioiu, Vesselina Kasarova, Chris Merritt, Marco Lazzara, Mark Stone, James Westman, Bruce Ford, and Anthony Michaels-Moore.
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:
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
- 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