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This Just In: Vast Collection of 19th-Century Italian Opera Scores to Move to Wales

Opera Rara has announced the transfer of its Opera Rara Music Library to a new, permanent home at The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). Support for this move comes from The Foyle Foundation, which provided a sizable grant (its biggest for a project in Wales) to enable the library, which is currently based in London, to be transferred to RWCMD where it will be known as The Foyle Opera Rara Collection.

The collection contains more than five thousand volumes, which makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive such collections of first and early editions of 19th-century Italian opera scores in Europe. It contains popular and many forgotten works by popular composers such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, as well as works by forgotten composers like Mayr, Mercadante, Pacini, Ponchielli, Leoncavallo and Mascagni. It also contains autograph manuscripts in the hands of Donizetti, Mercadante and Pacini.

The college's Principal, Prof. Helena Gaunt, is quoted in the press release as being “hugely grateful to the Foyle Foundation in allowing us to provide The Foyle Opera Rara Collection with its new home in Wales at the Royal Welsh College, which will be available for academic and public access later next year. This generous gift is an important confirmation of the College’s continuing development, and brings with it an extensive and high-quality collection of historical scores and research material relating to opera, which will benefit generations of students and staff here, as well as the international academic community in this field.”

More to the point for music lovers: the acquisition funding will allow Opera Rara to invest in a five-year plan continuing their work in bringing the best of these unfairly neglected operas back to life at the highest levels possible. Today (Wednesday, 21 November) marks the first hearing in 120 years of the original one-act version of Puccini’s first stage work Le Willis (later called Le Villi in its two-act form) at the Royal Festival Hall; Opera Rara’s Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ermonela Jaho, Arsen Soghomonyan, Brian Mulligan and the Opera Rara Chorus.

The studio recording of Le Willis will be released in September 2019. In March 2019, Opera Rara will issue the world première recording of Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida – the company’s 25th Donizetti title! On 8 June, Opera Rara will present a concert performance, following a studio recording, of the rarely heard Il Paria, also by Donizetti, at the Barbican. The Britten Sinfonia will perform under Sir Mark Elder.

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