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OBPS recently added the first of a two-phase project devoted to the opera and ballet scores of the Russian State Library (RUS-Mrg). The first phase consists primarily of non-Russian composers with the upcoming second phase highlighting works by Russian composers. The first includes many French, Italian, and German works in translation from Russian publishing houses, both domestic and foreign. Notable Russian publishers include A. Gutheil and P. Jurgenson in Moscow and M.P. Belaieff in Leipzig. Predictably, this first upload includes works by many Italian, French, and Austro-Germanic composers (Donizetti, Gounod, Mozart etc.) who are well represented in the OBPS database. Works in Polish by composers Stanisław Moniuszko, Karol Szymanowski, and Władysław Żeleński bring a more specialized diversity to the database. These nationalist composers exemplify Polish opera composition in the middle to late Romantic period. Scores of fifteen ballets have also been added to the database including works by Beethoven, Delibes, and Pugni, among others.
The University of Toronto has scanned more than 4,000 librettos from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and made them available through the Internet Archive. Those that fit the criteria of OBPS as operas, ballets, or other forms of dramatic music are now included in our index. The collection is almost exclusively Italian and dates from the late 17th century to the early 20th century. While the Italian repertory and its composers are represented extensively (for example, there are 260 librettos of works by Verdi and a little more for Rossini), there are also many translations from Italian productions of German and French works. The addition of more than 4,000 titles from the Fisher collection now brings the OPBS index to more than 23,000 items, approximately 17,000 of which are librettos.
OBPS now indexes close to 1,000 librettos from the Marandet collections at Warwick University. In the Warwick Digital Collections, the Marandet librettos are organized into four subsets: Ancien Régime Drama, Revolutionary Drama, Empire Period Drama, and Restoration Drama. The collection is an excellent representation of the French repertories from each period. The Warwick site includes many dramas without music that are not represented in OBPS. What is indexed in OBPS is especially rich in early French vaudeville.
We are excited to announce the addition of the Historic Performance Materials from the Bavarian State Opera to the OBPS Index. This fascinating collection comes from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) in Munich, Germany. The collection from the Staatstheater was transferred to the department of music of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in the 20th century. It contains important historical documents, opera scores, and libretti from performances dating back to the late 18th century. The collection is important for the glimpse it provides into the performance practices of the period.
Items indexed in this project included documents from Mozart’s Idomeneo that date back to the year of its premier. Also included are several examples of “mise en scène” which are direction books for a production with instructions on stage design and movement written in the director’s hand. A new type of document added to our index is the “souffleur part.” A less well-known profession in the opera field, the souffleur was responsible for feeding the words of the opera to singers in distress. These books are usually written in the hand of the souffleur (from the French verb to whisper) and are particularly well preserved. Another interesting document is a mise en scène for Wagner’s Das Rheingold, which contains a ledger of performers and their roles as they were performed in the Staatstheater from the year of the opera’s premier in 1869 until 1923.
If you look carefully, you will even find examples of humor hidden in some of the documents, providing an example of levity in the earlier productions of these operas (for example, see the violin I and piccolo parts for Die Feen by Wagner).
BYU recently completed a major project to scan a large collection of opera and ballet libretti acquired from Lisa Cox in 2009. The titles range from the mid 18th century to the early 20th century. While the majority of the titles correspond with Italian productions, many French and English sources are also represented. The synopsis for 222 ballets are especially noteworthy because they are rare and offer detailed explanations of the plots and elements of staging. This addition to the index now brings the libretti listings to a total of more than 1,300 titles. Indexing for other libretti from BYU holdings and an important collection from the Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles will appear in the index soon.
Researchers around the world are drawn to the Goethe University; a consortium of trailblazing research institutes located in Frankfurt, Germany. A prestigeous faculty of scholars together with advanced students, continually expand their canon of research. The numerous academic programs provide students with a wide variety of specialized majors, even within narrow fields, like music. These aspects of the University, combined with the 8 million-item university library, make it an prominent center of knowledge and creation.
In an effort to preserve and share their impressive collections, librarians at the University developed strategies to digitize many of their collections and have all ready made thousands of items available online through their Edocs Publications System. The Opera and Ballet Primary Source Index is pleased include the Goethe Libretto-Sammlung; 332 libretti of operas and ballets—mostly operas—for both prominent treasures and lesser-known works that have slipped from academic and performance notice. Even though the Bibliothek does not have an online reader like those used by other libraries with digitized materials, loading the pdf can arguably add more viewing control.
The libretti available are in German, in several instances, German translations of French and Italian operas, with the occasional libretto in English. Gaetano Donizetti’s tragic opera Belisario, for example, is an Italian opera, that was translated into German. These sources are valuable when juxtaposing different translations of an operas libretto. However, the undoubted “forte” of this collection is the libretti of German composers’ operas, which were revered and successful during their time, now preserved but little known today. Leo Blech, for example, was a prominent opera conductor in his day, with an impressive repertory including the works of Wagner and Verdi. He also found significant success as an opera composer. The libretto of his most popular opera Versiegelt, written by Richard Batka and Alexander Siegmund Pordes, is part of the Goethe Libretto-Sammlung.
Users should note some links in the collection appear to be broken; these items were still recorded in the index.
– Chelsea Hurst