Historic Performance Materials from the Bavarian State Opera

  • May 6, 2014
  • by David Day

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 It contains important historical documents, opera scores, and libretti from performances dating back to the late 18th century.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).

-Andrew Neumayer

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