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 It contains important historical documents, opera scores, and libretti from performances dating back to the late 18th century.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