Latest from the Blog

Russian State Library: Phase 1

  • October 9, 2015
  • by Andrew Neumayer

balaieff1OBPS 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.

OBPS Links to Stanford University’s Opening Night! Index

  • June 30, 2015
  • by David Day

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.39.18 PM OBPS is partnering with Stanford University’s Music Library by linking to Opening Night! Opera and Oratorio Premieres  wherever common works exists. Opening Night “is a cross-index of data for over 38,000 opera and oratorio premieres. Originally compiled by Richard Parrillo, entries include works that received a public performance between the years 1589-1995.” Unfortunately, we do not have a convenient way to automate the links, so they are being added to OPBS manually one title at a time. Currently about 6,000 titles are linked and we anticipate completing the task by September 2015. As we compare the two indexes we find many titles in OPBS that are not yet included in Opening Night. We hope all of these titles will eventually be added. We also hope that when we have completed the process of linking all possible records we will be able to automate the task of embedding reciprocal OBPS links into Opening Night.

More than 4,000 Librettos from the Thomas Fisher Collection Added to OBPS

  • June 19, 2015
  • by David Day

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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.

Marandet Librettos from Warwick Digital Collections Added to OPBS

  • June 16, 2015
  • by David Day

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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.

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

895 New Libretti Scans Added to OPBS

  • October 11, 2013
  • by

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.

Volunteers continue the work of scanning in Brussels

  • September 30, 2013
  • by

In a previous post, we highlighted the accomplishments of BYU students scanning in Brussels during the summer of 2013. We would like to share the spotlight with two fantastic volunteers, Catherine Hughes and Patrizia Rebulla, who are continuing the work this fall. They recently achieved an important milestone by completing a collection of scores and libretti made available from the Archives of the Théâtre de la Monnaie. This contribution added 127 additional scores and 91 libretti, mostly of opéra comique.

Catherine  is a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, currently living in Brussels for her dissertation research. She completed her B.A. in music and French at the College of the Holy Cross. During the 2007–2008 academic year she taught English in Bergerac, France. She completed her M.A. thesis on Verdi’s characterization of Germont in La Traviata. Her dissertation explores patterns of patronage of new music in Brussels between the World Wars. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Belgian American Educational Foundation, the Council for European Studies, the UNC Center for Global Initiatives, and the UNC Graduate School.

Patrizia has a master degree in History (Università Statale Milano, Italy) and in Digital Humanities (Trinity College, Dublin) and spent many years in the recording industry. She is the project manager of a multilingual website dedicated to Mozart’s correspondence ( and is now studying more closely the large archival funds dedicated to La Monnaie in Brussels. She is currently in the preliminary stages of a PhD program.
An enormous THANK YOU to both for their volunteer service to keep the project moving forward!

BYU Students Complete Another Successful Summer of Scanning in Belgium

  • September 20, 2013
  • by

Continuing the collaborative project of scanning opera and ballet materials begun in 2012, three BYU students recently completed a second summer of work in Belgium. This year’s effort was highly productive, resulting in more than one thousand new additions to the digital collection in just ten weeks.

The BYU students (left to right: Karli West, Elise Read, and Lindsey Lawson) all worked diligently forty hours each week. Karli and Elise are both voice majors in the BYU School of Music, and enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with these early primary sources related to their musical training. As a computer science major, Lindsey enjoyed the opportunity to explore the practical side of applying technology in advance research. She also benefitted from the experience of working closely with the technical side of the Internet Archive system.

Even after working forty hours each week, the students still found time to explore many of the nearby cultural highlights of Belgium. Professor Roland Van der Hoeven, eminent scholar of the history of the Théâtre de la Monnaie, generously hosted an excursion to Liège and Leuven. Other travel opportunities included short trips to Paris, Rome, and Venice.

New additions to the collection resulting from this summer’s activity include a collection for more than 550 libretti for 19th-century opera and vaudeville assembled at the Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles. The vaudeville libretti are especially interesting and will prove indispensible for research related to the large collection of vaudeville orchestral parts from the Théâtre de la Monnaie also held at the Archives de la Ville.

The collaborative aspect of this summer’s scanning continued with new additions from The Brussels Royal Conservatory and Antwerp Royal Conservatory. The Archive of the Théâtre de la Monnaie joined the collaboration as a new partner and facilitated scanning of more than one hundred and twenty opera scores, mostly representing the late 18th and early 19th-century opéra comique genre.

Libretto Collection of the Goethe University Added to the OBPS Index

  • April 22, 2013
  • by

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

Oboe illustrations in Dalayrac’s “Camille, ou Le Souterrain”

  • February 25, 2013
  • by Kira Woodfield Leeper

Among the many works by Dalayrac in the 0pera and ballet collection of the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Camille, ou Le Souterrain is of particular interest. It premiered in Paris, France on March 19, 1791 and in Brussels on April 25, 1792.

According to Oxford Music Online, Camille is one of Dalayrac’s most famous operas along with Raoul sire de Créqui , Nina, ou La Folle par amour, and Maison à vendre. The orchestral parts contain fascinating drawings by the orchestra members. Within the individual parts, there are many illustrations of the singer’s costumes, portraits of members in the orchestra, and drawings of the orchestral instruments.

The flute part contains an arguably accurate drawing of the principal oboist and his oboe. It is probable that the principal oboist who performed at the Brussels premiere in 1792 was using Gehring’s two-keyed oboe. In the history of the oboe, the 18th and early 19th centuries were periods of considerable evolution. This means that there are several models of oboes that could have been in use in 1792 when Camille was first premiered in Brussels.

Flautist's drawing

Gehring's two-keyed Oboe

Subtle differences between the drawing and the actual picture of the Gehring oboe could call the drawings classification into question. However, it is likely that these differences are simply inaccuracies, as the subsequent oboe model was not in circulation at the time of the premier and the preceding model’s shape differs drastically and utilizes fewer keys. According to Robert Howe, the Gehring oboe was in circulation around 1780, which would feasibly correspond with the 1792 premiere.

Howe suggests that due to difficult fingerings logistics, Gehring’s model played the best in the keys of C, F, and E flat, with the easiest scale being D major. The opera Camille, ou Le Souterrain starts out in a brief moment of B flat major. It then fluctuates between C, D, F and E flat for the rest of the piece, meaning that the oboe part would be a likely fit for Gehring’s oboe. Also, on this model, sharped notes required several cross fingerings, extreme pitch adjustment with the air and embouchure, and overblowing of lower tones to produce higher ones.  Because of these constraints, technical passages were rarely successful, causing the oboe to be used more often for longer, beautiful melodies. Camille’s oboe part suits the restrictions of the Gehring Oboe as it is made of mostly longer notes and phrases with only occasional eighth-notes.

Based on these specifications, along with the flautist’s drawing, it is probable that the principal oboist who performed at the premier of Camille, ou Le Souterrain was indeed using the Gehring two-keyed oboe.