Production shot of Opera Rara’s Il proscritto. Credit: Opera Rara
For cast lists, please visit the Opera Series Overview.
We are delighted to welcome Opera Rara to the 2023 WFMT Opera Series, presenting a restored and recovered version of Mercadante’s Il proscritto. Opera Rara is a unique combination of opera company, recording label, and live operatic archaeologist. The company searches for neglected operatic masterpieces and restores them to life for contemporary audiences to enjoy. Working with the best singers, conductors, orchestras, and musicologists, they are at the cutting edge of the opera world, leading the expansion of the repertoire and encouraging other opera companies to explore new and unknown rediscoveries.
When the world shut down in March 2020, the discovery online of Mercadante’s original autograph score of Il proscritto in the Naples Conservatory Library proved a lifeline for Opera Rara’s Artistic Director Carlo Rizzi. Set in Edinburgh at the time of Oliver Cromwell, Il proscritto had not been performed since its premiere in Naples in 1842. Rizzi galvanized Opera Rara to undertake the full restoration of the score and, two years later, with Ramón Vargas, Irene Roberts, Elizabeth DeShong, and Iván Ayón-Riva singing the four principal roles, Rizzi conducted Il proscritto in London.
Oper Rara’s Artistic Director Carlo Rizzi was appointed in 2019. Since then, he has recorded the original 1912 version of Leoncavallo’s Zingari as well as Il proscritto, whose discovery and restoration he championed. Internationally renowned soprano Renée Fleming, who made her recording debut with Opera Rara in 1994 in Donizetti’s Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, is Opera Rara’s Honorary Artist Patron. In 2022, marking Donizetti’s 225th birthday, Opera Rara announced Ermonela Jaho and Michael Spyres as Artist Ambassadors, commemorating their long and acclaimed work with the company.
Opera Rara’s catalog comprises over 100 titles, including more than 60 complete opera recordings. Their work has led to a fundamental revaluation of the reputation of composers such as Donizetti, Pacini, Offenbach, and Mercadante, changing the way in which these figures are perceived internationally.
2020 marked Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary—half a century of groundbreaking work. Their artistic success has been recognized through major awards. Over the past decade they have been awarded the International Opera Awards’s Best Opera Recording for Rossini’s Semiramide (2019), Donizetti’s Les Martyrs (2016), and Offenbach’s Fantasio (2015). They have received the International Classical Music Award for Semiramide (Best Opera, 2019) and for Ermonela Jaho’s debut recital album Anima Rara (Best Vocal Music Recording, 2021). They have also received Opus Klassik’s Best Recording for Semiramide (2019) and the OPER! Awards’s Best Recording for Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida (2019).
Recently, Opera Rara has launched a new initiative to broaden their reach to the United States through Friends of Opera Rara, a partnership with The Chapel & York US Foundation. More information about Friends of Opera Rara can be found here.
“Any lover of opera should be grateful for the existence of Opera Rara. I know the value of this work from my own experience recording Donizetti’s Rosmonda d’Inghilterra with them. Without Opera Rara, recordings like that just wouldn’t be made and countless musical treasures would remain essentially lost, unheard and unappreciated by contemporary and future audiences.” – Renée Fleming
“After 180 years, the piece was awakened to powerful effect by Rizzi, whose advocacy was both passionate and disciplined… As Malvina, Irene Roberts, offered singing of consistently creamy texture and refinement… Odoardo’s rip-roaring ‘Ah! Del giorno sanguinoso’ resulted in a deserved ovation for Elizabeth DeShong in breath-taking form. The mature and sympathetic expressivity of Ramón Vargas’s Giorgio was set against the youthful effusions of Arturo.” – Opera
“Musical archaeology is seldom as successful as this… Perhaps the true star of the evening, despite the presence of at least one major name amongst the singers, was Carlo Rizzi himself. His understanding of the score seemed to be one who had lived with this opera for decades (he obviously hasn’t); the way he handled the difficult corners between sections was impeccable… a most memorable evening.” – Seen and Heard International
“The Opera Rara company has recently been blowing the dust off parts of [Mercadante’s] output, and Il proscritto (“The Outlawed”), charmingly set in Scotland during the English Civil War, proved a most worthy rediscovery, especially when singers and musicians generated enough gusto, electricity and brute force to loosen the Barbican’s foundations. Look out for the forthcoming recording…” – The Times
“…spectacularly well delivered. Carlo Rizzi evidently knows every inch of the music, and conducted the excellent Britten Sinfonia with passion and a sense of committed ownership… Some rare opera revivals are worth hearing once; this one surely has a fighting chance of a new life, perhaps resounding at the Met in New York in one of those cleverly flashy stagings by David McVicar.” – The Daily Telegraph
About the Host:
Lisa Flynn has been a program host and producer for WFMT since 1991. She presents The New Releases and has hosted many programs for the WFMT Radio Network, including War Letters (which won the 2002 Peter Lisagor Award) and a series of live broadcasts from Salzburg to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006. As WFMT’s midday weekday announcer, Lisa hosts live studio performances and interviews guest artists including Renée Fleming, John Adams, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, John Eliot Gardiner, and many others. Before coming to Chicago, Lisa presented classical music at WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, and at WMFE and WUCF in Orlando, Florida. She holds a music degree from the University of Central Florida.
This program is a part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series, a series designed to complement the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to fill out the year with great Opera content. The series begins in June and lasts until December.