The collection dates primarily from 1847 to the present day, although there are some printed songs and scores of some of the English operas performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Some of these were amongst the material that survived in the theatre and formed part of ROH Collections, which were established after World War II. Other material has been acquired by purchase and gift, but the main body of the Music Collection comes from the Royal Opera House's Music Library.
Scores from the Music Library
Dating back to 1847, when the theatre became known as the Royal Italian Opera, this collection includes the music for the chorus, orchestra and principal singers for many of the operas performed during the late 19th and early 20th century; many full scores; and some prompters’ scores. As the record of a working opera house music library, the collection shows how music was adapted and arranged according to changing musical tastes: for example, Don Giovanni’s arias transposed for the tenor Mario. Some of the Meyerbeer scores contain autograph alterations by Meyerbeer, who came to London to supervise the first performances of his works at the Royal Italian Opera.
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House continued to use many of the parts when the theatre reopened in 1946. Some are still in use. For example, nineteenth-century parts for Wagner's The Ring were only replaced in 2004, 2005, and 2006 when new productions of the four Ring operas were premiered.
The bulk of the 19th and early 20th century music moved to ROH Collections in 1991, following the discovery of the autograph score of Elisabetta, an unknown opera by Donizetti. Scores continue to be added as the current Music Library replaces old parts and scores, and the collection now includes post-1946 material. Also in this collection are some 19th century ballet music, music for the circuses held at the Royal Opera House during the latter part of the 19th century, and films shown during the early years of the 20th century.
When the Sadler's Wells Ballet became the resident company at the Royal Opera House in 1946, it deposited some of its scores with the Music Library. Other scores were deposited with ROH Collections independently. For example, Ninette de Valois, Founder Director of The Royal Ballet, donated her private collection, which includes music for her performances in the 1920s and for some of her early ballets. Most significant among the autograph ballet scores are those of Constant Lambert, Founder Music Director of The Royal Ballet.
Use of the collection
The Music Collection has not yet been catalogued and therefore cannot be searched online. Researchers may nonetheless use the collection. Please contact ROH Collection as outlined on the Access to the Collections page.