The Foyle Opera Rara Collection

The Foyle Opera Rara Collection

Now at the centre of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama’s special collections, the Foyle Opera Rara Collection is free to access and open to everyone. Reflecting the interests of Patric Schmid and Don White who founded Opera Rara in the early 1970s, the collection focuses on the great Italian bel canto tradition and features a wealth of material which provides a unique insight into opera production in the nineteenth century.

It includes an extensive collection of operatic manuscripts – many handwritten by the composers themselves, first and early editions of nineteenth-century opera scores, letters written by composers and singers, and a large array of other opera-related archival resources such as pictures, postcards, programmes, playbills, costume designs, and press cuttings.


What is Opera Rara?

Opera Rara is a UK-based opera company, founded by Patric Schmidt and Don White in the early 1970s. The company specialise in bringing rare and forgotten operas back to life. The Opera Rara catalogue comprises over 100 titles, including 60 complete opera recordings and their work has led to a fundamental revaluation of the reputation of Donizetti, Pacini, Offenbach and Mercadante, changing the way in which these composers are perceived internationally. More information can be found about Opera Rara on their website.


What is the Foyle Opera Rara Collection?

The collection was largely amassed by the founders who travelled through Europe, scouring music shops and book shops, collecting items they thought were interesting. Because of this, the collection is extremely varied. It includes:

  • early and first edition scores of nineteenth century operas
  • autograph manuscripts in the hands of Donizetti, Mercadante, Mayr, Pacini and others
  • early manuscript copies of whole scores and individual numbers
  • handwritten letters by nineteenth-century composers and singers
  • early libretti
  • artwork relating to opera
  • other opera-related memorabilia
  • Opera Rara’s own archives including performing scores and designs

How can the collection be accessed?

This collection is free to access and open to everyone. Whether you are a researcher, a singer, a musician former student, or a curious member of the public, they can be used to aid your research, answer a burning question, or to inspire creative projects.

Access is by appointment only, but if you are interested in seeing or finding out more about any of our collections, contact us by emailing (please give us at least a week’s notice). The scores are catalogued on the RWCMD library catalogue (the search can be modified to only include this collection by selecting it on the dropdown menu to the right of the search bar). The archive catalogues can be found on Archives Hub. Digitised items from this collection can be viewed on the RWCMD Archives Flickr page.



The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama was able to acquire the Opera Rara Collection following a major grant from the Foyle Foundation. The Foyle Foundation also generously funded the relocation of the collection and the employment of an archivist for the first year of the collection being in Cardiff. We are also grateful to the Colwinston Charitable Trust, which has funded work on the Collection, including its storage, cataloguing and care, as well as employing an archivist for a further year. Manuscripts from the Collection have been conserved thanks to a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, supported by the Welsh Government.