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Researchers Discover Nearly 100 New Works by Donizetti

By Michael Vincent on April 24, 2023

Lost compositions by Italian opera composer to be showcased in London following a major discovery by a British Musicologist.

Up to 90 previously unknown songs by Gaetano Donizetti, one of classical music’s most celebrated composers, have been discovered by British musicologist Roger Parker. The lost 19th-century works will be performed for the first time in over 200 years over a series of concerts in London.

Parker, a professor of music at King’s College London, described the scores as “incredible” and on par with Donizetti’s most famous operas. Over two years, Parker tracked down the songs in archives and collections worldwide, including an Austrian monastery, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and archives in Naples and Bergamo.

The newly discovered songs include both French and Italian compositions, with some featuring additional instruments beyond voice and piano. Among the unknown French songs are “Quand je vis que j’étais trahie” (When I saw that I was betrayed) and “Oh! Ne me chasse pas” (Oh! Don’t shun me). There were also some Italian songs found in Austria include “Non v’è più barbaro” (There is nothing more barbarous).

Can we hear them?

Opera Rara, a London-based company dedicated to rediscovering forgotten vocal heritage from the 19th and early 20th centuries, will perform and record the songs as part of a major project marking the 225th anniversary of Donizetti’s birth. Over three years, the songs will be performed at London’s Wigmore Hall, with eight recordings planned.

Opera Rara’s chief executive, Henry Little, praised the “remarkable quality” of the new songs and lauded Parker’s “astonishing feat” in rediscovering and editing them for modern performance. The project features former artistic director Sir Mark Elder and soprano Renée Fleming.

Is there any more music to find?

Likely. In recent years, researchers have stumbled across quite a few musical treasures lost to time.

  • A previously unknown work for piano “Allegro in D” was found in a 160-page manuscript in Austria in 2018 by Mozart
  • In 2015, German researchers found a hidden aria by JS Bach that had been lost for about 300 years.
  • An overlooked work by Vivaldi related to the Stabat Mater was discovered in Dresden, Germany, in 2009.

Michael Vincent
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