The Opera Collection

The Music Library is one of the main North American centres housing resources for the study of pre-1800 opera. This collection contains over 2,200 volumes, primarily rare manuscripts and printed first editions of operas and libretti composed between 1597 and 1900.

Examples of component collections that have been purchased are:

  • Two catalogues of rare opera materials, acquired in 1971 and 1974 from Mr. Richard Macnutt, a prominent English dealer in antiquarian music. The collections date from 1597-1750 and 1751-1800 respectively. Purchase of these catalogues was made possible by a grant from the Office of the President of Western University and the Academic Development Fund. 
  • Selections from the Toulouse-Philidor Collection, formerly located at St. Michael's College Library, Tenbury, England. This purchase was made possible by financial aid from Western University's library system itself, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC), the Faculty of Music, and the New York State Chapter of the Alumni.

Portions of the collection have been examined and catalogued by graduate students in the Faculty of Music. The catalogue, Opera I-II (1979), describes contemporary editions and manuscripts from the initial Macnutt acquisitions. It was published by the Faculty of Music as the fourth volume of Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario: Opera I-II.

Two supplements have subsequently been prepared as theses. 

Music Library staff have made available a catalogue of 384 opera libretti. These libretti, ranging in date from 1764 to 1900, were created in conjunction with productions seen in Italy, France, and England.

Many works from the original Macnutt collections and the Toulouse-Philidor Collection are available on the Internet Archive.

Learn more about the Digitized Opera Collection