Patric Schmid

Co-founder of Opera Rara


Patric Schmid, operatic music director: born Eagle Path, Texas 12 April 1944; died London 6 November 2005.

It is 35 years since Patric Schmid, with his fellow American Don White, created Opera Rara. Originally intended to promote concert performances of rare Donizetti and other bel canto operas of the first half of the 19th century, which had been a passionate addiction of his since boyhood, Opera Rara became a recording label that greatly enriched the repertory of operas on disc with works by Meyerbeer, Mayr and Mercadante, as well as Rossini, Donizetti and Offenbach. Schmid also spent 10 years as artistic director of Opera Northern Ireland, which gave him the opportunity of working with the more popular operas of Puccini, Verdi and Gounod.

Schmid was born in Texas in 1944, but his father was in the US Air Force and the family was continually on the move. Eventually they settled in the Sacramento Valley in California. When he was about 15 he heard his first excerpt from opera, Maria Callas singing "Casta diva" from Bellini's Norma, and was bowled over. However, he did not hear a live opera until he went to study at San Francisco State College. Then he heard Joan Sutherland in I puritani and La sonnambula. In 1968 he went to Seattle to hear her in Don Giovanni. It was Sutherland who suggested he might work in opera, and introduced him to Don White.

Schmid had written to William Ashbrook, the Donizetti expert, a few years previously to ask how he might learn more about the composer. Ashbrook replied: "Go to Italy!" Schmid didn't until 1970, when he finally visited Bergamo, Donizetti's birthplace. White was working in an advertising agency in London, and there, in his small house in Islington, they set up Opera Rara. Schmid spent a great deal of time in libraries in Italy and France tracking down scores and photographing manuscripts. Opera Rara gave its first concert, devoted to Mercadante, at the Wigmore Hall on 17 December 1970, the centenary of the composer's death.

The following year Opera Rara gave another concert, this time of extracts from the operas of Simone Mayr. Then in 1972 there was a concert performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall of a whole opera, Meyerbeer's last Italian opera, Il crociato in Egitto, in which the mezzo Patricia Kern sang Armando d'Orville, the Crusader of the title (originally a role for castrato). Il crociato was very successful and was followed by performances of Mayr's Medea in Corinto and Donizetti's Maria Padilla (1973) and Maria di Rudenz (1974), all at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Meanwhile Opera Rara had begun staging operas for the Camden Festival at the Collegiate Theatre.

First came Donizetti's farce Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, translated as The Prima Donna's Mother in Drag, given as a late-night show with a riotous central performance by Michael Aspinall. In 1973 the Opera Rara contribution to the Camden Festival was an even greater triumph: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe, translated by Don White with some splendid jokes, including the immortal one-liner offered by the cannibals' cook, "Shepherds' pie with real shepherds."

In 1976 the American Bicentenary was celebrated by Opera Rara at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with Christopher Columbus, an entirely new opera with text by Don White and music by Offenbach from La Boîte au lait and other sources. This confection, though not quite so funny as Robinson Crusoe, was still very amusing, ending with Columbus discovering the Coca-Cola bean tree on Manhattan Island and becoming a multi-millionaire. In 1980 Christopher Columbus was performed at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, with apparent great success. Other concerts included Donizetti's Rosmunda d'Inghilterra and a Silver Jubilee concert at Sadler's Wells in 1977 of Donizetti's Kings and Queens of England - from Alfred the Great to Elizabeth I.

Schmid's years as director of Opera Northern Ireland were not without incident. I first met him in Belfast in April 1976 under somewhat dramatic circumstances. Arriving at my hotel, all I found was a smoking ruin. By the porter's lodge, miraculously still standing, a solitary figure was waiting to escort me to another hotel, outside the city. That year they gave La Bohème and Lucia di Lammermoor, in the ABC Cinema. The following year a car which might or might not have had a bomb in it was parked on the steps of the ABC, but was removed before the evening's excellent Rigoletto and the even better performance of Gounod's Faust the next day.

Opera Rara returned to the Camden Festival in 1981 with an interesting revival of Cimarosa's Gli Orazi e i Curiazi which was followed in 1982 by a double bill of Donizetti comic one-acters, Francesca di Foix and La romanziera, and in 1983 by Pacini's Maria Tudor. After that Opera Rara gave no more staged or concert performances for nearly 10 years. Instead it concentrated on issuing more and more recordings.

In the earlier recordings the standard of performance was variable. Some singers, such as the sopranos Yvonne Kenny and Eiddwen Harrhy, and the mezzo Della Jones, were excellent; some not so good. With the sponsorship of the Peter Moores Foundation, Opera Rara was able to engage first-rate artists - Renée Fleming in the title role of Rosmonda d'Inghilterra, Bruce Ford in Rossini's Otello. In 1989 Opera Rara's recording of Donizetti's Emilia di Liverpool was named the Best Opera Recording and Recording of the Year.

In 2002 Opera Rara began giving concert performances again. Rossini's Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra, featuring Jennifer Larmore and Bruce Ford, was given at the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, Meyerbeer's Margherita d'Anjou and Mercadante's Emma di Antiochia in the Royal Festival Hall. Donizetti's Pia de Tolomei, a particular interesting opera, conducted superbly by David Parry, as so many other of Opera Rara's performances have been, was sung at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004.

On Sunday a week ago, Donizetti's Il diluvio universale (an opera about the Flood) was given at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Patric Schmid was due to give a talk before the performance, but collapsed and died. Il diluvio was performed, as he certainly would have wished.

Elizabeth Forbes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition