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Rare opera films online

War Memorial Opera House, exterior

Richard Bonelli (1889-1980), an internationally-known baritone and noted voice teacher, performed frequently in San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s. The Richard Bonelli Collection, consisting of letters, photographs, programs, scores, scrapbooks, and other material, is available to researchers at the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound. Additionally, a number of commercial recordings featuring Bonelli may be consulted in the Archive, and several CD reissues may be borrowed from the Music Library.

In 2002, a grant from the National Film Preservation Board allowed for the digital preservation of two rare moving image compilations, filmed by Richard Bonelli's wife, Mona. The San Francisco Opera footage captures some of the first offerings of the Opera at the War Memorial Opera House, which opened in 1932. Footage includes performances, dress rehearsals, and backstage activities. The Metropolitan Opera footage was taken during the world premiere of Howard Hanson's only opera, Merry Mount, in February, 1934.

Appearing in the films are other great singers of the day, including Helen Gahagen, Beniamino Gigli, Claudia Muzio, Ezio Pinza, Elisabeth Rethberg, Tito Schipa, and Lawrence Tibbett (the featured performer in Merry Mount). 

We are pleased to make these films available to the public through our website. Many thanks to the Stanford Media Preservation Lab staff for their expert assistance in preparing the films for the web.

View the Richard Bonelli films here.