Title graphic: Encyclopedia Entries
Opera and Opera Companies: 5

Increasing historic awareness produced a whole series of revivals of previously unknown pre-nineteenth-century operas - the Intimate Opera Company, formed in 1930 by Frederick Woodhouse for this purpose, was launched with Thomas Arne's 1760 opera Thomas and Sally. Subsequently, early English opera has been the speciality of the touring company Opera Restor'd, founded in 1985. The Handel Opera Society (1955; since 1977, Handel Opera), inspired by E. J. Dent, began its productions with Deidamia (in Dent's translation) and during its first twenty years of existence staged revivals of nearly the same number of Handel's operas, including Ariodante, Orlando and Theodora. Some university opera societies, too, have been enthusiastic to explore not only the byways of earlier opera but also of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century repertoire. Cambridge University Opera Society, for instance, staged within a few years such different operas as Smetana's The Kiss (1969, a revival), Dessau's The Trial of Lukullus (1970) and Philidor's Tom Jones (1971) (both British premieres).

Finally, dissatisfaction with the lack of enthusiasm shown by the main houses for promoting new British operas led to the formation of both the English Opera Group (1947) and the New Opera Company (1957). The former commissioned five operas from Britten, Berkeley's Ruth (1956), Walton's The Bear (1967) and Birtwistle's Punch and Judy (1968), among others; the latter, Arthur Benjamin's Tartuffe (1964), Gordon Crosse's Purgatory (1966), Musgrave's The Decision (1967), and Lutyens' Time Off? Not a Ghost of a Chance! (1972). By 1975, the New Opera Company had also staged fifteen British premieres of operas from abroad, including Schoenberg's Erwartung, Henze's Boulevard Solitude, Shostakovich's The Nose and Szymanowski's King Roger. In both companies, leading British singers took most of the roles - Janet Baker, Heather Harper, Owen Brannigan, Peter Pears, John Shirley-Quirk and Robert Tear appeared regularly with the English Opera Group. Indeed, since the Second World War a considerable number of British singers have pursued distinguished careers in opera, some, like Geraint Evans and Gwyneth Jones, elevated to international stardom.