Retrospect Opera

Great British Operas On Record

Our Patrons: John Farmer and Professor Nicholas Temperley


We are a small and new organisation devoted to recording 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century opera by British composers. Britain produced many great operas in those pre-Britten days, but very few are remembered today. We ask you to help us bring them to life again - you can find links to details of our present projects on the left. We're issuing the recordings on our own label. 

We've released two CDs. Pickwick was released in February 2017, and in March, BBC Radio 3 made our recording of Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (the first complete recording of the opera) the top selection in their weekly programme ‘Building a Library’. Opera magazine also made it their Disc of the Month in October 2016. Please click here to go to the Sales page; and click on 'What's New' in the left hand panel for more information. 

What the critics are saying about Pickwick and Cups and Saucers:

Solomon has an assured sense of theatre ... [his] most memorable tune is a lilting barcarolle (‘A Baker-Roll’) for Mrs Bardell and her erstwhile lover The Baker ... his word-setting is natural and unforced. ... The performers ... are very good indeed. ... Much devolves onto Simon Butteriss’s Pickwick, and this highly experienced Savoyard brings all his skills to bear ... His diction is faultless, his genteel late-Victorian comedy manners unfailingly polite, and he certainly conveys the sunny optimism of Dicken’s original. ...Grossmith packed some sharp dialogue and Thackeray-style social satire into the plot [of Cups and Saucers], as well as a handful of warmly charming parlour songs of his own. ... Butteriss simply channels Grossmith – it hardly feels like acting; and Gaynor [Keeble] is if anything more congenially cast as the pretentious social climber Mrs Worcester than as the more down-market Mrs Bardell. Stephen Higgins’s accompaniment is again nicely judged, bringing an almost Elgarian wistfulness to the General’s sentimental little solo ‘Fare thee well, a long farewell!’ (Christopher Webber,

What the critics said about The Boatswain’s Mate:  

“’s really The Boatswain’s Mate, bursting with cheekiness and fun, that stands out here. It’s a young cast, but giving us committed, accomplished performances, and the only chance we have to hear this little gem of an opera.” (Kate Kennedy, BBC Radio 3)

a must for any self-respecting Smyth collection or collection of British music.” (Andrew McGregor, quoting Kate Kennedy, BBC Radio 3)

... this beautifully presented premiere recording ... conducted with infectious brio by Odaline de la Martinez ... Nadine Benjamin’s creamy lyric soprano hits her musical marks in the scena and everywhere else ... high production values’ (Opera, October 2016). 

The recording quality of the music is ideal. The clarity of the singing is never in doubt. ... As a package this is exceptional. It is exactly how ‘revived’ operas should be presented.’ (MusicWeb International). 

'This recording, a wholly remarkable achievement, should be in the collection of everyone interested in British music. ... one cannot imagine it being better done.' (Musical Opinion Quarterly, Oct-Dec 2016).  

'... it’s wonderful to have The Boatswain in its first full recording ... superbly despatched by De La Martinez’s forces' (BBC Music Magazine, December 2016).

Please scroll down to read endorsements of what we’re doing.

“Go for it!”
Kurt Gänzl is the leading authority on the history of light musical theatre, the author of the near-legendary The British Musical Theatre and The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. Here’s what he has to say:

Go, go, go team! I get really aerated when I go on YouTube to listen to such huge British 19th-century operatic hits as ‘Bid me discourse’ and ‘Tell me, my heart’ and they’re not there. Minor and flopped ancient Italiana by the tumbrel-load … but where is the Bishop, the Wallace, the Barnett, the Loder, the Benedict, the Goring Thomas, the Mackenzie, the Stanford, the Smyth? … It’s been a kind of snobbism, I reckon. I am really glad to see that attitude finally fading. Go for it. You are needed.
"A Brilliant Idea..."
Dame Felicity Lott, the renowned soprano, is best known as a concert artist, and for her many operatic rôles. She has a particularly soft spot for British music, and we are very proud to receive her endorsement:

I think Retrospect Opera is a brilliant idea. What happened to all the British operas that were popular in their day but have disappeared almost without trace? I am sure there are some gems waiting to be discovered. Valerie Langfield introduced me to some beautiful arias by Balfe and there will be many more that we have never had a chance to hear and appreciate. This is such a worthwhile endeavour and I do hope it will receive support and the necessary funding.