Raymond and Agnes

Edward Loder | Raymond and Agnes

The most ambitious and impressive British opera from the mid-nineteenth century. A gloriously Gothic masterpiece, with a wicked Baron, a ghost, and an ill-treated heroine.


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“An overdue reparation to its forgotten composer, this lovingly-crafted recording is also a major milestone for 19th-century British opera”

Christopher Webber | Opera

“Richard Bonynge conducts the Royal Ballet Sinfonia with real sympathy, bringing out the melodic charm of the music and engaging us from beginning to end”

Robert Hugil | Planet Hugil

The middle decades of the nineteenth century saw the development of English Romantic opera, of which Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes of 1855 stands as the supreme example. Loder, ‘a German Student in music’ as he called himself, drew on the example of Carl Maria von Weber in this, his chef-d’œuvre, a passionate Gothic love story set long ago in a Romantic Germany of forest and castle. His dramatic command of Edward Fitzball’s emotionally turbulent and complex plot has been hailed as truly Verdian.

Agnes loves Raymond, but her guardian, the sinister Baron of Lindenberg, believes he must marry her to lift a curse which has afflicted his family for generations. When Raymond sets out to rescue her, dark secrets are revealed, and a train of startling events is set in motion that can only end in death.

The Recording

We are more than delighted to report that our landmark recording – with Richard Bonynge conducting the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and an array of wonderful soloists, headed by Mark Milhofer, Majella Cullagh and Andrew Greenan – was released in August 2018 and has had many superb reviews.

Richard is very well known as a conductor of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century opera in venues across the world, and has recorded over 50 complete operas. He is particularly known for his long-standing artistic collaboration with his late wife, the soprano Dame Joan Sutherland. Originally from Sydney, Richard was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year. Richard tells us how enormously impressed he is by the quality of Loder’s music.

Other soloists include Carolyn Dobbin as Madelina, Quentin Hayes as Antoni, Alessandro Fisher as Theodore, and Alexander Robin Baker as Francesco.

Raymond and Agnes

Until recently, the era of English Romantic Opera (1834–1867) was a closed book to all but a few historians and enthusiasts. It has begun to re-emerge with professional recordings of operas by such once celebrated composers as Michael William Balfe, George Alexander Macfarren, and William Vincent Wallace. But there is one opera that stands out from the rest: Edward James Loder’s Raymond and Agnes, premiered at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, in 1855 and revived at the St James’s Theatre, London, in 1859. Retrospect Opera is raising funds to record this supreme example of mid-nineteenth-century English opera.

On the occasion of the work’s last revival, at Cambridge in 1966, Nicholas Temperley concluded, ‘Loder’s musical and dramatic gifts were far more impressive than those of Balfe and Wallace. The music … maintains a high level of inspiration, variety, and continuity almost throughout. Loder reveals quite unexpected resources of harmony, while his orchestration is masterly; and he provides memorable tunes, both plain and ornate, when appropriate’ (Musical Times, April 1966).

Temperley’s view was supported by many of the critics who attended the Cambridge performances. ‘The music has the undeniable, unmistakable touch, not of a hack, but of a real composer,’ said Hugh Macdonald in the Cambridge News (3 May 1966). ‘In the second act the score develops a sustained dramatic attack that is all too rare in the annals of English opera’ (Peter Heyworth in The Observer, 9 May). ‘The opera made on me a strong impression—stronger even than I guessed at the time, for some of its music has gone on ‘haunting’ me; both several of the tunes, and the effect of the sustained, resourceful ensembles’ (Andrew Porter in The Musical Times, June 1966). ‘Loder’s melodies have been echoing through my mind since the performance; I long to hear them again. His orchestration is skilful, often imaginative. … Some of the choral scenes are first-class…, and the chorus when Raymond is arrested has a big, swinging, Verdian melody, richly harmonized. Both the duets for the lovers are strong stuff. And finest of all are the ensembles, notably the trio in the first finale and the quintet in the second—this last rather like Rossini’s Cenerentola quintet, beautifully written, catching the sensation of the situation to perfection’ (Stanley Sadie in Opera, July 1966).

Later opinions have been no less emphatic. ‘The sense of drama and depth of musical characterization is close to Verdi, especially in the magnificent confrontation between Raymond and Inigo in Act 2, and in the quintet ‘Lost! and in a dream’’ (Nigel Burton in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 1992). ‘Of all the operas of early Victorian Britain, there is one—to my mind at least—that stands out. In terms of musical characterisation, orchestral writing and dramatic impact, Raymond and Agnes by Edward Loder more than any other breaks the stranglehold of ballad, which smothered British opera for much of the nineteenth century, and comes far closer to the great Italian traditions of the day’ (Roderic Dunnett, BBC Radio 3, 13 February 1995). Charles Osborne wrote in Opera (June 2002): ‘I had not heard of [Loder] until 1966 when Eric Walter White … told me that Loder’s Raymond and Agnes was about to be staged in Cambridge and that, as a Verdi enthusiast, I should not miss it, for Loder was the English equivalent of early Verdi. … I was in the audience at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on that night in May 1966, and I was bowled over by Raymond and Agnes. Its intensity, and Loder’s gift for melody and musical characterization, were indeed Verdian and marvellously exciting. … I have, in fact, more than once attempted to alert the Royal Opera and English National Opera to the existence of Loder, an English composer who surely deserves to be promoted by English or British companies. … So far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. But the Loder revival, which will surely come one day, does not have to begin in London.’

The story of the opera is taken from an episode in Matthew Lewis’s classic Gothic novel The Monk (1796), which had already received several stage treatments by the time it was turned into a libretto by Edward Fitzball. It also includes elements of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre (1797). A story of true loved tested and triumphant along with an over-the-top melodramatic villain, incarceration, a sleep-walking scene, shooting, and a ghost, Raymond and Agnes actually shares many of the same elements as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, the most successful musical of modern times.

Edward Loder

Though a long neglected figure, there has been a recent surge of interest in Loder and his historical importance. This is clearly evidenced in the recent book of essays, Musicians of Bath and Beyond: Edward Loder (1809–1865) and his Family, edited by Nicholas Temperley (Boydell & Brewer, 2016). (There is an audio supplement to the book at Boydell & Brewer which includes examples of Loder’s music.) Loder’s life has been thoroughly researched by Andrew Lamb for Musicians of Bath and Beyond. Loder was born into a prominent family of Bath musicians. His father, John David Loder (c.1788–1846), was the leader of several Bath orchestras and later moved to London to lead the Philharmonic orchestra and a professor of violin at the RAM, as well as the author of the leading English violin instruction manual of the day. Edward showed early talent, and was sent to Germany to study with Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries. He tried to make his living as a composer and pianist, but was constantly in difficulties, and at one point was imprisoned for debt. Having moved from Bath to London, he gained some notice with the opera Nourjahad, which initiated a new phase in English opera when produced at Samuel J. Arnold’s English Opera House at London’s Lyceum Theatre in July 1834. He tried to make ends meet increasingly by composing popular songs and ballads. Of these, ‘The Brave Old Oak’ and ‘The Old House at Home’ enjoyed wide currency on both sides of the Atlantic.

In October 1846 his opera The Night Dancers, based on the Giselle story, was produced with significant success at the Princess’s Theatre, London, where Loder was by then musical director. Productions in New York and Sydney followed during 1847, and during Loder’s lifetime this opera continued to be considered the high point of his output. His move to Manchester in 1851 as musical director of the Theatre Royal may have been a mistake. The premiere of Raymond and Agnes there in 1855 was highly praised locally, but did not attract national attention, and in 1856 illness forced Loder to withdraw from further public engagements. The London revival of Raymond and Agnes in 1859 was so ‘contemptible,’ in the opinion of his friend and colleague Macfarren, that it had no chance of success. It was staged only four times. In the following year a revival of The Night Dancers by the Pyne-Harrison company at Covent Garden Theatre was performed twenty-six times; this would be the last time any opera of Loder’s scored a notable success in his lifetime. After several years of illness, including four years of paralysis, Loder died in April 1865 at age 55.

For a much fuller account of Edward James Loder, do read the article by Andrew Lamb, one of the contributors to the book about the Loder family mentioned above, at MusicWeb International

Loder Celebration 2015

The Loder Celebration 2015, from the 15th -18th October 2015, acknowledged the importance of an extraordinary family of musicians who lived in the city of Bath between 1770 and 1840.

There was a range of events – an exhibition, a Study Day, two lunchtime concerts and an evening concert – and as far as Retrospect Opera was concerned, it was the evening concert that was the most significant. It took place at the beautiful Assembly Rooms, and the second half of the concert was devoted to extracts from Loder’s Raymond and Agnes.  Donna Lennard sang the role of Agnes, John Colyn Gyaentey sang Raymond, and Joe Corbett sang the Baron – John and Joe replaced the scheduled soloists, at very short notice. The Bath Philharmonia played superbly, and many of the players said how much they enjoyed the music, and how Verdian it was. Jason Thornton conducted with aplomb, and the extracts were linked with a narrative given by two members of the Natural Theatre Company.

It was a treat to hear the music live, and the audience enjoyed it greatly. Some had heard the performance of the opera in Cambridge back in 1966 but of course for most, it was quite new. There are some pictures of the rehearsals for the concert, in Room 3 of the Photo Gallery, and also a few short extracts from the concert itself, in the Listening Gallery.

Loder | Raymond & Agnes

Music by Edward Loder (1809-1865) | Libretto by Edward Fitzball (1792-1873)

Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Conductor | Richard Bonynge

CD 1

1 | Overture

Act I
2 | Hunters’ Chorus
3 | Dialogue: And the handsome young cavalier
4 | Legendary Ballad (Madelina)
5 | Dialogue: They call themselves wolf-hunters
6 | Recitative: Now is the hour (Raymond)
7 | Air: Angels roam abroad tonight (Raymond)
8 | Scena: Sadly thro’ the lonely aisle (Agnes)
9 | Air: O Agnes, martyr fair (Agnes)
10 | Recitative: There she is, sweet dove
11 | Ballad: Oh well do I remember (Madelina)
12 | Recitative: Madelina, my sister
13 | Recitative, solo & duet: Agnes! A stranger!
14 | Melodramatic music
15 | Finale: Ever ’neath this hallowed dome
16 | Finale: Terzetto: Fly, ye weary moments, fly
17 | Finale: And now to Lindenberg depart!

Act II
18 | Duet: In the halls of ancient grandeur (Agnes, Raymond)
19 | Recitative: The Baron has requested
20 | Yes, it is All-Hallows’ Night
21 | Recitative: What a brave act
22 | Dialogue: How terribly sweet
23 | Scena: Recitative: Madrid! (Baron)
24 | Air: When others at the watchfire slept (Baron)

CD 2

Act II (cont’d)
1 | Dialogue: Your Lordship sent for me
2 | Duet: Pardon! The hand of Agnes.
3 | Romance: While yet in boyhood’s rosy morn (Raymond)
4 | And of thy mother hast thou never heard?
5 | Finale: Horror! It is now the hour
6 | Finale: O holy angel
7 | Finale: Saintly Agnes, deign to pardon (Agnes)
8 | Finale: A ghost! No, no
9 | Finale: Quintet: Lost, and in a dream
10 | Finale: Saint, whose shrine I have insulted
11 | Finale: Ah, trait’ress me betraying!

12 | Robbers’ chorus
13 | Melodramatic music & dialogue: Good boys! So peaceable!
14 | Men who with relentless hearts
15 | Music & dialogue: Charity! Charity!
16 | Ballad: Farewell, the forest and the plain (Raymond)
17 | Recitative: Despite resistance, in an hour at farthest
18 | Recitative: In vain I wander (Agnes)
19 | Aria: My Fairy Dream (Agnes)
20 | Chapel scene and dialogue: Agnes! Lady Agnes!
21 | Quartettino: Where the pearly dewdrop falleth
22 | Finale: All is silent
23 | Finale: Onward speeds our happy bark

Loder Friends | 3 anonymous donors | The Ida Carroll Trust | The Bernarr Rainbow Trust | The Sir Arthur Sullivan Society | The Wyfold Charitable Trust | Akiko Ashizu | Kaori Ashizu | Christine Clark | Andrew Clarke (Life Member) | Pam and Tony Dignum | John Farmer (Patron) | Brian and Avril Godfrey | Peter Graham (Life Member) | Dave Green (Life Member) | Peter Gregory | Siân Griffiths | David Harman (Life Member) | Michael Hartnall (Life Member) | Alex Hood | Andrew Lamb (Life Member) | John and Susie Oxlade | Maria Serafica (Life Member) | Nicholas Temperley (Patron) | Roger Turner (Life Member) | Judith Waddicor (Life Member)

Loder Angels | Elizabeth Cooper | Jacqueline Fujita | Carole Hooper | Øyvind Erik Jensen (Life Member) | Mark Lussier | Kaori Mizuno | Christopher Redwood | Julian Rushton | Michael Sharp | John Strachan | Martin T. Yates

Loder Sponsors  | 2 anonymous donors | Kenichi Akishino | Naoki Arizono | Andrew Ashbee | Allan Atlas | Stephen Banfield | Christina Bashford | Jos Carr | William Christie | Nym Cooke | Norman Croucher | Peter Dale | Jeremy Dibble | Therese Ellsworth | Giles Enders | David Golby | Lizie Goldwasser | Teiko Hatsui | Itsuyo Higashinaka | Dick Hill | Natsuko Hirakura | Peter Horton | Derek Hughes | Piet de Jong | Michael Jubb | Noriko Kato | Masayo Kobayashi | Corinne Langston and Desmond Scott | Ian Leslie and Valerie Lewis | Robert van Mackelenberg | Susan Murphy | Bruno Nettl | Howard and Jean Osborn | Joel Pace | Roger Parker | Deborah Pfuntner | David Punter | Paul Rodmell | Derek B. Scott | Christopher Simons | Janet Snowman | Ruth Solie | Tony Strangis | Julja Szuster | Michael Talbot | John Tyrrell | Dorothy de Val | Yoshimi Wajima | Dorothy Williams | David Wood

Loder Supporters | 4 anonymous donors | Michael Allis | Nahoko Miyamoto Alvey | Nick Barnard | Trevor Barr | George Biddlecombe | Paul Blake | Helen Boyles | Antonella Braida | Russell Burdekin | Frederick Burwick | Richard Carder | Philip Carli | Stephen Carter | Yoshico Cato | David Chambers | Hugh and Alison Chandler | Shun-liang Chao | Peter Cheyne | Eric Christen | Rachel Cowgill | Michael Crane | David Davies | Delius Society (Philadelphia) | Roderic Dunnett | John France | David Freedman | Christina Fuhrmann | Masako Fujie | Nick Fuller | Daniel Gallimore | Felicity Greenland | Harriet Guest | Eiichi Hara | Hiroshi Harata | Paul Hartle | Paul Harvey and Harumi Takemura | Ichiro Hayashi | Kunihiko Hayashi | Minae Hosokawa | Li-Hsin Hsu | The late Pat Hurst | Keiko Inokuma | Margaret Ives | Harry Johnstone | Nanako Konoshima Kanamori | Kazumi Kanatsu | Masumichi Kanaya | Misuzu Kanno | Yorimichi Kasahara | Hisaka Kato | Masae Kawatsu | Kathryn Kimball | Yuko Kitano | Hidemi Kobayashi | Ichiro Koguchi | Hugh J. Macdonald | Nick Manzi | Kyoko Matsuyama | Andrew Mayor | Charles McGuire | Alison Mero | Naomi Miki | Tomomi Minamoto | Keiko Miyakita | Nobuya Monta | Ken Nakagawa | Hisayo Nakashima | Noriko Naohara | Mariko Nishitani | Yoshiyuki Notohara | Kaz Oishi | Hiroki Okamoto | Alison Oliphant | Yu Onuma | Joseph Ortiz | Michael O’Shaughnessy | Peter Otto | Colin Oxenforth | Gordon Pullin | Richard and Mary Rolton | Matthew Rowney | Takao Saijo | Nobuyoshi Saito | Simon Sanada | Susan Sawyer | Lew and Josie Schneider | John Sheppard | Hiroko Shimazaki | Masaya Shimokusu | Matthew Spring | Mari Suzuki | Masashi and Mitsuko Suzuki | Fumie Tamai | Minne Tanaka | Ve-Yin Tee | Anthony Thorley | Emiko Toyoda | David Vallins | James Vigus | Ayako Wada | The Wagner Journal | Timothy Whelan | Christopher Wiley | Pamela Woof | Adrian Wright | Saeko Yoshikawa | Remembering Percy Young

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by Retrospect Opera | Work In Progress