OperaGlass Volunteer Information

To become anything like a useful reference service, OperaGlass will depend on the active participation of many individuals. If you are willing to write original synopses, enter libretti or sound files, or provide general reference information about operas or their creators, please let me know. I have provided some general guidelines below, and samples or templates of appropriate HTML files can be made available to you. You can use the form at the end of this page to register your interest, stake out a claim, or even refer me to an existing resource, or you can send email to rbogart@stanford.edu. Thank you for your interest and support!

Guidelines for Information Providers

Composer Information

I give their full names, which are sometimes long and interesting, and the time and place of birth and death (if applicable); for the many opera composers born during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when central Europe was in a state of tremendous political upheaval and reorganization, the name of the sovereign state into which they were born is also sometimes revealing, and occasionally a challenge to determine. A complete list of their operas is of course indispensable. The information on each opera should be confined to what can fit on a line or two: full name, date and place of premiere and/or composition, other names under which it was performed, and special information denoting revisions, fragments, lost works, etc. More detailed information on individual operas should be provided on their own pages, for which a URL may need to be provided. What you choose to include in the list of operas may be a matter of taste, since the definition of opera gets fuzzy around the edges: operettas, children's operas, musicals, dramatic oratorios, and incidental music to plays are all candidates for inclusion, possibly in a separate list (see Mozart for example). I believe that it is better to err on the side of too many rather than too few. Pictures are space- and time-consuming, and OperaGlass is very text-oriented, but a few high-quality portraits or illustrations may be acceptable, particularly if they are of historic interest and hard to find elsewhere. Sources (painters, galleries) and subject matter should be identified if possible. Finally, the names of a few detailed and comprehensive reference works on the composer or especially the composer's operas are very desirable, especially the names of the works from which you got your information.

What goes for composers of course also goes for librettists.

The Template for a composer main page provides a format for including all the information above in a consistent appearance (whether it is pleasing is a matter of taste). Of course you need not restrict yourself. Short (or long) biographies are welcome as additional pages, provided that they are original.

Opera Information

For each opera described in OperaGlass, I would like to provide:

The performance history should include premieres in various states and at major opera houses. An obvious place to start is Loewenberg's Annals of Opera. There are also reference works on individual companies, such as the Metropolitan Opera Annals. This is one area where individual tidbits of information from people in a position to ferret them out are vital in fleshing out the information provided (``The first performance of X at the Y Opera was on...''). Cast lists for very important primi are also desirable.

Informative and entertaining background information on individual operas, such as might appear in a program book, is more than welcome. This is a good place to make actual sources (e.g. plays, novels, poems) available. Historical context and critical analysis of the opera are both appropriate, provided that they are original.

Plot synopses serve many purposes, and they can be as compact or as detailed as you see fit. If we get multiple submissions, I will be happy to provide multiple pointers. There are hundreds if not thousands of published anthologies of opera plots on the market; why not on the Web? One feature for which HTML is particularly well suited is cross referencing to other media, so if you want to include musical examples as sound files or illustrations of sets as images, that is great! Just the usual word of caution: synopses must be original.

Opera Libretti

If you are planning to provide an opera libretto, you should consider the following problems: It is clearly very important to provide opera libretti in their original languages, the languages adopted for the majority of performances world-wide, for the sake of listeners, performers, and students. Also the original language texts will be the oldest available, and so most likely to be in the public domain. Some operas of course have definitive texts in more than one language (Donizetti's La Favorita for example). In such cases all definitive versions are desirable. Beyond that, there is a continuing demand on the part of our readers for translations into other languages, particularly English. This gets sticky. Most published translations are under copyright protection. Nineteenth-century translations, at least into English, tend on the whole to be of rather poor quality in terms of accuracy, fidelity to the musical line, and literary quality. (All translations are bound to fail to meet at least one of these criteria!) If you can find a high-quality public-domain translation, or if you are willing to provide your own translations with permission, those contributions are more than welcome. You need to decide what your goal is. In terms of accuracy, a highly detailed plot synopsis may be preferable to a translation in libretto format: I have tried to provide an example of such a virtual translation with the synopsis to Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Good singing translations are useful primarily to performers; they are also gold in the pockets of their authors and publishers, who would probably not wish to be deprived of this source of income from a rather limited clientele! As guides to realization, libretti contain descriptive text beyond what is sung in performance. Titles, dedications, prologues, arguments, dramatis personae, part identifiers, stage instructions, musical number titles, and, if you are working from a score, musical expressions all appear and may be of great, or little, importance. Use your judgement, but the general rule is: the more complete the better. You may also choose to include metatext, e.g. stage instructions, in a different language from that of the libretto itself. That is quite acceptable.


- Original language vs. translations: text, stage instructions, names
- Stage instructions and musical expressions
- Version: published libretto vs. sung text
- Representing chorus: vocal parts vs. roles
- Accented characters: ISO charset vs. HTML representations
Please do not use characters from extended character sets other than the
ISO-Latin-1 Character Set, as this is the only extended character set
guaranteed to be recognized by all browsers.  The use of the HTML entity
names is preferred to the use of numeric identifiers (e.g. ä rather
than ä).  Invalid extended character codes can be recognized by
having numeric values between 128 and 159.  They will be removed from
documents prior to posting, thus giving the documents a possibly different
appearance from what you intended.
- Formatting of text: poetic lines
- General formatting issues and browser dependencies
- Representing concurrently sung text, ensembles

Copyright Issues

I know nothing about copyright law as it affects text on the World Wide Web, except that it is a) undoubtedly supremely irrelevant, and b) undoubtedly in effect. The best way to skirt the issue, of course, is to make sure that everything you place on the Web is your own original work and bears your own copyright notice. This is not very helpful when your aim is making classic works by others available. If you restrict your efforts to the transcription from autograph copies of works that are more than a century old you are probably pretty safe.

Any informed legal advice on the subject will be prominently posted with suitable references. Meanwhile, I refer you to USENET Copyright FAQ's.

Mail Form for Volunteers

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Click here to . Thank you for your interest and participation!

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2 Nov 2004