It’s not every day that an opera company turns your world upside down, but that was what happened to me. I remember vividly being handed the chunky Opera Rara four-disc set of Meyerbeer’s Il Crociato In Egittoand for the first time sitting down and really listening to an early 19th-century opera. Four hours and 43 minutes later, bel cantowas no longer just fluff and flummery, it was a thrilling world of drama and vocal dexterity. I was a convert, pouring over their catalogue and lapping up rediscovered gems by Rossini, Donizetti, Pacini, Mercadante and many others.

For Australian soprano Yvonne Kenny, who worked with the company over three decades, it was the same, though of course she came at it from a totally different perspective. “It was like a magical mystery tour through all these amazing operas,” she tells me over the telephone from London. “I knew nothing about the work of a lot of those composers, so they really did open up my whole world.”

Yvonne Kenny during the recording of Meyerbbeer’s Il...

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