Maria Callas (1957)
© Archivio Storico Ricordi

The Ricordi Archive in Milan is expanding its freely accessible database at to include an extensive collection of photos relating to Italian opera history. A thousand photographs will initially be made available online in web-optimized resolution; the Archivio Storico Ricordi’s photo collection consisting of around 6,000 historical photographs is to be online in its entirety by the end of the year.

The process of digitizing the archive, which began in 2016 with the digital publication of around 13,500 historical costume drawings, stage designs and portraits and was expanded in subsequent years to include the extensive business correspondence and the magazine collection of the music publisher Casa Ricordi, reaches a new high point with the publication of the photo collection.

The collection, with oldest images dating back to the early days of photography in the mid-19th century, shows the stars of the Italian opera scene on the one hand. Besides photos of composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, there are also pictures of the world-famous soprano Romilda Pantaleoni as the first Desdemona, and of actress Sarah Bernhardt as Tosca di Sardou – the latter inspired Adolf Hohenstein to create the costumes and also the famous « Tosca » poster. On the other hand, there are postcards, carte-de-visites, collector’s editions, and photographs of sets, costumes, and performances. These photographs in particular give a detailed insight into the past of great opera houses and provide valuable information on the performance history of many operas that are still celebrated today.

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