Performance Library Cataloging | Music Matters, March 1, 2014

Orchestra parts, along with other scores, are segments of a special circulation cycle that reflect the stages of putting on an opera. A performance library requires shelving that allows for quick musicmatters031714access to multiple titles and versions of scores. In order to catalog these materials, the librarian must know the layers of variations and details of each orchestral work, as well as predict how they may be used now and in the future.

Circulation cycle

In the Metropolitan Opera Music Library, the circulation cycle reflects the following steps:

ARTISTIC PLANNING During this stage, the performance librarian researches the work’s background. If an opera company would like to perform Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo(s), the librarian would know that this opera was originally performed in French in five acts but later converted to an Italian opera in a four-act version that omits one act and a ballet. These two versions offer numerous options for artistic planning as a company may use material from both to form a hybrid work.

ACQUISITIONS Once the opera is chosen, the librarian delves into the library’s inventory and pulls available material. If the music is not in the public domain, it is acquired from a publisher for a rental fee and returned after the performance. If the music is under copyright, grand rights must be obtained from the copyright holder and, often, the music publisher as well.

PREPARATION A master list is created of cuts indicating what music will not be included, notes about other editions of the same work, corrections, and additional musical inserts. Although a specific edition of a piano-vocal score is chosen, the librarian must anticipate that a musician might unknowingly purchase an alternate version.

REHEARSALS Changes often occur during the rehearsal process for artistic or technical reasons. The revisions must be notated on all scores and parts.

POST-PERFORMANCE After the performance, the music is either returned to the publisher or returned to the library shelves. Some changes might have to be deleted at this stage if they would not be helpful for future performances.

Storage space

At the Metropolitan Opera Music Library, scores and parts are shelved for functionality. Scores and orchestra parts are laid flat because this position encourages the pages of music to stay open when in use. In an opera set, parts are shelved with their instrument groups in modern score order, i.e., how the instruments appear from top to bottom in an orchestral score.

An opera usually contains instruments from four groups—woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings. For convenience, parts from the same group are stacked together. In a nonperformance library setting, a bass and a bassoon would be shelved successively as their names are in alphabetical order. In the typical performance library, however, a bassoon would be shelved with the woodwinds and a bass with the strings.

Piano-vocal scores of the same work are stored together, regardless of language. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is also known as Le Nozze di Figaro and Die ­Hochzeit des Figaro. In the Metropolitan Opera reference collection, Le Nozze di Figaro is the main entry, and other titles of the same work are shelved with it. The Italian title was chosen as the predominant term because that is the most common language in which the opera is performed.

Cataloging concerns

The unique nature of opera scores necessitates a modified approach to cataloging. If a public or academic library patron asks for the piano-vocal score of Verdi’s Rigoletto, the librarian may find two copies of the work published by Universal Music Publishing Ricordi with the same title, composer, and shelf location. The only immediately discernible differences between the scores may be the date of publication and the barcode for inventory purposes, so the patron or librarian would choose a copy of the score without being aware of minute variations between them. Also, depending on how the patron plans to use the score, those differences may not matter.

But if the librarian is to prepare Rigoletto for production, more knowledge about the details of each score would be essential, since differences between scores can cause problems in a rehearsal. The Rigoletto score published by Ricordi in 2005 and the Schirmer edition published in 1930 are variant editions. In Act 3, Scene 18, of the Schirmer edition, a male chorus sings in the scene for eight bars, but in the Ricordi edition, there is no chorus. Though one may never know why these variations occur, they must be included in data to help the performance librarian anticipate such occurrences ahead of time. These variations can affect staging, costumes, rehearsals, technical elements, and budgeting.

In my next article, I will explain the method I have developed for cataloging these scores, plus I’ll share details about a special project I am working on at the Opera Orchestra of New York.

Tanisha Mitchell works at three New York City–area libraries—the Metropolitan Opera Library, Opera Orchestra of New York, and Freeport Memorial Library—and was a 2013 LJ Mover & Shaker. This is the second of four columns from Mitchell about working with music collections

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