Classical Cleanup #7 (?)

Is this a good time for it?


Why not? I’d like to see some more love for Opera…

I’ve been working a lot lately on Jacques Offenbach; Engelbert Humperdinck; Gaetano Donizetti which all look pretty good now IMHO. Now I’m cleaning up Giuseppe Verdi…

Other editors correcting, completing, commenting, improving what’s been done so far and what still needs to be done would be welcome


I’d be really interested in a detailed guide on how to handle opera, do you know if there is one somewhere? How to split them into subworks, how to handle performers especially. As an example, I have this release: and I would like to get it done properly from scratch.
Once this is clear, clearing up opera would be a good idea, as I feel like it’s especially challenging and work-intensive. There seems to be a clean-up effort already underway for Wagner by @alex_s7 .

I know there are no good rules for opera: this explains partly why I waited 10 years before taking to editing opera :wink:
Hopefully a “classical cleanup” effort for opera (Bellini? Massenet? Lortzing?) could result in more precise guidelines, in a better understanding what makes sense in an opera context and maybe in the more generic context of theatre.

So I started with a very pragmatic approach, checking covers, booklets, librettos and of course all the data already added.
Some of the things I started to do quite systematically, and sometimes correcting on existing data:
– Use the complete title (“Il dissoluto punito ossia Il Don Giovanni KV 527” or “Orpheus oder Die wunderbare Beständigkeit der Liebe” – with correct german capitalisation :wink: at Work level only.

At Recording level stay with the generic, common name (“Don Giovanni”, “Orpheus”). Add Acts and scenes, if possible, following for spelling the language of the libretto: (Don Giovanni: Atto I, scena 2; Orpheus: Akt I, Szene 2) (using Roman numerals for Act/Akt/acte/atto, arabic for scenes/Szenen/scènes/scenas). If track title then is a quote from the libretto use the typographically correct quotation marks (italian: “…”; french « : » etc.) Add, if known, the character names in round brackets.

So for track 2 on your example instead of
Orpheus Oder “Die Wunderbare Beständigkeit Der Liebe”: Act I, Scene 1, “Wie hart ist mir das Schicksal doch?” (Aria: Orasia) I would use “Orpheus: Akt I, Szene 2. Arie „Wie hart ist mir das Schicksal doch?” (Orasia)”

I am not aware of a single guideline for everything related to opera, but there are several separate MusicBrainzWiki pages, and a load of best practices followed by various editors.

Regarding documentation, I am aware only of one opera-specific guideline: All general style rules apply as well, of course.

The rest are just best practices I usually follow, maybe you may find them useful as well.


  • Name tracks as printed on the CD cover, only correcting obvious errors. Follow the guideline referenced above.

  • Assign the composer as an Artist to all tracks.


  • When splitting works on parts, preferrably do not rely on recordings of a particular release. Rely on catalogues or on score instead. is a very good source of scores. Catalogues for many classical composers may be found here: Try to google for a libretto.

  • If the score is not available, and the catalogue is either not available or is not detailed enough (i.e. does not show how to split an opera on parts), try to check several releases of the same opera. If all of them split on same sub-parts, apply the same splitting. But if different releases split on recordings differently, it is better to use larger parts (Acts or Scenes) and “partial recording” attribute.

  • Prefer work names (including names of parts) in the original language.


  • If you have time and enough information, link performers to recordings. Otherwise link them to the whole release, it is better than no links at all.

  • Link recordings at least to orchestra, conductor and provide the date of recording, if known. Later this may help other editors to find more detailed meta-information, as well as identify and merge duplicates.

  • For performers, enter performed roles (if known) in the “credited as” field which appears once you choose a vocal type.

  • Link a performer to a recording only if you know that this performer actually performs this recording. In some cases it is printed on the cover, in other cases you may have to check the libretto. In some cases it could be useful to listen to the recording and compare it with the libretto.

  • If you have a list of performers for a release, but can’t associate them with particular recordings, you may still link them to the whole release.

  • When populating the “Artist” property for a recording, be careful. The script “replace recording artists” referenced in The Classical Editor Toolbox is very useful, but I believe for operas it shall be applied with care. In some operas there may be 10 or more performers on a single recording, and I feel it is not really useful to put all of them in the recording “Artist” property. I would put there only orchestra, conductor, and maybe performers of lead roles. All other performers are still credited by links, they just do not appear in the “Artist” property.

  • If you edit a release entered by somebody else and do not have access to the CD cover with printed performers, you may try to find the information on discogs, allmusic, Amazon etc. Some labels, like Deutsche Grammphon, provide detailed meta-information for their releases online.

  • Don’t forget to check the cover art, it may be either already uploaded to MusicBrainz, or be available somewhere (discogs etc). Sometimes it may contain additional information not provided anywhere else.

Let us take now your case as an example.

  • All performers are availble on discogs release page linked to the MusicBrainz release.

  • Roles for each particular recording are included in track names, so you may link particular performers to recordings.

  • I can’t find the score. I have found a catalogue entry, but it is not detailed enough (it contains only the opera as a whole, but not parts). Fortunately google immediately points to a PDF with the complete Libretto where parts are indicated:,Booklet-Ergaenzung.pdf. Although we can’t be sure that these parts are “canonical”, that is actually indicated in score as separate sub-works, this looks good enough to me, and I would split “Orpheus” on parts according to the libretto.

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For creating opera works, the Style/Classical/Works guideline applies. Below I’ve excerpted the most relevant parts for opera editing, but do read the whole guideline.

Work boundaries

Works should be entered into MusicBrainz using the boundaries decided by the composer, as printed in the score.

Note: Do not split a musical entity into smaller pieces based on track splits, tempo markings, lyrics or other information. E.g. the fourth movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony contains many musically different sections, and is often spread out over several tracks, but it is still only a single work.

Stage music

Note: The overture is usually not part of the first act. The structure will be: Overture is a part of Main work, and then Act is a part of Main Work .


The recommended structure for opera is: Number is a part of Act is a part of Opera (naturally Number and Act are optional).

Note: In opera, “scenes” are instructions about who appears on stage (e.g. “Don Giovanni. Zerlina”), and/or what should take place (e.g. “Kurwenal enters boisterously through the curtains”). A scene is not an independent work in an opera. Furthermore, scenes can change completely independent of the music, sometimes several times during a single number. In general you should not create “scene works” as a container for numbers.


If a sub-part of a larger work is performed regularly as a standalone piece, you can add it as a work. It is recommended that you write “Excerpt from [Work]” in the disambiguation field.

Note: Do not add more than one work per excerpt. For instance, there should be only one “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s ninth symphony, even if the amount of bars from the symphony that are actually performed differs between individual recordings. Likewise an opera aria is only one excerpt work, any recitatives are regarded as included in that work.

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Thanks! I tried it on the release.

Looks pretty good :+1:. Just that I would use the german spelling “Akt/Szene” instead of “Act/Scene” when lyrics are in german… :smirk:

Looks good. You may want to use the script “batch-propagate recording date” from The Classical Editor Toolbox to copy dates to all relevant relationships.

I mostly agree for works, but for tracks / recordings the style guide recommends to enter as printed on the CD cover. On international releases “Act” / “Scene” / “Number” are often printed in English, not in the original language of the work.

For works it makes sense to follow the language of the work, so by default for German work I agree with you and would also use “Akt / Szene”. If a score printed in original language is available, it makes sense to consult it, because sometimes contemporary publications in original language use a different spelling. When editing Wagner operas, I have checked scans of scores available on IMSLP. Most Wagner works available there were published end of XIX / start of XX century in Germany, and most of them use the spelling “Scene” instead of “Szene”. By the way, they also use “Aufzug” instead of “Akt” :wink:

I did, but it doesn’t propagate production dates.

I agree with you that what is printed on cover may supersede my rule of spelling “Akt/Szene” in language of the lyrics. The problem here is that I couldn’t find (here or on Discogs or on amazon) any cover showing a track by track listing. Thus I maintain: By default – unless you can prove a consistent different spelling on the release(s) – follow the guidelines for the lyrics language. Same if you have an international release with more than one language: chose the one of the original score, not the translations. (And of course “Aufzug” if used on the Release may be used instead of “Akt” :slight_smile:

If people are willing to work on something, why not :slight_smile: I paused them because it was usually the same few people doing a ton of work and they seemed to be getting tired, but I certainly wouldn’t be against it. If you want to do opera, we could even have an “opera of the week” or something where we try to get all recordings of a specific opera fixed in a week. Ideally someone who actually knows more about opera would organize it though :wink:

That person is not me. But good luck all you opera-lovers!