A lost Italian opera based on a classic Scottish novel, which had fallen into obscurity for nearly 150 years, is to be revived in Edinburgh next month.

A leading amateur company will stage the UK premiere of the hit 19th-century opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian in the hope it will lead to a revival of the “beautifully tuneful” show.

Edinburgh Grand Opera unearthed the forgotten score, La Prigione di Edimburgo (Imprisoned in Edinburgh) by Federico Ricci, in the archives of the Royal Opera House in London and will perform it, for the first time in UK history, at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on May 15.

The story is one of “madness, kidnap and imprisonment, set in the city’s dark underworld”.

The company will perform songs from the opera linked with an English narration from leading baritone Donald Maxwell, with principal singers Christina Dunwoodie, Ivor Klayman and Susan McNaught.

“It is a beautifully tuneful opera in a Bel-Canto style, it is very reminiscent of operas of that time by Donizetti or Bellini, it is a very tuneful work with beautiful melodies,” said Neil Metcalfe, director of the opera company.

“It is hard to know why it fell into obscurity – I think there was a real upsurge in operas written around a Scottish theme in that time, such as Verdi’s Macbeth, and so maybe it suffered because of that, but we know it was very popular at the time. It is great for us because as an amateur choir we just do not have the resources to do a full staged opera every year and we are always looking for something different: we really hope this will lead to a revival of the opera, we think it could be very popular.”

Mr Metcalfe said the discovery of the opera was preceded by a little detective work by members of the company after artistic director Christina Dunwoodie first found songs from the opera, which has not been performed since 1838.

Eventually the full score was tracked down to the Royal Opera House in London and a concert performance was made possible.

Federico Ricci (1809-1877) was commissioned to write the opera by the Teatro Grande in Trieste for a production during its Carnival season of 1838.

It is based loosely on Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian, but the librettist, Gaetano Rossi, also drew heavily from a French text, La Prison d’Edimbourg, which had been set to music by Michele Carafa and performed at the Paris Opera-Comique in 1833.

Instantly hailed as a success, between 1838 and 1865 La Prigione was produced in more than 100 opera houses including Vienna, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Madrid, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Santiago.

As well as there being no evidence the opera has been performed in the UK, there is no evidence of any performance since one in Genoa, Italy, in 1865.

Mr Metcalfe added: “This has been an exciting project for EGO to work on, driving us forward into rather uncharted territory during a period when the national economic climate makes fully-staged performances increasingly out-of-reach for companies such as ours.

“My particular thanks go to Christina Dunwoodie for her initial research into La Prigione and for her unflagging enthusiasm in guiding the project.”

Edinburgh Grand Opera was founded in 1956 and is the only pro-am opera company performing Grand Opera in Scotland.

The company is run by its members, who raise funds to stage their performances when not at their day jobs, which include everything from doctors and lawyers to students and senior citizens.