Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Cooperstown and the Hood

Glimmerglass Festival continues its string of world premiere youth operas with a wholly enchanting production of Ben Moore and Kelly Rourke’s Robin Hood.

Glimmerglass Oklahoma: Yeow!

Director Molly Smith knew just how to best succeed at staging the evergreen classic Oklahoma! for Glimmerglass Festival.

An Invitation to Travel: Christiane Karg and Malcolm Martineau at the Proms

German soprano Christiane Karg invited us to accompany her on a journey during this lunchtime chamber music Prom at Cadogan Hall as she followed the voyages of French composers in Europe and beyond, and their return home.

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder at the Proms - Sir Simon Rattle

Prom 46: Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, Simon O'Neill, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Karen Cargill, Peter Hoare, Christopher Purves and Thomas Quasthoff. And three wonderful choirs - the CBSO Chorus, the London Symphony Chorus and Orfeó Català from Barcelona, with Chorus Master Simon Halsey, Rattle's close associate for 35 years.

Le Siège de Corinthe in Pesaro

That of Rossini (in French) and that of Lord Byron (in English, Russian, Italian and Spanish), the battles of both Negroponte (1470) and of Missolonghi (1826) re-enacted amidst massive piles of plastic water bottles (thousands of them) that collapsed onto the heroine at Mahomet II's destruction of Corinth.

Dunedin Consort perform Bach's St John Passion at the Proms

John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's 2012 recording of Bach's St John Passion was ground-breaking for it putting the passion into the context of a reconstruction of the original Lutheran Vespers service.

Collision: Spectra Ensemble at the Arcola Theatre

‘Asteroid flyby in October: A drill for the end of the world?’ So shouted a headline in USA Today earlier this month, as journalist Doyle Rice asked, ‘Are we ready for an asteroid impact?’ in his report that in October NASA will conduct a drill to see how well its planetary defence system would work if an actual asteroid were heading straight for Earth.

Joshua Bell offers Hispanic headiness at the Proms

At the start of the 20th century, French composers seemed to be conducting a cultural love affair with Spain, an affair initiated by the Universal Exposition of 1889 where the twenty-five-year old Debussy and the fourteen-year-old Ravel had the opportunity to hear new sounds from East Asia, such as the Javanese gamelan, alongside gypsy flamenco from Granada.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Johann Simon Mayr: L’amor coniugale
20 Nov 2008

MAYR: L’amor coniugale

Naxos, in conjunction with SWR, has been releasing recordings from the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, which focuses not just on the titular composer but also on his contemporaries.

Johann Simon Mayr: L’amor coniugale

Zeliska/Malvino (Cinzia Rizzone), Amorveno (Francescantonio Bille), Floreska (Tatjana Charalgina), Peters (Dariusz Machej), Moroski (Giovanni Bellavia), Ardelao (Bradley Trammell). Wurttemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, Christopher Franklin (cond.)

Naxos 8.660198-99 [2CDs]

$16.99  Click to buy

From the 2004 season comes this performance of Simon Mayr’s L’amor coniugale, and it is a fascinating document in many ways — with the rather considerable caveat that the singing doesn’t rise to the inspired levels of either the score or the performance of the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra under Christopher Franklin.

A woman adopts male disguise in order to enter the household of the warden of a prison, where her husband is being held. When the warden receives orders from an evil superior to execute the prisoner, the woman must take action to save her husband’s life. Mayr was not the first to use a libretto adopted from Jean Nicolas Bouilly’s 1798 play Léonore, ou L’Amour conjugal, but he did precede the opera that gained this tale a permanent place in the literature, Beethoven’s Fidelio.

The booklet essay explains that a trendy interest in all things Polish at the time convinced Mayr to set the story there, and the political subtext was ditched in favor of a conventional melodramatic twist. In this version, Moroski, the equivalent of Beethoven’s Pizarro, puts away Zeliska’s husband Amorveno (Leonore and Florestan) out of unrequited love for her.

While as a composer Mayr certainly doesn’t command the originality and power of Beethoven, his score possesses drama where needed and great charm elsewhere. The opening sinfonia plays like a lost movement from a Schubert symphony (Schubert also having been an admirer of Rossini). Although his melodies don’t have that inspiration which plants a tune, once heard, forever into one’s head, Mayr had uncommon gifts as an orchestrator. He especially favors individual wind instruments to wind their way around the vocal lines in arias.

The most fascinating juxtaposition between Mayr’s creation and Beethoven’s comes halfway through the one-act work, when the scene changes to the cell where Amorveno languishes. As Beethoven would for Florestan in the dungeon, Mayr begins with a scene-setting instrumental prelude of dark, minor-keyed textures, and Amorveno’s musings also move from despair to a burst of manic elation at the imagined sight of his wife. Is Beethoven’s creation the greater work? Absolutely, but Mayr’s deserves a listen as well.

The impact of this recording would probably be even greater with different lead singers. Both the Zeliska (Cinzia Rizzone) and Amorveno (Francescantonio Bille) have modestly appealing voices with restricted ranges. When their duet reaches ecstatic heights, the two singers make some truly uncomfortable sounds together. As Peters the jailer and Moroski, Dariusz Machej and Giovanni Bellavia make more creditable contributions.

Translated from the German by Neil Coleman into occasionally awkward English, Thomas Lindner’s booklet essay provides ample information on Mayr and the opera. Break out the magnifying glass, however, if one doesn’t want a headache provoked by Naxos’s typically tiny type. The synopsis is not tied to the track listing by numbers, unfortunately, and Naxos only offers an Italian libretto online.

Better vocal performances would have made this a very highly recommended set. As it is, anyone at all curious about a predecessor of Fidelio, or a fan of Rossini-era music, should definitely take a listen.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):