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 Recordings

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

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.

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.

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).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Mayr, Giovanni Simone: <em>Medea in Corinto</em>
12 Sep 2017

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

Davinia Rodriguez (Medea), Mihaela Marcu (Creusa), Michael Spyres (Giasone), Enea Scala (Egeo), Roberto Lorenzi (Creonte), Paolo Cauteruccio (Evandro), Nozomi Kato (Ismene), Marco Stefani (Tideo). Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia and Transylvanian State Philharmonic Chorus (Cluj-Napoca), conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Dynamic CDS7735 [2CDs] | 37735 [2DVDs]

$28.40  Click to buy

Medea in Corinto (Medea in Corinth, 1813 and much revised over the course of the next ten years) was Mayr’s best-known opera and remained a repertory staple for a time even after his death. It has been revived frequently in our own day, especially in Italy, where audiences can of course follow the plot and shifting emotions without recourse to supertitles.

Mayr’s opera tells basically the same story that opera lovers know from Cherubini’s Médée (a work often performed in a much-altered later version and in Italian, under the title Medea). But the treatment of the Medea legend by Mayr and his librettist, the immensely gifted Felice Romani, is different enough from Cherubini’s that the work has its own identity and appeal.

American Record Guide has reviewed three previous CD releases of Mayr’s Medea in Corinto, the best of which, the reviewers agreed, was the studio recording from Opera Rara, with Jane Eaglen, Yvonne Kenny, Bruce Ford, and Raul Gimenez. (See reviews by, respectively, Desmond Arthur, September/October 1994; Charles H. Parsons, March/April 2000; and Ralph V. Lucano, Nov/Dec 2010.) That recording also included an appendix of additional numbers that were composed by Mayr for the work and that were either omitted before opening night or got used in certain later stagings of the work.

Mayr_Medea_DVD.png

The two other CD recordings that have been reviewed in ARG were made at live performances in Italy. Both of them are apparently disfigured by one or more singers who wobble or sing off-pitch. The Myto set features the vibrant Leyla Gencer in the title role; the Oehms set has Elzbieta Szmytka (overstretched by the part) and can be heard by anybody with online Naxos access (e.g., through one’s public library), as indeed can the recording under review. The pioneering Vanguard recording (1970) stars the magnetic Marisa Galvany. Its CD re-release seems to be out of print at the moment, but excerpts are on YouTube.

In this opera, the princess of Corinth (here called Creusa) was promised to King Aegeus (Egeo) of Athens, before she shifted her affections to the heroic Giasone. Egeo has a big and dramatically varied role. Medea is given a powerful scene with the spirits of hell (reminiscent of a scene in Cavalli’s Giasone, composed a century and a half earlier).

Romani and Mayr give the chorus multiple occasions to rejoice, reassure, worry, and be solemn or horrified. (In this new recording they sound fine, mostly, except for some reason in the scene with Creusa at the beginning of Act 2.) The orchestra frequently offers colorful interjections: we get several arias in which a solo instrument (e.g., violin, English horn, even harp) performs in duet texture with the voice or in alternation with it.

As in many of Rossini’s serious operas, recitatives are accompanied by orchestra rather than keyboard. The Medea/Giasone duet in Act 1 is a large four-movement structure of a type that scholars and critics normally call “Rossinian” and would become normative for Rossini’s successors: Donizetti, Bellini, and the young Verdi. Vocal lines are quite florid (not least for Egeo) but often also tuneful or even dance-like, sometimes reminding me of Donizetti (to come) or of phrases from Mozart’s Così fan tutte and The Magic Flute (some twenty years earlier).

The recording derives from one or more staged performances at the Valle d’Itria festival in July-August 2015. Inevitably, the performances on the Opera Rara studio recording are freer of imperfections. In this festival recording we encounter moments of orchestral unease and some slow wobbling from the Medea and (worse) the Creusa. The sound quality, generally fine, can get congested when Davinia Rodriguez (Medea) and Michael Spyres (Giasone), both intense-voiced, are singing simultaneously. Rodriguez’s lower register is consistently hooded, sometimes sounding very Callas-like, which may displease some listeners but, to my ear, aptly indicates Medea’s grim determination to avenge herself on the lover who abandoned her. Indeed, Rodriguez seems to me a more convincing Medea than Eaglen was on the Opera Rara recording, and the chorus of the spirits of hell register more vividly here in the splendid conjuration scene (“Antica notte”) than on the Opera Rara recording.

Spyres has now performed or recorded numerous French heroic-tenor roles, including Rossini’s Arnold and Berlioz’s Cellini. (He sings splendidly on the new recording of Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, which I will be reviewing here soon.) As Giasone he is often utterly admirable, showing great stamina and presence. But he sometimes strains, at full voice, for high notes that, in Mayr’s day, would have been sung in falsetto or half-voice. And, quite unnecessarily, he adds several notes that are higher than anything written by the composer, and has to lunge for them, making him sound, at that moment, less than heroic. His coloratura is sometimes firm, other times ungainly. Still, he sings consistently in tune.

Indeed, all the singers sing in tune. Furthermore, they put the words across well, which helps us care about the characters’ shifting emotional states. The renowned Fabio Luisi conducts expertly, blending dramatic impetus with delicacy and precision. By comparison, David Parry’s conducting on the Opera Rara recording sometimes feels sluggish and unvaried.

The booklet essay is enormously detailed about the compositional and performance history of the work but gives no indication what version is being heard here and whether any of the numbers differ from the equivalent ones on previous recordings.

I had no trouble downloading the libretto, but then struggled through some unidiomatic or even outright erroneous translations. For example, talamo—literally: “chamber”—is the standard libretto-word for “marriage bed.” It is here translated as “thalamus,” as if the characters were discussing the function of somebody’s brain. The booklet essay is similarly disfigured. I suggest that Dynamic hire better translators, perhaps ones who are native English-speakers.

A DVD of this same performance is also commercially available and has been uploaded to YouTube. One can also purchase a DVD of a 2010 staged performance from Munich, with what—to judge by excerpts on YouTube—is a splendid cast (Medea: Nadja Michael; Giasone: Ramon Vargas; Egeo: Alek Shrader). Watching either of the videos. or listening to the CD set under review, would be the best way to get to know Mayr’s famous opera. The Opera Rara recording, despite much first-rate singing (e.g., from Bruce Ford as Giasone), now slides down to second-best. Still, it remains indispensable for people who wish to compare Mayr’s various revisions, cuts, and insertions. It is currently available only as a digital MP3 download (in any of three formats), not as a CD set. It has also been uploaded entire (and also as separate tracks) to YouTube.

Ralph P. Locke

The above review is a lightly revised version of one that first appeared in American Record Guide and appears here by kind permission.

Ralph P. Locke is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. Six of his articles have won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music. His most recent two books are Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections and Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Press). The first is now available in paperback, and the second soon will be (and is also available as an e-book).

         

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):