Mayr's Telemaco was a product of turbulent political times in the Republic of Venice, which had been occupied by Napoleon's troops in late 1796. Military elements, with incorporated marches, feature strongly in a score that brought to contemporary Venetian theatre many of the innovative elements that were in vogue on the operatic stages of Paris. Taking classical Greek mythological material, Mayr fashioned an opera full of colour, interweaving instrumental interludes and dances into his arias, cavatinas and choruses, and crafting his own very personal vision of the nwe Italian opera seria.
No one did more to combine in his operas the innovations of the Viennese classical composers, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, with the Italian ideal of bel canto than Johann Simon Mayr, the Bavarian composer who rose to fame in Italy. His opera Saffo, first performed in 1794, dates from his years in Venice. Not only was it his first opera but it was premièred at the Teatro La Fenice where it was enthusiastically received. It is full of surprising and striking elements, with a strong musical realisation of the text, supportive string and woodwind writing and vivid solo and choral effects. Set by the Rock of Leucas, from which unsuccessful lovers leap to their deaths, the opera deals with the poetess Sappho’s unhappy love for Phaon, finally resolved in a happy ending.
Mayr had established himself as a highly successful composer by the beginning of the 19th century. Medea in Corinto is one of his best-known operas, based on a libretto by Felice Romani. For decades after its 1813 première at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples, it provided one of the speciality roles for Isabella Colbran and Giuditta Pasta. In this recording, Italian conductor Fabio Luisi gives an intense reading of Mayr’s music and masterfully underlines its deep psychological dimensions, enhancing the drama that unfolds on stage. Luisi, a Grammy Award-winning artist, is also principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and general music director of the Zurich Opera. Michael Spyres and Enea Scala, take the important roles of Jason and Aegeus. The role of Medea is entrusted to the Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez, who effortlessly delivers Act I’s demanding cavatina with obbligato violin, usually omitted in most productions.
Mayr's L'Amor coniugale belongs to a group of Mayr's operas in which the composer re-vitalised the Italian opera seria tradition. It belongs to the opera semi-seria genre, in which the flexible plot-driven opera buffa collides with the opera seria. It is a genre which we associate with Rossini but it was in fact Mayr who was influential in genre before Rossini. Mayr's musical language includes elements, such as the crescendo and characteristic rhythmic patterns, which Rossini would go on to make his own…