This disc is another installment in the Naxos Barber series, conducted by Marin Alsop. It has some interesting, little-heard music: Die Natalie, variations on Christmas carols, and the Commando March. Both show Barber's versatility and Die Natalie contains some deft counterpoint as Barber creates some remarkable music on those themes. The Piano concerto is well played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the soloist, Stephan Prutsman.
Eleni Karaindrou’s collaborations with stage director Antonis Antypas have generated some of her most powerful music. Medea, like the earlier Trojan Women, comes out of this association. Recorded at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the music vibrates with emotional intensity. Karaindrou gives her themes to a small ensemble, its sound-colours creating an ambiance both archaic and contemporary, as textures of santouri, ney, lyra and clarinets are combined and contrasted.
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.
This is the first book-length study of early modern English approaches to Medea, the classical witch and infanticide who exercised a powerful sway over literary and cultural imagination in the period 1558-1688. It encompasses poetry, prose and drama, and translation, tragedy, comedy and political writing.
Although highly esteemed by Classical and Romantic composers such as Beethoven and Brahms (the latter's summing-up: "what we musicians recognize as the height of dramatic music"), Cherubini's setting of Euripides, first heard in 1797 in French, all but vanished over the course of the 19th century. Today it would be as obscure as the Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier's operatic treatment of the same material were it not for the title role's emergence in the 1950s as one of Maria Callas's signature roles… By Todd Kay