University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Mayr: Saffo

05/22/2022 1:00 pm
05/22/2022 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This will be the fourth time I have presented an opera by Johann (or Giovanni) Simon Mayr since the year 2017. It was a German who brought Italian opera from the eighteenth into the nineteenth century. Born in Bavaria in 1763, Mayr was a little younger than the Austrian Mozart and a little older than the Rhinelander Beethoven. He long outlived both of them, passing away in 1845. Mayr's career was spent largely in Italy. He Italianized his name. His operas continued to be performed in Italy and elsewhere in Europe up to around 1850. For a while his works rivalled those of Rossini in popularity. It is therefore hard to believe how Mayr's operas in later times could be so completely forgotten.

Now in the twenty-first century a conductor from Bavaria, Franz Hauk, has championed the cause of Mayr's music. Mayr had mastered the styles of both buffa, or comic, opera and seria, or serious, dramatic music. Saffo (1794) is his first opera. It premiered at the famous La Fenice theater in Venice to great acclaim. Saffo falls into the genre of opera seria. The story is set in ancient Greece. It combines turbulent love with a lot of theatrical pageantry. In the world premiere recording of Saffo, as in the others in this series, Franz Hauk conducts and plays harpsichord continuo. He leads the period instrument orchestra Concerto de Bassus, the Simon Mayr Chorus, and Members of the Bavarian State Opera Chorus, with a cast of six vocal soloists. This is another in the ongoing Naxos series of Mayr's vocal works. Recorded in studio in Bavaria in 2014, Naxos released it on two CDs in 2016.