Notes and Editorial Reviews
Demetrio, Re di Siria
Facundo Agudin, cond; Amaya Dominguez
Jura SO; Opera
Ch of Teatr Wielki, Poznan
OEHMS OC 958 (2 CDs: 155:35) Live: Moutier 2011
There’s been a mini renaissance of the music of Simon Mayr in the last several years, particularly his operas. The German-born composer was a contemporary of Beethoven and Rossini and composed more than 70 operas, as well as much other music. After studying in Italy, Mayr settled in Bergamo where he became first a teacher and later a confidante and councilor to the young Donizetti. Many of his operas were first performed at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
The opera given here,
Demetrio, Re di Siria
, was Mayr’s last, staged in 1823 in Turin. It is based on a heavily revised version of a libretto by Pietro Metastasio written nearly 100 years earlier for the composer Hasse. Mayr’s commission for the Carnival season in Turin was for the purpose of honoring a petty prince who had recently returned to power.
tells the story of the return to the throne in ancient Siria of its rightful heir through the benevolence of the current ruler, Cleonice. Though the story was probably outmoded and old-fashioned for the times Mayr’s music was quite up to date, already reflecting some influences of Rossini and the other Italian bel canto composers. The Oehms label has issued several other Mayr works and along with Naxos and Bongiovanni has spearheaded the Mayr revival in recordings. This CD set was recorded at the Moutier Festival (Switzerland) in 2011.
It is difficult to form an overall impression of Mayr’s music, of which I have heard very little. The overture is cleverly written and strongly reminiscent of Rossini, but Cleonice’s showpiece aria sounds much like Mozart, to its credit. It turns out the overture was borrowed from another opera,
so Mayr must have considered it one of his better pieces. Most of the principal singers are required to provide some fioratura and sing cabalettas, so it is clear we are well into the bel canto era. The orchestra plays pretty well, except for an annoying piccolo or high flute that is very shrill. There is a nice extended passage for solo violin before and during Cleonice’s aria that is played beautifully. French soprano Bénédicte Tauran as Cleonice is by far the best of a very mixed singing cast. She sings with beauty and agility and surprisingly is one of the very few who can manage Mayr’s coloratura runs and roulades with any sure mastery. Spanish mezzo Amaya Dominguez encounters some difficulty with the pants role of Demetrio. She sings much better on her YouTube clips, perhaps she was having an off night. The less said about Polish tenor Piotr Friebe the better, he is not good here, and overparted for his role. The smaller roles are sung adequately though some of their music has been cut. Everything is well recorded and the sound is good except for some distracting stage noises. I commend Oehms for helping resurrect these little known operas but it is a great shame they don’t provide a libretto of any kind, or even a good synopsis. To add to the confusion the characters singing on each track are not consistently identified. That aside, the Oehms set is in all likelihood the only way we will ever hear this opera, and there is some entertaining and enjoyable music here.
FANFARE: Bill White
Works on This Recording
Demetrio by Giovanni Simone Mayr
Piotr Friebe (Tenor),
Bénédicte Tauran (Soprano),
Amaya Dominguez (Mezzo Soprano),
Lisandro Abadie (Baritone),
Elizabethq Bailey (Soprano),
Matteo Mezzaro (Tenor)
Wielki Theatre Orchestra,
Wielki Theatre Chorus,
Opera Obliqua Stand De Moutier
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