Mayr: Medea in Corinto directed by Benedetto Sicca

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: Medea in Corinto
PERFORMER: Roberto Lorenzi, Enea Scala, Davinia Rodriguez, Michael Spyres, Mihaela Marcu, Paolo Cauteruccio, Nozomi Kato, Marco Stefani; Chorus of the Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra of Cluj-Napoca; Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia/Fabio Luisi; dir. Benedetto Sicca (Martina Franca, 2015)


Of all Simon Mayr’s 70 operas, Medea in Corinto (Naples, 1813) soon became the most celebrated. Even after the composer’s star had been comprehensively eclipsed by Rossini’s, it remained the Mayr work most often cited in reference books as a crucial bridge between Mozart (whom Mayr revered) and Rossini’s serious operas. And it’s the one whose modern-day rediscovery, launched with a 1969 New York concert performance, continues to spawn occasional productions and recordings.

Dynamic’s new DVD, filmed at the 2015 Valle d’Itria Festival, has in fact been preceded by one from Arthaus (a 2010 Munich staging by Hans Neuenfels, described by George Hall in Opera as ‘frequently [looking] like a parody of Regietheater’). This Italian production, combining single set, period costume and copious infusions of balletic parading and symbolic paraphernalia, may also provoke passing annoyance, but it does at least attempt to fuse modern and ancient theatrical styles. What’s more, it’s musically secure: expertly conducted by Fabio Luisi and impressively cast, with particularly strong singing from the tenors Michael Spyres and Enea Scala and an electrifying Medea in Davinia Rodriguez, whose dark-toned soprano, full of fascinating Callas-echoes, is employed with both sophisticated musicianship and real dramatic fire.

The problem, in the end, is the work itself, replete with blandly euphonious vocal lines and orchestral sounds too often relayed at tedious length, and only coming to genuine dramatic life whenever the sorceress commands the stage. A CD set has also been issued of this (CDS 7735/1-2), but must take second place to Opera Rara’s superb 1995 Medea in Corinto featuring Jane Eaglen, Yvonne Kenny and Bruce Ford.


Max Loppert