LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Myslivecek: Medonte
PERFORMER: Thomas Michael Allen, Juanita Lascarro, Susanne Bernhard, Stephanie Elliott, Loriana Castellano, Ulrike Andersen; Choir; L’arte del Mondo/Werner Ehrhardt
CATALOGUE NO: 88697861242
The arrival on CD of Il Medonte (Rome, 1780), the 25th of Josef MysliveΩek’s 26 Italian operas, and only his second to be recorded complete, is cause for celebration. Born in Prague in 1737, MysliveΩek had early success composing Italian opera in Italy, but later fell from favour, dying in poverty in Rome at the age of 47. Mozart knew him and admired his music. Indeed, Mozartians exploring Medonte will recognise kinship ties between this opera seria and both Mozart’s earlier Mitridate and later Clemenza di Tito: note the limpid beauty of sonority and mastery of italianate vocal style.
Medonte was a failure, for reasons that with hindsight are easy to explain: the workaday Metastasio-descended libretto by Giuseppe de Gamerra engaged the composer only fitfully. Act I unfolds placidly, without strong dramatic impulse. But Act II’s radiantly simple rondo-aria ‘Luci belle’ for the soprano hero Arsace shows the Gluck-influenced and Mozart-like heights to which MysliveΩek could rise.
This period-style performance, decently conducted, was recorded live in 2010. Neither starry nor dazzling, it nevertheless communicates why MysliveΩek inspires devotion.