Miriways, TWV 21:24
André Morsch, Michael Nagy, Dominik Köninger (baritone), Robin Johannsen, Sophie Karthäuser, Lydia Teuscher, Anett Fritsch (soprano), Marie-Claude Chappuis (mezzo-soprano), Paul McNamara (tenor); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernard Labadie
Pentatone PTC 5186 842 154:23 mins (2 discs)
Telemann’s three-act opera, Miriways, was premiered in Hamburg’s Goosemarket Theatre in 1728. The libretto, by Johann Samuel Müller, headmaster of the Johanneum grammar school where Telemann taught, unusually had nothing to do with ancient myth or legend but is loosely based on events which had taken place earlier in the century. Miriways, or Mir Wais, was an Afghan chieftain who had liberated Kandahar from Persian rule in 1700. He offers the Persian crown to Sophi, son of the deposed Shah, but on condition that he marries a bride of Miriways’s choice. That bride – spoiler alert coming up – is in fact Miriways’s daughter, though this is not at once disclosed. Elements of rivalry and intrigue are provided by duplicitous Persian prince Zemir and nice Afghan Murzah before all is happily resolved and a rousing chorus confirms a ‘lieto fine’.
This live recording, with applause, sparkles with life throughout. Musically, it is a piece of considerable melodic appeal. The arias, several of them with Italianate coloratura elements, are wonderfully varied in character and in instrumental colour. Not everything comes off quite as well as it should. The natural horns are sometimes wayward, occasional excessive vocal vibrato is present and recorded sound is not always ideal. These are, however, quickly taken in our stride and the overall experience is pleasurable. Bernard Labadie’s direction is vital and stylish and Telemann gives us some memorable music and notably perhaps a well-sustained duet (Act III), and two ravishing arias, Sophi’s ‘Nenn ein Herz’ (Act II) and Miriways’s ‘Lass, mein Sohn’ (Act III), both in E minor, a key which often brings out acute sensibilities in his music.