Johann Simon MAYR (1763 – 1845) Amore non soffre opposizioni (1810)
Giulio Alvise Caselli (bass) – Argante; Richard Resch (tenor) – Ernesto; Monika Lichtenegger (soprano) – Elmira/Zeririna; Philipp Gaiser (bass) – Policarpo; Laura Faig (soprano) – Gelmina; Josef Zwink (bass) – Martorello
East-West European Festival Orchestra/Franz Hauk
rec. Kongregationssaal, Neuburg and der Donau, Germany, 8–12 May 2011
Libretto with English and German translations available online.
Premičre recording NAXOS 8.660361-62 [76:40 + 52:28]
We have become accustomed to Mayr's accomplishments as an excellent orchestrator. The overture in this case is a prime example. It is lively and stirring and time and again the composer, like Mozart, gilds the score with ingenious instrumental solos, often from the woodwind. He also employs solo instruments to good effect in arias. Ernesto’s long scena and cavatina that opens act II (CD 2 tr. 1) has a clarinet in the introduction to the cavatina and then as obbligato to the tenor. Martorello is a bass and in his aria a bit later in the same act a persistent piccolo flute creates a comic effect – a little like the mosquito and the elephant. It’s all very charming and Mayr’s melodic gift and inventiveness makes this a very appetizing proposition.
Amore non soffre opposizioni (Love does not suffer opposition) is an 'opera giocosa', a comic opera. That normally means that there are complications aplenty before, in the end, everything is sorted out and all – or most of the cast – are happy. In this particular work the widowed Policarpo has a daughter, Gelmina, for whom he wants to find a (rich) husband. Argante has a son, Ernesto, and Argante wants a wife for his son. The two parties meet but to begin with no bells ring although after a while Gelmina shows some interest in Ernesto. He, however, is not interested. Then we learn that Policarpo’s housekeeper, Zefirina, once had an affair with Ernesto. They were even secretly married but Ernesto left her and went to America, where he reportedly married again. Now, at long last, they meet again and after a myriad misunderstandings and complications everything is sorted out. Bewildered Argante joins the lovers’ hands and there is general rejoicing even if poor Gelmina doesn’t understand what is happening. Since the opera takes more than two hours, readers must understand that this résumé is a shortcut and that, as so often is the case, it is not the destination that is the most interesting but the journey there.
This journey is laid out in the usual way, in accordance with the fashion of the time with secco recitatives – some of them quite long – interspersed with arias and ensembles. The recitatives are musically neither more nor less interesting than other recitatives from the period. They are however delivered with dramatic involvement and expressivity and seldom outstay their welcome. I suppose, though, that after a couple of complete listening sessions, one (read I) will skip the recitatives and concentrate on the music. It is worth returning to for the melodic gift, which is Mayr’s hallmark. Whether in arias or ensembles Mayr is constantly inspired, and readers who wish to sample before buying could with advantage try Gelmina’s aria in the first act (CD 1 tr. 10) or the opening of the quartet in the first act finale with a beautiful soprano solo (CD 1 tr. 18). A highlight in the second act is Zefirina’s beautiful aria O qual velo tenebroso (CD 2 tr. 5). In fact any of the numbers are worth a listen and the singing is uniformly on a high level with Laura Faig’s Gelmina the most accomplished of all.
Those who have followed this series need not hesitate to acquire this issue. Newcomers to Mayr should definitely give him a chance. Maybe his first opera, Saffo, reviewed in May 2016, is better. In fact it surpassed anything I had heard of Mayr before, and my colleague David Chandler obvious had the same opinion, since he made it his Recording of the Month. In fact anything I have hitherto heard by Mayr has been highly attractive and I do hope that Franz Hauk will continue his pioneering work and dig out more from Mayr’s inexhaustible treasure chest.