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Monday, April 3, 2017

Johann Simon Mayr, Amore non soffre opposizioni, Franz Hauk

The classical period of opera, partially because of the expense of a production, partially because of conservative, certain masterworks-only repertoire tendencies, has not been given as extensive a coverage of what was produced as one might wish. There are multiple versions of, say, Mozart's The Magic Flute or Rossini's The Barber of Seville available, but if you wanted to find a full opera by Johann Simon Mayr (1763-1845), you would probably be out of luck. Until now. It is true that we do not miss what we do not know--but with Mayr we are missing something good, someone we should know.

Naxos with their most welcome, adventurist releases of neglected composers and/or works, has been coming out with some Mayr overtures and operas (I've covered a few here recently), and so we now have a 2-CD set of Amore non soffre opposizioni (Naxos 8.660361-62), conducted by Franz Hauk, the man instrumental in the current Mayr revival.

The reasons this opera and Mayr himself enjoyed popularity in the Italy of the classic age are the same reasons this opera appeals to us today if we give it a chance. There are no recitatives, there is a vibrant tunefulness, a sprightly demeanor, and sophisticated harmonies and instrumentation. We are treated to a very good performance--here by engaging, idiomatic soloists and the East-West European Festival Orchestra.

As you listen for a while, you notice a kind of synthesis between the Italian influence of Rossini and the German one of Mozart, which in Mayr's hands seems unforced and natural.

That this is in every way a carefully conceived and enthusiastic performance goes a long way towards bringing Mayr alive for us.

Anyone who loves classical-era opera will find this release delightful.

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