Mayr: Medea in Corinto [Bayerisches Staatsoper] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
- Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Arthaus Musik
- Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2011
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
In spite of his Italian-sounding names, Giovanni Simone Mayr was German-born and moved to Italy while in his 40’s to pursue a composing career. He assumed the leadership of Bergamo’s music conservatory and his pupils included the famous operatic composers, Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. Mayr’s works, well appreciated in his lifetime, have fallen out of today’s mainstream repertory. His operas wielded substantial influence on the subsequent development of Italian opera and Corinto in Medea is thought to represent the composer at the height of his creative powers.
This Munich performance, recorded in 2010, is the opera’s video debut. The story is taken directly from Greek mythology. The sorceress Medea has been abandoned by Giasone (Jason of Argonaut fame), and replaced in Giasone’s affections by princess Creusa, the daughter of Corinth’s King Creon. However, Creusa had been promised to the Athenian King, Egeo. When Egeo finds out that he is no longer in the running for Creusa’s hand, he plots with Medea to seek revenge. No sooner are Giasone and Creusa wed, but they are nearly captured by Medea and Egeo’s troops. Medea, now imprisoned, turns the tables on her captors, killing Creusa with a poisoned dress and stabbing her own (and Giasone’s) children to death. The despondent Giasone attempts to kill himself but survives to see Medea escape to the heavens. You will hear post-echoes of Mozart, and pre-echoes of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini in the orchestration and vocal writing. While staging and costumes have been updated to the 20th century, the original musical values remain intact. Exceptional performances are turned in by nearly all of the principals, Nadja Michael (Medea), Elena Tsallagova (Creusa), Ramon Vargas (Giasone), Alistair Miles (Creon) and Alek Shrader (Egeo). Ivor Bolton leads the Bayerisches Staatsorchester in a sensitive reading of the score. Videography is first rate and the sound recording, excellent.
Director Hans Neuenfels has opted for the all-too-common contemporary practice of minimalist sets, letting the music and drama speak for themselves. The stark staging is offset by some over the top costumes. The cast is also one of the most videogenic that I have recently seen in operatic productions and benefits from the frequent tight close ups. The color palette is gorgeous. It is also a pleasant relief to see good lighting instead of the shadowy or bluish casts of some recent BD opera productions.
There is a naturalness to the soundstage with great balances between the pit orchestra and the singers. The sonic perspective is that of a very pricey orchestra seat. This is another Arthaus Musik dts HD MasterAudio 5.0 recording so your subs will not have a work out. What brings delight to my ears is the mostly gorgeous vocalism given by the principal singers. While tenor Vargas and soprano Tsallagova have the Mozart chops to deal with their parts, I was pleasantly surprised by soprano Michael’s delivery of Medea whom I had previously seen in 20th century roles (Salome and Lulu) and heavy Italian roles (Lady Macbeth and Tosca).
Arthaus Musik provides two brief features which will be helpful to those unfamiliar with this opera and its composer. There is a “Making of” video which gives useful insights into this production. It is followed by a fascinating biography of Mayr that relates his importance to the world of 19th century Italian opera.
The Definitive Word
This production of Medea in Corinto is my video introduction to a seldom played or recorded Mayr masterpiece. There are no competing BDs and only two current CD versions. The modern minimalist staging should not keep you from considering this disc for your opera library. The singing is top drawer and, at times, sensational, rendered by a very strong cast and conductor. Style is quite important and, here, Mayr’s musical intents are well respected. Some viewers might have occasional issues with Nadja Michael’s vocalism but I found her to be an exceptionally strong singing actor. In both sight and sound, this is a terrific performance that, I am certain, will stand the test of time. More importantly, we are not likely to get another in the foreseeable future.
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