Giovanni Simone Mayr was the maestro di Cappella of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, and a prolific opera composer during the first half of the 19th century. He composed “Medea in Corinto” for Naples in 1813 and premiered a second version in Bergamo in 1821 with Felice Romani rewriting the libretto. Rossini, Bellini. and Donizetti. The titular Medea became the iconic role of 19th century soprano opera star Giuditta Pasta, who was famous for her leading roles including Anna Bolena and Norma. “Medea in Corinto”, like many of Mayr’s compositions, has largely disappeared from public consciousness, just as he himself has come to be known more as Gaetano Donizetti’s music teacher than as a composer. Despite this, opera was one of Mayr’s compositional talents as it broke the strict rules imposed by Rossini, the most influential composer of the time, and clearly had Germanic influences in his harmony, his use of the contrapunto. and its instrumental richness. He also contributed to the development and expansion of the Italian bel canto style through his relevant research on the expressiveness of the human voice.
A strong concept
The director of the Donizetti Opera Festival, Francesco Micheli, directed the 2021 production. He tears up all the grandeur and heroism of the myth of the classical era, to instead present a human drama rooted in the 1970s. It is a family drama where the children of Medea and Giasone witness the terrible domestic violence that the father inflicts on Medea. In the style of director Pedro Almodovar, we see classic mythological figures as suffering human beings, creating a direct connection between the characters on stage and a modern audience. The staging was so strong and believable that the story lost none of the power of the original tragedy. The sets consist of a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms placed on separate platforms that rise upwards, becoming the ceiling of another piece of decor: an LED-lit janitor’s bedroom which crosses the stage from right to left. The sets offer a mirror image of a working-class neighborhood in Bergamo. It was a very smart idea to turn Medea’s magical poisoned vest into a kitchen tablecloth that is cut and sewn during Medea’s rage and thirst for revenge. Micheli plays with the ideas of flashbacks and time travel. During the opening, it shows how the children of Medea and Giasone return to their parental home, abandoned after the divorce of their parents. An old Giasone also comes home, with the intention of killing himself. These scenes take place in 2021, then the rest of the opera unfolds through Giasone’s memories, reflecting on events that took place in the 1970s. At the end of the opera, the action returns to the present. , where the decrepit Giasone sits in the old-fashioned kitchen and in his solitude is visited by the ghost of a young and beautiful Medea.
The Diva Show
As soon as Carmela Remigio sang her entry recitative “Come! .. sen riede”, it became clear that she would be the absolute protagonist of the evening. She has a dark instrument with a marked vibrato and a copper tone. Her stage and vocal presence is so strong and hypnotic that she captivated throughout this difficult role, her performance building with intensity and drama until the final climax of the opera. She has a pure coloring technique, and her scales were crisp and precise. Her entry aria “Sommi dèi…” was sung with melancholy and sorrow, becoming explosive on the final coda of the cabaletta which she crowned with such a natural loudness. She carried all the dramatic weight of the performance. His confrontation with Giasone in act one, “Fermati… Oh! Dei! “, Made the hair stand on its raw violence and the powerful interpretation of the two singers. The highlight of her performance was her long scene with the choir, “Ogni piacer è passeo”, for her strong dramatic interpretation of a desperate woman demanding her revenge. Its phrasing and powerful medium make you forget its copper tone, which sometimes became strident in the high naturalness of this scene. Her last long scene with the chorus, “Ismene… o cara Ismene”, was full of devilish dramatic coloratura. Despite his careful technique, Remigio’s real strength lies in his astonishing capacity for dramaturgy and expert representation of strong emotions.
Argentine tenor Juan Francisco Gatell played Giasone. It has a quality specific to its timbre but has a perfect vibrato, making its sound distinctive and easily recognizable. Despite a modest voice, his projection allows him to keep his voice clear above the orchestra and choir. Giasone’s long cavatina with the chorus on “Di gloria all’invito” demands a strong middle voice and a low register and sure climbs towards the high notes. This Gatell amply provided and sang effortlessly and he moved comfortably through the dramatic coloratura of the cabaletta. He sang an exquisite legato interval of up to two treble flats at the start of his second act aria “Amor per te penai”, showing his ease in singing in a high range. While Giasone is a long role with two arias and duets with Medea and several ensemble numbers, Gatell displayed fascinating endurance, keeping his voice fresh until the very end and meeting the demands of the directing. physical.
Michele Angelini played the second tenor role of Egeo. His writing is brighter and lighter than the role of Giasone, with a high range in line with the vocal expectations of contraltino tenors of the bel canto era: like the famous Giovanni David and Rubini. He proved his agility with high and secure C’s on his long solo entry tune “Alfine io vi riveggo”. The opera’s modest orchestration did not become a problem for Angelini’s lack of projection and her open high notes. His voice shone in this virtuoso role. His act 2 tune “Avverse, inique stelle… I dolci content” had its long sentences and its sure, high Cs, but its coloring was put to the test in his duet with Medea, “Egeo!” Prence… ”, where the writing becomes extremely light again.
It would have been more accurate to throw two tenors with distinctly different timbres, as Gatell and Angelini both have a unique quality to their vocals, marking little contrast between them. Following Rossini’s Naples operas, Mayr used two different tenors: a baritone with a powerful mid-bass voice that was still flexible enough for dissolving coloratura and high notes, and a contraltino tenor with a much higher range. with light writing.
Marta Torbidoni, Roberto Lorenzi and Caterina di Tonno showcased impeccable bel canto style and powerful acting in their short supporting roles of Creusa, Creonte and Ismene respectively. Torbidoni sang his act two aria “Sembra che il ciel secondi” with gentleness and the following duet with Giasone “Meco Divide” with determination. Coro Donizetti’s opera sounded loud and beautiful from their off-stage seats in the proscenium boxes, creating a dual surround sound system.
Italian conductor Jonathan Brandani had the difficult task of making this forgotten score appealing to modern audiences. He conducted the Donizetti Opera Orchestra with determination, keeping the rhythms lively and clear on the different sections of the orchestra and offering a crystalline interpretation and coloring a composition closer to the classical than to the romantic. This was particularly noticeable in his interpretation of the long dramatic overture that opens the opera.
All in all, it was a fantastic revitalization of this forgotten opera with a splendid cast of stylish and dramatic singers in a modern staging that transformed this classic tragedy into a modern drama, with a setting that supported the gritty realism of the room.