Born near Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Simon Mayr spent the greater part of his career in Bergamo, a flourishing cultural and economic centre in the early nineteenth century. An important figure in the promotion of Viennese classicism in Italy, he combined, in his own style, the legacy of Vienna with the dramatic and melodic genius of Italy, and held a dominant position in Italian opera before the emergence of Rossini. His oratorio David in spelunca Engaddi (David in the Cave of Engedi), with a Latin text, was written in 1795 for the Ospedale dei Mendicanti in Venice, one of the four great charitable institutions there, known for the musical achievements of its members. The oratorio deals with the conflict between David and Saul, and the refusal of David to harm the Lord’s anointed, in spite of the opportunity offered him.
Mayr had established himself as a highly successful composer by the beginning of the 19th century. Medea in Corinto is one of his best-known operas, based on a libretto by Felice Romani. For decades after its 1813 première at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples, it provided one of the speciality roles for Isabella Colbran and Giuditta Pasta. In this recording, Italian conductor Fabio Luisi gives an intense reading of Mayr’s music and masterfully underlines its deep psychological dimensions, enhancing the drama that unfolds on stage. Luisi, a Grammy Award-winning artist, is also principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and general music director of the Zurich Opera. Michael Spyres and Enea Scala, take the important roles of Jason and Aegeus. The role of Medea is entrusted to the Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez, who effortlessly delivers Act I’s demanding cavatina with obbligato violin, usually omitted in most productions.