Mayr: Elena / Hauk, Concerto de Bassus
During the 1813–14 carnival season in Naples, Simon Mayr wrote a much-admired opera semiseria called Elena. The post-revolutionary Napoleonic era saw great enthusiasm for the rescue opera genre and Elena is a perfect example, in which a complex plot, based on French models, sees an innocent falsely accused of a capital offence. Mayr’s subtle accommodation of Neapolitan opera and Viennese Classicism ensures a series of choruses and recitatives that drive the action forward, punctuated with arias, romances, ensembles, lyric richness and moments of witty buffo color.
Franz Hauk continues his dedicated role championing the music of the German-born, Simon Mayr, now returning to his operas thought to number almost seventy.
First produced in Naples in January 1814, Mayr's Elena was well received and revived in 1816 at the much more influential venue of La Scala, Milan, and that was followed by Florence. At both theatres it is thought is was probably much revised. The story is complex—to say the least—and made even more so as you need to know the history that surrounds events that took place before the opera begins; all that is explained in the enclosed booklet. The opera calls for a dramatic soprano as the wronged Elena, here taken by the German-born Julia Sophie Wagner, who is enjoying a major career on both sides of the Atlantic. Her perky voice is perfect for her dual role where she has to masquerade as a young man when she returns to her homeland. But it is the many other characters who share the bulk of a work lasting around two and a half hours, though it does not seem that long! By this point the fine bass voice of Daniel Ochoa has taken over the score as Elena’s husband, Costantino, the two having parted as they fled from their execution, his long first act aria not far short of ten minutes. We are now introduced to Edmondo, who was part of the plot against Elena, here taken by the tenor, Markus Schafer, whose outstanding performances have graced many Mayr recordings. That leaves me to say how much I have enjoyed the bass, Niklas Mallmann, in the buffo role of Carlo; the bass, Andreas Mattersberger as Urbino, and Fang Zhi in the pivotal part of the Governor. He is joined in the opera’s final rejoicing with the fulsome Simon Mayr Chorus. For Hauk, the conductor, this is another major and unqualified success, his period instrument orchestra, Concerto de Bassus, both neat and with impeccable intonation. A fabulous release in every respect.
– David's Review Corner (David Denton)
Catalog Number: 8660462-63
Composer: Simon Mayr
Conductor: Franz Hauk
Orchestra/Ensemble: Concerto de Bassus, Simon Mayr Choir
Performer: Andreas Mattersberger, Anna Feith, Anna-Doris Capitelli, Daniel Ochoa, Fang Zhi, Harald Thum, Julia Sophie Wagner, Markus Schäfer, Mira Graczyk, Niklas Mallmann