During the first half of the nineteenth century, many composers wrote “mini operas” as well as full-scale ones. They were generally written to mark specific celebratory occasions, such as a ruler’s birthday or name-day, and enjoyed a short shelf-life of only one or two performances. It was against this backdrop that Donizetti composed his scenic cantata Aristea in honour of the Bourbon monarch Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies, whose name-day fell on 30th May, 1823.
Almost 191 years to the day, the release this month of Naxos' world première recording of Aristea lifts the curtain again on Donizetti's little known cantata-opera which, although compact in length, demands fully-fledged performance resources. These are in the experienced hands of conductor Frank Hauk who, together with his Simon Mayr Chorus and instrumentalists, has already made a number of highly successful Naxos recordings of music from Donizetti’s time. These include discs featuring the works of Simon Mayr, who was Donizetti's teacher.
Gaetano Donizetti’s ‘mini opera’ Aristea follows the 19th-century fashion for composing celebratory scenic works with a large cast and full orchestra, in this case to honour Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies. Librettist Giovanni Schmidt recycled Aristea from an earlier abandoned opera set in idyllic Greek surroundings. This tells the classical story of enforced separation of a father from his daughter, their subsequent confusions and final happy reunion. Donizetti’s early style was influenced by Rossini but is nevertheless independent and innovative, often hinting at his later operatic masterpieces.
Listen to an extract from Aristea: Nacqui, è vero, in umil cuna
About the Artists
Franz Hauk has served as organist at Bavaria's Ingolstadt Minster since 1982; in 1995, he was also appointed choirmaster. He has given concerts in Europe and the United States and made a number of previous recordings for Naxos. Since October 2002 he has taught in the historical performance and church music department of the Munich Hochschule für Musik und Theater.
Andrea Lauren Brown, the American soprano who sings the title role on this new release, has taken part in recordings of Handel’s Dixit Dominus, Caldara’s Missa Dolorosa and Heinrich Schütz’s Symphoniae Sacrae II. The latter was awarded a Diapason D´Or, a Deutscher Schallplattenpreis and a GRAMMY®. She has performed in the United States and in Europe, making her début in 2006 at the Theater an der Wien.
The Bavarian State Opera Chorus boasts a long and distinguished history, sharing with the Bavarian State Orchestra and Bavarian State Ballet a repertoire of some 350 opera and ballet performances annually at the Munich National Theatre, the Prince Regent Theatre and the Cuvilliés Theatre.
The Simon Mayr Chorus and Ensemble was established by Franz Hauk in 2003. The choir's repertoire ranges from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Special emphasis is given to authentic historical performance and the promotion of music by Simon Mayr. The choir comprises vocal students from the Munich Hochschule für Music und Theatre and singers selected from Ingolstadt and the region. The orchestra is formed by leading professional players.
Frank Hauk's recordings of oratorios by Simon Mayr
8.572719-20 Il Sagrifizio di Jefte
“…the music, performances, and recording are all first-rate…unconditionally recommended.” - Fanfare
“This disc is a winner…I believe that anyone with a more than casual interest in the music of this era should become familiar with [Mayr's] works.” - Fanfare
8.570752-53 The Marriage of Tobias
“…you’ll be impressed by the attractive voices and by everyone’s ability to sprint stylishly through the coloratura minefields.” - American Record Guide
“Franz Hauk has an especially congenial, forceful grasp of this music. Andrea Lauren Brown is brilliant and expressive in the fiery role of Sebia.” - Opera News
8.570366-67 David in the Cave of Engedi
“The energy never flags. Each of the five soloists is a sparkler.” - American Record Guide