Personalities | Simon Mayr | Early Romantic | Opera
The German-born composer Simon Mayr was studying in Italy when the patron who supported him died and he faced an uncertain future. Piccinni encouraged him to write opera and Mayr took his advice. Mayr’s first opera, Saffo (1794), attracted several commissions, but his great breakthrough came when Ginevra di Scozia (‘Ginevra of Scotland’, 1801) was performed at the Teatro Nuovo in Trieste. It made his name known all over Italy. Subsequently Mayr wrote operas for Naples, Rome, Milan and Venice and his work was performed internationally in Germany, London, St Petersburg, New York and several other places. Mayr’s masterpiece, Medea in Corinto (‘Medea in Corinth’, 1813), was first performed in Naples in 1813, a year in which he wrote two other operas, but after that he produced no more. In his last years, he was blind. Mayr’s output, however, made a significant mark on the evolution of opera, which influenced Rossini and his generation of Italian composers. Mayr increased the role of the chorus, characters acquired a greater range of expression, the orchestra was able to emulate storms and earthquakes, among other natural happenings, and in Medea in Corinto there was greater continuity between the arias.
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