Leonora it is not. But know that Johann Simon Mayr’s 1814 rescue opera Elena was, “despite the critics’ gloomy predictions… a great success”. No less than the author Stendhal considered it “a piece of genius” (“morceau de genie”).
One can understand why. Even today, Mayr’s delightful semiseria opera, with its mix of seriousness and opera buffa elements and music reminiscent of Rossini’s, makes for very enjoyable listening indeed.
Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto is fun on its own. In brief, the story involves the return to Tarascon of the banished Duke Costantino, wrongfully accused of his father’s murder. Costantino seeks out his wife Elena, who has been working incognito for wealthy Neapolitan farmer Carlo. The couple are about to face justice when they are saved by Edmondo, son of the man who was the actual murderer.
The expected arias, duets, ensemble pieces, choruses and recitatives (spoken dialogue in the Naples performances) are attractive and well-crafted,...