- Mitridate, rè di Ponto, opera, K. 87 (K. 74a)
Mozart: Mitridate re di Pontoby Roger Norrington
Mozart wrote "Mitridate, rè di Ponto," his first commissioned opera, for production in Milan when he was 14. Historically the opera was ignored, considered part of Mozart's juvenilia, but by the late twentieth century interest in the work revived; its number of productions has increased dramatically and it has come to be regarded as the first of the composer's operatic masterpieces. Many of the elements of Mozart's mature operas are in place in "Mitridate": astute musical characterizations, a sure sense of dramatic pacing, and graceful vocal writing. Only the outside-the-box inventiveness that makes his later operas so striking is missing. Even so, Mitridate is a fully satisfying opera seria and certainly deserves the belated attention it has been receiving. Sifare's second-act aria with horn obbligato, "Lungi da te, mio bene," easily stands with Mozart's very finest work. This recording preserves a live performance of the opera from a production at the 1997 Salzburg Festival conducted by Roger Norrington, whose loving attention to detail and to the drama inherent in the music brings the work fully to life. His approach downplays the stylized conventions of opera seria, and he encourages the soloists to sing with a straight tone that allows the humanity of the characters to take precedence over vocal showiness. Christiane Oelze, as Sifare, Mitridate's loyal son, is a standout because of her pure tone and limpid phrasing and the dignity she conveys. Although the rest of the cast is fully convincing dramatically, none rises to her vocal high standard. Bruce Ford as Mitridate, and Heidi Grant Murphy as the Greek princess Ismene are completely competent in their roles, but don't have Oelze's vocal radiance. Cyndia Sieden as Aspasia, Mitridate's betrothed, sounds slightly strained, especially at the beginning of her performance, and the role of Farnace, the king's disloyal son, falls uncomfortably for Vesselina Kasarova's voice, accentuating an unevenness between her upper and lower registers. Even though the cast is not uniformly superlative, it is never less than adequate, and the momentum Norrington generates makes this a compelling performance of an opera that deserves to be better known.
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Performance CreditsRoger Norrington Primary Artist
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