Mozart: Il Re Pastore

John Mark Ainsley Alessandro, Sarah Fox Aminta, Ailish Tynan Elisa, Anna Devin Tamiri, Benjamin Hulett Agenore, Classical Opera, Ian Page
117:12 (2 CDs)
Signum SIGCD 433

It is fascinating how this early opera from Mozart’s Salzburg period already includes many of the elements which would come to full fruition in the later great operatic masterpieces of his maturity. In spite of the stylised context, Mozart makes a real attempt at musical characterisation, and the orchestration is varied with a generous range of instruments made available by the Salzburg Archiepiscopal purse.

Ian Page’s sizzling account of the overture prepares for the delights to come as the overture segues flawlessly into the opening aria for Sarah Fox’s Aminta. The effortless elegance of her singing is perfectly matched by Ailish Tynan’s Elisa, and indeed the small cast of five principals, including John Mark Ainsley, Benjamin Hulett and Anna Devin are all superb. While the singing, like the playing, sounds absolutely authentic, there is a pleasing sense of freedom and a palpable joy in the music. Hulett’s effortlessly lyrical account of Agenore’s aria “Per me rispondete” is a case in point, where he conveys the character’s mixed emotions but at the same time clearly enjoys Mozart’s exquisite melodic writing. Listening to this wonderful music so beautifully performed it is amazing to think of Mozart’s employers, who repeatedly failed to recognise the unique talent of the man who was supplying them with such sublime fare. The two CDs are accompanied by a packed booklet including the full libretto and English translation as well as a comprehensive programme note, incorporating the latest research on the opera.

D. James Ross