ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Mitridate, re di Pont
PERFORMER: Rockwell Blake, Yvonne Kenny, Ashley Putnam, Brenda Boozer, Patricia Rosario, Christian Papis, Catherine Dubsoc, Lyon Opera Orchestra, Theodor Guschlbauer
CATALOGUE NO: 2053609
Mozart’s Mitridate presents several difficulties. It contains extremely virtuosic music for King Mitridate (tenor) and his betrothed Aspasia (soprano), and also for the king’s rival sons Sifare and Farnace who, in the original production, were castratos; it is very long; and it is set in the exotic Black Sea kingdom of Pontus.
Yvonne Kenny was already experienced in the role of Aspasia when this production was filmed in 1986, and here she is musically agile and dramatically compelling. Rockwell Blake is vocally muscular as Mitridate, but his haranguing style makes the change to magnanimity at the end seem a little improbable. The American soprano Ashley Putnam was simply an inspired choice for the (now necessary in post-castrato times) trouser-role of Sifare, and the rest of the cast is good. The direction is fluid, though the entry of King Mitridate in Act I is a bit of a shambles. The many cuts enable this version to fit on to one disc, though it is difficult to accept that chunks needed to be taken out of the relatively short arias for Mitridate.
The rival (uncut) version on Covent Garden Pioneer is more formal and stylised, but has the sublime Bruce Ford as Mitridate and the astonishing Luba Organosova as Aspasia (who does with apparent ease what Yvonne Kenny can only approach with supreme technique). The orchestra is better, too, but either version will give you a chance to marvel that such music could have been written by a 14-year-old boy. Anthony Pryer