Mozart: Mitridate, re di Ponto

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre
WORKS: Mitridate, re di Ponto
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli, Natalie Dessay, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Brian Asawa; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: 460 772-2
The 1991 performances at Covent Garden of the 14-year-old Mozart’s opera seria put Mitridate on the map in this country, but until now the only recording has been that of Leopold Hager with a cast including Augér, Gruberová, Baltsa, Cotrubas and Hollweg. These new discs claim to be the first version with authentic instruments. They’re especially welcome for the superb rapport between Rousset’s band and the singers – the youthful Mozart’s determination to stun his original Milanese audience with rapid tempo changes and bravura reprises creates any number of problems for ensemble. There’s plenty of recitative but the opera’s all about its highly developed arias. They call for supremely agile voices, light enough to throw off the coloratura yet rich enough to give substance to the characters. Bartoli is in magnificent form as Sifare, seemingly untroubled by the vertiginous changes of register. In the magnificent duet ‘Se viver non degg’io’ the tender beauty of her fil di voce contrasts perfectly with the colder radiance of Dessay (Aspasia). Asawa’s countertenor Farnace is a touch less compelling than Jochen Kowalski was at Covent Garden, but Sabbatini’s finely projected tenor is ideally suited to Mitridate. The orchestral sound sometimes seems to lack presence, but these discs certainly offer a feast of superlative singing. Patrick Carnegy