Mitridate, re di Ponto
Michael Spyres, Julie Fuchs, Sabine Devieilhe; Les Musiciens de Louvre/Marc Minkowski
Erato 9029661757 150:31 mins (3 discs)
How remarkable that a 14-year old should have scored a hit with his fifth work for the stage, and in Milan too. However, Mozart is still learning his craft – although helped by a strongly dramatic libretto from Racine’s tragedy about Mitridate, an Asian potentate defeated by Rome, caught up in emotional and political tangles woven by his two sons Sifare and Farnace. The arias, often da capo, are sometimes in the florid style admired by an earlier generation, and when inspiration falters Mozart sends for the drums and marching.
Yet already we can hear the composer’s remarkable gift for composing from ‘inside’ his characters. Sifare’s Act II aria ‘Lungi da te’ opens with hushed horns and strings as he bids farewell to his beloved Aspase, and is sung with complete conviction by the soprano Elsa Dreisig. We feel and hear the not-so-sweet sorrow of parting. Minutes later Julie Fuchs’s Aspasia meditates on love and duty with dazzling decoration, a woman divided against herself musically as well as personally. Julie Fuchs is one of the excitements of this recording, all but stopping the show with ‘Pallid’ombre’; and so is Michael Spyres as Mitridate with a handsome account of the king’s opening number ‘Se di lauri’, which caused the composer such grief with his tenor in Milan in 1770.
Yet the hero here and throughout is the conductor Marc Minkowski with a crisp and considered account of this score. Frankly his Les Musiciens du Louvre make you forget when young Mozart is padding.