ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Il re pastore
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley, Sarah Fox, Ailish Tynan, Anna Devin, Benjamin Hulett; Classical Opera/Ian Page
CATALOGUE NO: Signum SIGCD433
This is Ian Page’s fourth offering in his collaboration with the publisher Bärenreiter and the Signum label to record the stage works of Mozart. Il re pastore, composed when Mozart was 19, is not an easy work to pull off. The libretto was written some years before for young amateur singers, and so any real conflict or darkness in the characterisation has been omitted. Also the reflective aria texts mean that any action can only be described in the long stretches of recitative.
Thankfully we have accomplished singers here who negotiate the occasionally tricky music with fluency and poise. John Mark Ainsley (as Alexander the Great) is a commanding presence, managing the wide leaps in ‘Se vincendo’, and the fantastical vocal runs in ‘Voi che fausti’ with regal aplomb. The two principal lovers, Aminta (originally a castrato role, here Sarah Fox) and Elisa (Ailish Tynan), are very effective, though Tynan is a little silvery and light for her ‘Barbaro!’ aria (the conductor might have introduced more dynamic contrast here), and Fox is not quite vocally there in the beautiful and frequently recorded aria ‘L’amerò, sarò costante’. The secondary love interests, Agenore (Benjamin Hulett) and Tamiri (Anna Devin), give spirited accounts of ‘Sol può dir’ and ‘Di tante sue procelle’ respectively. It is a rare delight that real ‘display’ cadenzas are improvised by the singers at all appropriate points, and that the orchestra is directed with commendable style. Harnoncourt’s recording (1995 on Teldec) remains preferable, but only just.