Sunday, 7 June 2009

Second Post!

Mitridate, re di Ponto

When I was fourteen I was discovering the joys of The Cure and silk boxer shorts (they were the height of soffisteekashun for me then). When Mozart was fourteen he was writing his fifth opera. But who had the better underwear?

Before this concert performance was scheduled I have to admit that I had never heard of Mitridate, re di Ponto. So, being the increasingly worryingly opera anorak I am becoming I decided to buy a copy. Instead of buying from my local shop, Amazon, I decided to buy it at an even cheaper price, and it arrived after the performance took place. Does this really matter? Not really, but at least I can get that particular moan off my chest.

What of the performance? I hear you, well, okay, I hear myself asking.

Having suffered last year's Rossini concert of sleep inducing music (sorry Carlo) I wasn't too excited about another performance of a rarely performed piece of work. The reason why pieces are rarely performed are that they are, well, usually crap.

But I was looking forward to hearing Aleksandra Kurzak singing live for the first time, and also Charles Mackerras was the stick waver for the evening so my reservations were left on my doorstep. I'm glad that I did.

Okay, so the opera isn't one of Mozart's best, but once my ears had grown accustomed to the sheer number of arias that were being sent their way I found myself not directing my attention towards the surtitles (usually a big yes-yes for me with unfamiliar works) but instead I simply enjoyed the music making on the stage.

It's now the point of my invention / desecration of musical terms. Look away now if you're easily embarrassed by a person's ignorance.

Of the singers on the stage Kurzak (Aspasia) was my favourite. She had a bell clear voice that seemed to sit above the orchestra and responded effortlessly to the demands of the music. Her coloratura was a joy to listen to - light and surefooted. On a final note - great dress!

Karl Lagerfeld will now move on to the rest of the cast.

Emma Bell was suitably strong in voice in portraying Sifare and her duet with Kurzak was probably the highlight of the evening. I hope that she will return sooner rather than later to WNO. Someone who has returned sooner is the mezzo Marianna Pizzolato (she was a wonderful Cenerentola in the previous season). She may not possess the purest top of other mezzos, but she certainly gave her all and drew the audience into her web as Farnace. Bruce Ford, no stranger to the role of Mitridate having recorded the role with ROH, gave an assured, if sometimes strained performance. Completing the main roles Laura Mitchell (Ismene) provided some serious competition to Kurzak as being my favourite singer of the evening. She gave a wonderfully controlled performance that exuded class in abundance. Of the lesser roles Joanne Boag (Arbate) once again displayed a voice in need of bigger roles - she has a recitative voice to die for, as does Robin Tritschler (Marzio). It will be interesting to see where his career will take him.

So the conducting. I'm an absolute novice at this, and Charles Mackerras obviously isn't. I'll stick to - great job! And the same goes for the orchestra also!

And there it is - my first review. I hope that in time I'll be able took back and think - "That was awful." The review - not the performance.


  1. Congrats! And thanks, for your first opera review. :o)

    A good start, I say. Most people (me included) don't care for reviews that seek to point out all the bitty little flaws in a performance, I think. We just want to hear whether you enjoyed the show (and why, so perhaps we should try to catch the next one)... And this review does just that.

    I wish I'm close enough to attend. Have heard a lot of good things about Alexandra Kurzak, but haven't heard her live yet. And... now that I'm used to opera seria by now, I'd love to see Mitridate live for once, too (yeah, it's really a long series of virtuoso arias... Mozart was only 14 when he wrote it and he showed off a bit ;o). I usually don't listen to that opera the whole way through but in bits).

    Cheers! And looking forward to your next review!

  2. Many thanks Smorg for your kind words (and for being the first to comment!). Unfortunately WNO has very brief seasons - only three months in Cardiff, while they tour around Wales and England for the remainder of the year......which means I'll have to supplement the blogging with a bit of ROH reviews.

    I can easily understand why you'd only want to listen to Mitridate in small bites as one aria can easily begin to sound like another after a while, which is a pity given that there is some sublime music to be heard.

    Next up - some delayed coverage of the recent (and upcoming) triumverate of Italian delicacies on offer at Covent Garden this summer - La Traviata, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Tosca...