Opera Scotland

Re Pastore Il Re Pastore; The Shepherd King

Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791)

Text
Libretto (1751) by Pietro Metastasio (1687-1782), previously set by several other composers.

Source
Original, adapted from several classical sources.

Premieres
First performance: Salzburg (Archbishop’s Palace), 23 April 1775.
First UK performance: London (St Pancras Town Hall), 8 November 1954.
First performance in Scotland: Ledlanet, Kinross-shire, 10 October 1968.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Mozart was already an experienced composer of operas, both serious and comic, for the great operatic centres of Milan and Munich, when he was commissioned to compose this charming little serenata for the visit to Salzburg of a young archduke. The plot is simple, and although the musical style is generally less elaborate than was expected for a full-scale opera seria, the arias are by no means easy. The demands of staging the piece are minimal. It contains several beautiful arias, of which Aminta’s, “L’amerò, sarò costante“’, with its sweet violin obbligato, has frequently been performed as a separate item.

Characters
Aminta, a shepherd, heir to the throne of Sidon (soprano)
Elisa, a shepherdess, loved by Aminta (soprano)
Tamiri, daughter of Strato, the late King of Sidon (soprano)
Agenore, a Sidonian nobleman, in love with Tamiri (tenor)
Alessandro, King of Macedon (tenor)

Plot Summary
During his expedition through Asia Minor, Alexander the Great has conquered Sidon, and deposed the usurper King Strato. Strato’s daughter Tamiri has fled and lives disguised as a shepherdess. Alexander resolves to trace the rightful king and restore him. Assisted by Agenore, he locates Aminta, who lives as a shepherd, in complete ignorance of his birthright. Agenore also discovers Tamiri, his former lover. Agenore is reluctant to permit Elisa, a real shepherdess, to become Queen, until Alexander suggests that the problem would be solved were Aminta to marry Tamiri, thus uniting old and new regimes. This solution would actually make all four characters miserable, and when this is revealed to Alexander he appoints Agenore and Tamiri to rule in Sidon. Aminta and Elisa will become client rulers of the next state that he conquers.

RECORDINGS

PHILIPS (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1989

Conductor: Neville Marriner.
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields
Angela-Maria Blasi (Aminta), Jerry Hadley (Alessandro), Sylvia McNair (Elisa).
Iris Vermillion (Tamiri), Claes-Hakan Ahnsjö (Agenore).

Neville Marriner’s account of this charming piece comes over well. The Academy of St Martin’s have the style in their blood, and though they use modern instruments there is nothing heavy-handed in their approach. When the soloists are three sopranos and two tenors it is vital that the listener should know at once who is singing. Fortunately the voices are quite distinct, so there is no difficulty. Ahnsjö’s voice was ideal for Mozart and Haydn, while Hadley sang baroque music well, but also sang heavier 19th century repertoire, including Gounod and Puccini (he also sang more modern roles such as Tom Rakewell and Candide). Similarly with the women, Sylvia McNair’s naturally bright tone is completely different from the more darkly dramatic voice of Iris Vermillion, with Blasi somewhere between.

BRILLIANT (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 2001

Conductor: Jed Wentz. Capella Amsterdam Johannette Zomer (Aminta), Alexei Grigorev (Alessandro), Francine van der Heyden (Elisa). Claudia Patacca (Tamiri), Marcel Reijans (Agenore).

This version, on Brilliant Classics at bargain price, uses a small, but very effective, band of original instruments, and the voices are all lighter in tone than in the Marriner account. As for the actual performance, perhaps the sopranos sound a bit too similar to one another, but otherwise it is every bit as good as the Marriner, even if the singers are, for the time being, less well known.

The Cast

Agenore
 Sidonian nobleman
Alessandro
 King of Macedonia
Aminta
 a shepherd, heir to the throne of Sidon
Elisa
 Shepherdess, loved by Aminta
Tamiri
 daughter of the late King of Sidon

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