To mark Mozart’s 260th birthday tomorrow, “Trove Thursday” offers his infrequently performed bucolic opera Il Re Pastore with the sublime Arleen Augér as its heroine and Edith Mathis as her shepherd-lover. 

Set to an adaptation of a libretto written in 1751 by Pietro Metastasio, the charming Pastore premiered in Salzburg in 1775 with the castrato Tommaso Consoli in the leading role of Aminta, here sung by Mathis. The oft-programmed “L’amero saro costante” sung by Aminta is one of Mozart’s best known arias but perhaps the only piece from this opera most people have heard. Recently Pastore has been championed by William Christie who has performed it staged in Zurich and on a concert tour, both often featuring Rolando Villazon as Alessandro.

Along with Antal Dorati’s celebrated exploration of Haydn’s opera, the early Mozart cycle issued on LP by Deutsche Grammophon and conducted by Leopold Hager was one of the great recording projects of the 1970s. Nearly all of them turned up on CD in the Philips Mozart Edition released in 1991 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s death; however, Hager’s Re Pastore, featuring four of the five principals of this live broadcast, has never been reissued on CD, perhaps because Philips had recently released its own version of the opera conducted by Neville Marriner.

Each of the operas recorded by Hager was also performed in in Salzburg during its annual January Mozart Week, and it’s one of those concerts that we enjoy today.

Although Peter Schreier’s quirky Italian—and Werner Krenn’s, to a a lesser extent—can be a chore (lots of “qvando” and “qvesto”), the ladies of the cast are a joy, particularly Augér, a peerless Mozartean, who was the glory of the DG series.

In addition to her shining Elisa here, one should seek out her fiery Aspasia in Mitridate (unfortunately that recording is out of print but her earlier live Mitridate Sifare opposite the blazing Aspasia of Edda Moser remains available—and irresistible).

Other Augér highlights from the Hager cycle include Fauno in Ascanio in AlbaMelia in Apollo et Hyacinthus, and especially her anguished Giunia in my favorite from the series—Lucio Silla in which her sterling co-stars are Mathis, Helen Donath and a thrilling Julia Varady as Cecilio. Sadly both the Philips Mozart Edition and a more recent DG reissue of this essential recording are currently out of print.

Mozart: Il Re Pastore
Salzburg Mozart Week
28 January 1974

Edith Mathis : Aminta
Arleen Auger : Elisa
Marjorie Vance : Tamiri
Peter Schreier : Alessandro
Werner Krenn : Agenore

Leopold Hager : Conductor

A reminder that “Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player included on this page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, this Mozart performance, last week’s Abbado Rossini and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.