Trove Thursday marks Mozart’s 264th birthday on Sunday with the 14-year-old’s remarkable opera seria Mitridate, Re di Ponto featuring Patrizia Ciofi and Barbara Frittoli as its star-crossed lovers plus the gleaming Slovak soprano Luba Orgonasova in arias from another early Mozart gem Lucio Silla.
Twenty years ago, I was lucky enough to attend one of the performances of this Mitridate staging at the Châtelet. Its cast differs somewhat from the starrier Decca recording Rousset made two years earlier with Natalie Dessay and Cecilia Bartoli as Aspasia and Sifare.
I was particularly happy to encounter Ciofi whom I’ve never heard in the US—a Violetta in Chicago 2003 doesn’t seem to have been followed by other appearances–but whose Aspasia and later her sly Poppea in David McVicar’s vivid punk Incornazione opposite a fierce Anna Caterina Antonacci Nerone—their duets!!–were both Parisian highlights.
Unfortunately, both the CD and this broadcast share the major blot of Brian Asawa’s inadequate Farnace. The American countertenor, who passed away at age 49 four years ago, is not up to the task of his character’s brusque and brilliant music.
Although a number of countertenors have attempted Farnace, I’ve yet to hear one that truly succeeded. Ironically my first (and very happy) exposure to Asawa was in the title character in another even rarer early Mozart work, Ascanio in Alba in 1992. Sadly he rarely fulfilled the promise of that excellent evening.
That same summer also brought my first Mitridate, a concert version at Alice Tully Hall which featured a most unexpected soprano in the florid role of Sifare: Christine Brewer. Ironically its Farnace was another artist who passed away too young, Tatiana Troyanos. It was the last time I heard her as she died almost exactly a year later.
Trove Thursday has already posted a wonderful complete Lucio Silla conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt with Edita Gruberovà, Ann Murray, Jill Gomez, Rachel Yakar and Philip Langridge, but I couldn’t resist including today some excerpts with Organosova, a favorite if somewhat neglected soprano.
Her thrilling Giunia from an unusual in-house recording from the Salzburg Festival might lack Gruberovà’s technical perfection but it joins her other fine commercial Mozart recordings of Konstanze, Donna Anna, and Aspasia. A fiery Elettra in a live Idomeneo with Jonas Kaufmann in the title role is available here.
Orgonasova sang Donna Anna at Chicago Lyric in 1995 but that may have been her only US opera appearance, but I did catch her in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at Avery Fisher Hall during one summer’s Mostly Mozart Festival. I saw her bewitching sorceress at the Palais Garnier in the first revival of the Robert Carsen beefcake Alcina. My recollection is that she was once announced to perform Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix with Opera Orchestra of New York but withdrew.
Mozart: Mitridate, re di Ponto
Theatre du Châtelet, Paris
8 April 2000
Aspasia — Patrizia Ciofi
Sifare — Barbara Frittoli
Ismene — Sandrine Piau
Arbate – Anna-Lise Sollied
Mitridate — Giuseppe Sabbatini
Farnace — Brian Asawa
Marzio — Mark Tucker
Les Talents Lyriques
Conductor — Christophe Rousset
Mozart: Lucio Silla—exc.
Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg
25 August 1993
Giunia — Luba Orgonasova
Camerata Academica Salzburg
Conductor — Sylvain Cambreling
Mitridate and the Lucio Silla excerpts can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.
The archive listing all “Trove Thursday” offerings in alphabetical order by composer was updated to include all material as of mid-November 2019.