Il re pastore

Enchanting historical opera written by a teenage Mozart.
Garsington Opera, Sat June 9th - Mon July 9th 2007

June 14, 2007
Il re pastoreThe Shepherd King – is a light opera or serenata, libretto by Metastasio, music by a teenage Mozart. The plot is slight: a shepherd, Amynta, who is in love with Elisa, discovers that he is really a king; Alexander the Great wants to marry him off to princess Tamiri, but both Tamiri (in love with Agenore) and Elisa object and, in the end, the magnanimous Alexander agrees to everyone marrying the person of their choice. The singing is exquisite and the acting too is delightful. It is so good to see lovers who really act like lovers. Lucy Crowe, in particular, puts in a spirited performance as Elisa, moving fluidly from happy to miserable to angry, and Cora Burggraaf convincingly portrays the anguish of a person suddenly called upon to give up an idyllic life and take on duties and responsibilities. The direction too has a wonderfully light touch, bringing out the humour in the opera. During the overture and some of the arias, people (and sheep!) come and go and interact, spying soldiers dress up as trees, a tent is meticulously reduced to nothing, Alexander gives orders to his soldiers while singing to us and so on. The costumes, particularly the women’s costumes, are lovely. Above it all, however, is the beautiful soaring music of Mozart, perhaps nowhere so beautiful as in the aria L’amero, saro costante, sung by Amynta. The opera is sung in Italian, with surtitles.

The programme gives detailed notes on the background to the writing of this opera: the political atmosphere of the time and the changing order of things where being true to oneself conquers all. Garsington Manor is a glorious setting for this opera: the Manor’s Italianate loggia is used as a backdrop and the performers come and go through the beautiful garden. The gardens are open a couple of hours before the performance and you can spend that time wandering through the gardens. There is a champagne tent and tables and chairs are scattered over the lawn. The interval is 85 minutes long so take a picnic (or order a picnic or eat in the restaurant). If the weather is not kind, there are shelter tents with more tables and chairs. Both stage and seating are covered so the performance is not disrupted by bad weather. A pity then, for such a prestigious black tie event in such a beautiful setting, that slippery steps and long wet grass can make returning to your car in bad weather a difficult and unpleasant experience.
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