Mitridate’s Youthful Longueurs

GermanyGermany W.A. Mozart, Mitridate, Re di Ponto: Soloists, Bavarian State Orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth (conductor), Prinzregententheater, Munich, 23.7.2012 (JMI)

Production: Bavarian State Opera

Direction: David Bösch
Sets: Patrick Bannwart
Costumes: Falko Herold
Lighting: Michael Bauer


Mitridate: Barry Banks
Aspasia: Anja-Nina Bahrmann
Farnace: Lawrence Zazzo
Sifare: Anna Bonitatibus
Ismene. Lisette Oropesa
Arbate: Eri Nakamura
Marzio: Taylor Stayton

Picture courtesy Bavarian State Opera, © Wilfried Hösl

David Bösch’s production of Mitridate, Re di Ponto was premiered at last year’s Festival where I had the opportunity to see and review it (S&H review here). A year later the result was a considerably lesser one. The blame for this lies with the new conductor. The 14 year old Mozart’s opera is hardly a masterpiece, and if it isn’t to be awfully long in the tooth, it needs an outstanding conductor in the pit to make up for its deficiencies. Last year, Ivor Bolton was that kind of conductor, this year Mark Wigglesworth was not.

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W.A.Mozart, Mitridate,
Bartoli, Dessay, Sabbatini, Asawa
C.Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques

This was the first time I heard Wigglesworth conducting, and given his reputation from conducting at Brussels’s La Monnaie I expected more from him. Mitridate is a very static opera and it needs every injection of life into the score it can get. Keeping the nicely performing Bavarian State Orchestra—in which hornist Zoltan Macsai especially distinguished himself—together and adjust dynamics simply isn’t enough.

Barry Banks repeated his performance as Mitridate from the previous year, which is to say: very successfully, although I still think his voice is better suited for a light Rossini tenor role than what Mozart’s tormented character needs. King Mitridate’s bride Aspasia, who is in charge of his sons while the King goes to war, was performed by German soprano Anja-Nina Bahrmann, whose voice seemed better suited to the character than Patricia Petibon’s last year. Aspasia is in the same class as Fiordiligi or the Countess Almaviva, and Mrs. Bahrmann responds to these demands with an attractive voice of albeit impersonal timbre, which became monotonous at times.

Mitridate’s sons were the same as last year and they were again very good. The agile American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo was an excellent as Farnace and Italian mezzo Anna Bonitatibus exciting, tasteful, and charged as Sifare. Lisette Oropesa, too, repeated her outstanding performance as Ismene, Farnace’s rejected bride. Soprano Eri Nakamura (Arbate, a cleaning lady in this production) completed the cast together with tenor Taylor Stayton (Marzio). The former was very good, indeed; the latter had his third act aria cut which, given how long Mitridate was beginning to feel by then, wasn’t all bad.

José Mª Irurzun