Friday, 30 June 2017

Mitridate, Re di Ponto at Covent Garden

Albina Shagimuratova, Salome Jicia, Michael Spyres, Bejune Mehta, Jennifer Davis, Lucy Crowe. (C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER
Albina Shagimuratova, Salome Jicia, Michael Spyres, Bejune Mehta, Jennifer Davis, Lucy Crowe.
Mozart Mitridate, Re di Ponto; Michael Spyres, Albina Shagimuratova, Salome Jicia, Bejun Mehta, Lucy Crowe, dir: Graham Vick, cond: Christophe Rousset; Royal Opera House
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Jun 26 2017
Star rating: 3.5

Virtuosity galore, in a vivid, primary coloured spectacle

Mozart completed Mitridate, Re di Ponto, an ambitious Opera Seria, at fourteen years of age. Based on an Italian translation of Jean Racine’s play Mithridate, the virtuosic and sometimes verbose evolution of the drama are bound to set diaphragms aflutter in anticipation of it’s demands. The Royal Opera revived its production, directed by Graham Vick, with Michael Spyres, Albina Shagimuratova, Salome Jicia, Bejun Mehta and Lucy Crowe, conducted by Christophe Rousset.

It takes place in 63BC during the conflict between Rome and Pontus. Mitridate, King Mithridates VI of Pontus, after a heavy defeat is presumed dead. His sons Farnace (Bejun Mehta) and Sifare (Salome Jicia) compete for the hand of Mitridate’s fiancée Aspasia (Albina Shagimuratova). On his return Mitridate’s discovery of Farnace’s treachery and Sifare and Aspasia’s love is the cue for much chest beating ending in the Damascene conversion of Farnace in “Gia dagli occhi” just in time for the obligatory happy ending.

This tale of love and duty in the concomitant stylistic conventions of Opera Seria can be dramatically stultifying. Graham Vick asks us to recalibrate our dramatic expectations and makes the baroque artifice a virtue by drawing inspiration from Indian and Japanese performance styles. These influences are in turn reflected in the sparse sets and palette of Paul Brown’s designs.

Not everyone in this vivid primary coloured spectacle appeared as invested in this interpretation as Lucy Crowe (Ismene). She moved like an exponent of Kathak, mesmerisingly poised like a delicate porcelain doll. Her coloratura and diction pin-point sharp, her stage presence captivating.

The remainder of the singers appeared to be in various stages of indecision. Seemingly unwilling to commit, often resorting to stock hand gestures which made this potentially elegant soufflé start to deflate. A honey toned Albina Shagimuratova full of anguish and melancholy, Salome Jicia, Bejun Mehta and Michael Spyres kept the confection from collapse, but for all their relentless virtuosity it failed to rise.

Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Mitridate, re di Ponto
The Royal Opera
Monday 26 June 2017
Mitridate : Michael Spyres
Aspasia : Albina Shagimuratova
Sifare : Salome Jicia
Farnace : Bejun Mehta
Ismene : Lucy Crowe
Marzio : Rupert Charlesworth
Arbate : Jennifer Davis
Conductor : Christophe Rousset
Concert Master : Vasko Vassilev
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Director : Graham Vick
Designer : Paul Brown, Lighting designer : Nick Chelton, Choreography and movement : Ron Howell

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