Saturday, November 27, 2010

Adventures in Opera Repertoire

I see from the announcement for The Future is Now, the gala performance by the Adler Fellows of the San Francisco Opera, which will take place this Wednesday, December 1, in Herbst Theatre at 7:30 PM, that countertenor Ryan Belongie will be singing “Venga pur,” Farnace’s aria from the first act of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 87 Mitridate, Re di Ponto.  As one might guess from the Köchel number, this is very early Mozart.  Specifically, he wrote it at the age of fourteen while touring Italy in 1770;  and it was his first effort in the opera seria genre.  There are only two ensemble numbers in the entire opera, the rest being a rather impressive (not to mention lengthy) array of virtuoso arias separated by recitative passages.  The opera received 21 performances at the Regio Ducal Teatro in Milan, after which it was forgotten until the rise of twentieth-century musical scholarship.  My guess is that this music will be unfamiliar to just about everyone in the audience;  but it demonstrates that, even at the age of fourteen, Mozart was no slouch when it came to writing for solo voice.  This is likely to be a promising bit of programming for those who prefer performances that depart from the beaten path.

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