Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Mitridate Re di Ponto|
Actors: Gösta Winbergh, Yvonne Kenny, Ann Murray, Anna Gjevang, Joan Rodgers
Directors: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
More than just a curiosity
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 04/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this film was my first exposure to this work by the adolescent Mozart, so I'm going to start with my impressions of the opera itself. Like early Verdi, Mitridate conforms to the structural conventions of the time. In Mozart's case, this means the rigid format set by the genre known as opera seria, using a slight storyline as a backdrop for a series of florid arias sung by an extensive cast of characters. But Mitridate is no mere curiosity, it is a substantial opera in its own right, just as Verdi's Nabucco and Ernani are substantial operas. In fact, I was amazed at how this opera progressively grows more open and alive despite the rigid structure, infused with its own distinctive brand of youthful vigor(another thing it has in common with Nabucco and Ernani), how the music goes from fairly uninspired(still pretty, though) imitations of Gluck in the first half to the uniquely Mozartean showpieces that dominate the second half and show an astonishing amount of emotional depth for a fourteen-year-old. Mitridate might not be Don Giovanni, but it has moments of transcendence and is well worth a serious listen(and look).
On to the film. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle has managed an intimate but not stagy visual experience by filming on location at the beautiful, atmospheric and palatial Teatro Olimpico which provides both bright and wide open courtyards and dark, claustrophobic corridors. Ponnelle avoids private chambers in his interpretation, which gives the environment a more impersonal look, but this lends itself to the title character's emphasis on politics and ambition over interpersonal relationships and compassion.
Ponnelle has gathered an attractive cast of singing actors, both physically and vocally. I've been a fan of the recently deceased dramatic tenor Gosta Winbergh for some time now, although I confess to having experienced very few of his performances. He looks a little like the actor Viggo Mortenson, and his voice is reminiscent of Pavarotti's. But don't let that milky smooth voice fool you...Winbergh is perfectly capable of all the fire and adrenaline necessary for the role of Mitridate. The rest of the leading roles are taken by women. Ann Murray and Anne Gjevang play Mitridate's two sons, the Goofus and Gallant of opera seria. Murray is poignant as Sifare, the loyal son who tries to resist his love for his father's fiance, Gjevang brash, intense, and later quietly moving as the Shakespearean Farnace, the id to Sifare's ego. Yvonne Kenny plays the object of so many affections. Kenny is appropriately gorgeous, a mixture of Catherine Deneuve and Bernadette Peters, but more than that, she is noble, elegant, graceful, and her delivery of her arias, as well as her love duet with Murray, is flawless and beautifully uplifting. Finally, Joan Rodgers as Ismene, Farnace's abandoned fiancee, is very pretty and, more importantly, very assured in her singing, with a voice that matches her feminine beauty every step of the way.
There are longer versions of this opera available, so obviously some cuts were made. These were probably necessary to maintain a dramatic pace, since the story itself is rather static. The main attractions here are the location sets, which give a sense of closeness to the sea, and of course Mozart's music, beautifully written, beautifully sung."