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Mozart Ascanio in Alba

Barbican Hall, 6 June 2006

Patrizia Biccire Venere
Carlos Mena Ascanio
Anna Chierichetti Silvia
Markus Schäfer Aceste
Sunhae Im Fauno
Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi

To open the Barbican/Classic FM's summer festival of the bank-rolling Mozart, whose popularity dominates so many schedules again this year, no worse choice than Ascanio could easily be imagined.

Ascanio in Alba, a hugely popular festa teatrale in its day, is long past its sell-by date. No story, no characterisation, endless recits and undistinguished da capo arias, decent singing (but that is not in short supply, so many well trained singers are jostling for a place in the sun). The band instilled energy with diminishing returns and we did not survive to endure the predictably similar second Act, despite the promise of free champagne at the end...

Let The Times' paid reviewer deputise for me -
"Ascanio in Alba wouldn’t have passed muster with Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, that’s for sure - - Ascanio in Alba certainly tests to the limit one’s patience with the juvenile Mozart - -If Mozart’s arias remain largely pedestrian, the scoring shows tints of the greatness to come - - But the scorebound singers (rarely making eye contact with one another) made very heavy weather of the vocal material.- - Orchestral finesse apart, this wasn’t an opening night to remember."

And The Guardian's: "in 2006, the piece sounds musically and dramatically redundant."

The Telegraph: as close to complete vacuity as you can get - just a series of relentlessly pretty arias for what seemed like an eternity.

and finally The Financial Times: "- - much of a formal Handelian muchness and barely inflected by human drama, let alone signs of the mature Mozart"

© Peter Grahame Woolf