Festa teatrale in two parts K. 111 (1771)
Libretto: Giuseppe Parini
"Ascanio in Alba", K.111, came about through the good offices of Count Firmian, who had shared the Milan audience’s enthusiasm for "Mitridate" and exerted his influence on the Empress in Vienna. He suggested entrusting the young Mozart with the composition of a festa teatrale for the wedding of the Empress’s son, Archduke Ferdinand, and Maria Beatrice d’Este of Modena. Mozart began working on the score in the late August 1771.
Tailor-made for the royal wedding, the work’s main function was to portray the members of the Habsburg wedding party as generous, kindly rulers and virtuous heroes. For the creative team of the production shown at the Salzburg Festival but originating at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, this specificity proved to be a rewarding challenge.
Since the audience had no pre-formulated expectations with "Ascanio", director David Hermann and his stage and costume designer Christof Hetzer sought to draw out of this unknown opera the elements that are of particular interest to us today.
The imaginative production – featuring a reduced chorus, a "movement chorus" and even a segment to be watched through 3D glasses – ideally complements the work, which is, after all, a festa teatrale and not an opera seria! We would hardly find a hero such as Ascanio in an opera seria: a puppet-like young man forced to follow orders and unable to determine his own life. And Silvia, his betrothed? She’s been in love for four years with a man she’s never seen.
The 15-year-old Mozart felt free to ignore the strict conventions of the opera seria and culled his forms from a avariety of sources such as concert arias, pastoral idylls, mass sections, recitatives both secco and accompagnato. The work radiates an irrespressible good nature and joy of life.
Iris Kupke, Venere
Sonia Prina, Ascanio
Marie-Belle Sandis, Silvia
Charles Reid, Aceste
Diana Damrau, Fauno
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mannheimer Nationaltheater
Adam Fischer, conductor
David Hermann, stage director
Stefan Aglassinger, video director
Recording dates: 03.08.| 05.08.2006
Venue: Salzburger Landestheater