Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Mitridate review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘expertly sung’

Bejun Mehta and Farnace Albina Shagimuratova in Mitridate; re di Ponto at Royal Opera House, London Bejun Mehta and Albina Shagimuratova in Mitridate; re di Ponto at Royal Opera House, London
by -

Mozart composed Mitridate, King of Pontus when he was just 14 for the predecessor of La Scala, Milan. It’s representative of the serious opera (‘opera seria’) of the day (1770), when singers (often castratos) ruled the stage and competed throughout the evening to out-sing one another in an endless sequence of ornate and complex solo arias.

It’s a kind of musical drama that the adult Mozart would move away from and which eventually fell out of fashion, and it can be a hard sell to modern audiences, requiring extremely careful handling.

Fortunately, it gets it here in this revival by Graham Vick of his visually stunning staging, first seen back in 1991. With the striking influence of Baroque and Oriental theatre evident in Paul Brown’s vividly coloured designs, and especially in his enormous and spectacular costumes (which must take a lot of getting used to if you’re wearing them), it provides an evening in which high art meets high camp.

Crucial to the show’s success is the quality of the singing, with the individual performers despatching rapid-fire coloratura and impossible high notes as they demonstrate their prodigious virtuosity.

No-one disappoints, with exceptional standouts from Michael Spyres as the king of an area now in Turkey who defies Roman rule, and with Bejun Mehta and Salome Jicia as his sons Farnace and Sifare, who – like their father – both want to marry the princess Aspasia, a role in which Albina Shagimuratova gets better and better as the evening proceeds. Lucy Crowe shines equally brightly as Ismene, daughter of a neighbouring king, who eventually marries Farnace.

In the pit, historically informed specialist Christophe Rousset makes his Royal Opera debut and never misses a trick.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Expertly sung, Graham Vick’s revival of his 1991 show still delivers the goods