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Il re pastore, K. 208

About the Work

Wolfgang Mozart
Quick Look Composer: Wolfgang Mozart
Program note originally written for the following performance:
National Symphony Orchestra Heinz Fricke, conductor/Christine Brandes, soprano Jan. 13 - 15, 2005
© Richard Freed

Died December 5, 1791, Vienna

“Aer tranquillo e dì sereni,” from Il rè pastore , K. 208. Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782), perhaps the most remarkable librettist of all time, wrote texts for some twenty-seven operas and eight oratorios, some of which were set by as many as thirty different composers. Il rè pastore (“The Shepherd King”) was set to music by Giuseppe Bonno in 1751 for a performance at Schönbrunn Palace, and subsequently set by Sarti, Hasse, Gluck, Uttini, Guglielmi, Lampugnani, Galuppi, Piccinni and Jommelli before Mozart's version was produced at the Archbishop's palace in Salzburg in 1775 as a festa teatrale in honor of the visiting Archduke Maximilian. Varesco apparently made some alterations in Metastasio's libretto, and Mozart may have adapted some of Guglielmi's music.

The shepherd king of the title, a role originally assigned to a castrato but subsequently taken on by female singers, is based loosely on actual history. When Alexander the Great freed the kingdom Sidon from the despot Straton, he made the shepherd lad Amyntas (Aminta in Italian) king. Aminta's Act II aria, “L'amerò, sarò costante,” has enjoyed a life of its own in concerts and recitals; the aria we hear in the present concerts, however, is a far less familiar one, also for Aminta, from the opera's first act. This expression of praise for the simple life of a shepherd amid the beauties of nature is sung by Aminta just before the disguised Alexander and the Sidonese nobleman Agenore put their questions to him, establishing his true identity as Abdalonimus (Abdalonimo), the rightful heir to the crown.