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The first holder of the Leonard Ingrams Award, launched in 2007, is an Albanian-born soprano, Teuta Koço, who studied in England at Chethams School, Manchester and went on to the Royal Northern College of Music. Her credits, already formidable, include Papagena at Glyndebourne, a role in Kenneth Branagh's new film of The Magic Flute, appearances at Batignano and Montepulciano, and operatic roles with Clonter Opera and the Hallé Orchestra. Miss Koço's inaugural recital at Carnegie Hall was well received (New York has also just seen a staged revival of David Fielding's celebrated Garsington production of Strauss's Die Aegyptische Helena); and Albania has rapidly reclaimed her to sing Adèle in the National Opera's current Fledermaus in Tirana. Watch out, too, for Koço's new CD of Albanian popular song, which will appear shortly.

Mozart -- all Mozart, both rare and mainstream -- was an enduring Leonard Ingrams passion. His interest in the composer's earlier years as well as mature works was evidenced by the staging of La finta giardiniera just a couple of seasons ago, one of the last works Ingrams planned for the festival. Garsington's staging of Il re pastore [seen 13 June 2007], the last of the young Mozart's 'early' works (apart from Zaide) before Idomeneo thrust him towards full maturity, would have had Ingrams' hearty approval.

Aminta (Cora Burggraaf) and Elisa (Lucy Crowe) bring rustic charm to a rather woolly opera. Photo © 2007 Johan Persson
Aminta (Cora Burggraaf) and Elisa (Lucy Crowe) bring rustic charm to a rather woolly opera. Photo © 2007 Johan Persson

Just as La finta giardiniera, also written when the composer was nineteen, reveals a musician who by any standards other than Mozart's would be deemed a master of his craft, so Il re pastore -- especially in its later scenes -- points a finger forward to his great operas of the 1780s, including tantalising glimpses of Don Giovanni and Figaro in its three or four best numbers, and in the smooth transitions effected by its quick-moving recitative amid this 'music of charmingly pastoral disingenuousness'.

In some respects this much-used Metastasio libretto makes for a thin piece of drama; yet potentially it has an undeniable dignity and weight to it, which -- as Kent Opera proved just a few seasons back -- can, given the right design and emotional feel, chasten and beguile, and indeed enlighten. The choice of this pleasant homily of a libretto was imposed partly by the urgency with which it had to be written, to celebrate the visit of (wait for it) Archduke Maximilian Franz Xaver Josef Johan Anton de Paul Wenceslaus, the youngest of Maria Theresa's sons and of Joseph II's brothers, to Salzburg (still a small independent neighbouring state) in 1775, and also partly for its lightly-worn tips on what best constitutes a 'good' ruler.

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Copyright © 15 July 2007 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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