Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Maestrino Mozart - Airs d’opéra d’un jeune génie
Marie-Eve Munger (soprano)
Les Boréades de Montréal/Philippe Bourque
rec. 2021, Église Saint-Augustin, Mirabel, Canada
Sung texts with French and English translations enclosed
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD22815 
That Mozart was a child prodigy is of course a truism, and looking at his earliest compositions they are fairly derivative, He was a clever imitator and quickly learnt the craft, but it took some time to find expressions for his personality. Looking at his early output of operas it is however apparent how fast his feeling for drama and characterisation developed. The present issue presents a dozen arias he composed between the age of 10 (!) and 16, and several of them are remarkably mature, and some of them could very well measure up with his famous arias from the 1780s.
Listening to the arias in chronological order, I have to say that the recitative & aria O temerario Arbace – Per quell paterno amplesso (tr. 6) supposedly penned in 1766, when the boy was ten, is remarkable. The text is by Metastasio, and it deals with Arbace, who is saying farewell to his father. It seems that Wolfgang Amadeus could imagine himself in the predicament of Arbace, and the recitative is deeply felt, serious, tragic, while the aria proper is more a “standard aria” with fluent coloratura.
The German language aria from Die Schuldigung des ersten Gebote from the next year (tr. 3)should also be suitable for an 11-year old, telling the story of a lion roaring in the wood, but the hunter just wants to sleep. The hunter’s presence is heard in the horns, and reveals Mozart’s feeling for orchestral colours.
The year after that he composed Bastien und Bastienne, which is a rather idyllic children’s opera and is performed not infrequently. This is a simple lied, quite folksy.
La finta semplice from 1769, written by a boy just turned teenager, is revived successfully now and then. Rosina’s aria Amoretti che ascosi (tr. 2) is a simple prayer to the Cupids, flying about shooting arrows, not to come to her and wound her heart. No technical virtuosity, just beauty and warmth. In
the other aria, Collo bocca, e non col core (tr. 5) the text says:
With the mouth, not with the heart,
everyone knows how to fall in love.
But whoever wants fidelity and love
come learn from me
that you can without shame
please everyone, but love only one.
Here one could have wished some more depth in the music, but it is merely beautiful and gives the singer an opportunity to show off her coloratura – no bad thing
At age fourteen he wrote Mitridate, rè di ponto in the summer of 1770 when he and his father were in Bologna, and it premiered in Milan on 26 December and was a great success, being performed 21 times. Queen Aspasia had four arias, three of them recorded here. From the first act Al destin che la minaccia (tr. 7), from the second Nel grave tormento (tr. 8) and from the third the opening recitative and aria Ah ben ne fui presaga…Pallid'ombre (tr. 9). All three are highly dramatic and show Mozart at his most inspired, and particularly the third is quite exceptional when it comes to expressive writing.
The 15-year-old Mozart is represented by Ascanio in Alba from 1771. The aria Dal tuo gentil sembiante is a virtuoso, highly dramatic aria with lots of coloratura at breakneck tempo and some stratospheric high notes that stretch Marie-Eve Munger to the limits.
Finally, two operas from 1772. Il sogno di Scipione and Lucio Silla. From the former we hear the aria
Biancheggia in mar lo scoglio (tr. 1), where Metastasio’s explicit descriptive lyrics say:
In the ocean the rock turns white
and appears to waver, and it seems
that the sea, towering above it,
may submerge it.
But that battered stone
and when the sea, calm
and quiet, laps its feet.
The music is well wrought and apt. From the latter, one of the best of his early operas, in company with Mitridate, two excellent arias: the tragic Fra i pensier più funesti di morte (tr. 11), one of the young masters most moving arias, and then the disc is concluded with In un istante – Parto, m’affretto (tr. 12), fast and virtuosic with phenomenal coloratura. A real tour de force for Marie-Eve Munger.
And it should be said at once that, without her marvellous singing, the disc as a whole probably wouldn’t have been of more than fleeting interest – even though the historical interest is important. But this young Canadian soprano, whom I regrettably had never heard before, sings with such verve, musicality and technical accomplishment that I was quite stunned. Where she impressed most of all was in the three arias from Mitridate; in Pallid‘ombre her intensive dramatic singing is a revelation. Glorious singing! She must be an ideal Donna Anna. Laurels also to conductor Philippe Bourque and Les Boréades de Montréal, who play on period instruments at Baroque pitch (430 Hz). Every Mozart fan should without delay invest in this disc.
Il sogno di Scipione, K. 126 (1772, 15 years old):
1. Aria Biancheggia in mar lo Scoglio [7:34]
La finta semplice, K. 51 (1769, 13 years old)
2. Aria Amoretti che ascosi [4:57]
Die Schuldigung des ersten Gebots, K. 35 (1767, 11 years old)
3. Aria Ein ergrimmter Löwe brüllet [6:31]
Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50 (1768, 12 years old)
4. Aria Mein Liebster Freund hat mich verlassen [2:31]
La finta semplice, K. 51 (1769, 13 years old)
5. Aria Colla bocca, e non col core [2:52]
6. Recitativo O temerario Arbace – Aria Per quell paterno amplesso, K. 79 (1766?, 10 years old)[6:27]
Mitridate, rè di Ponto, K. 87 (1770, 14 years old)
7. Aria Al destin che la minaccia [6:47]
8. Aria Nel grave tormento [4:46]
9. Recitativo Ah ben ne fui presage – Aria Pallid’ombre [6:55]
Ascanio in Alba, K. 111 (1771, 15 years old)
10. Aria Dal tuo gentil sembiante [5:22]
Lucio Silla, K. 135 (1772, 16 years old)
11. Aria Fra i pensier più funesti di morte [3:18]
12. Recitativo In un istante – Parto, m’affretto [6:51]
Published: October 4, 2022