This year’s opera centerpiece of the Bloomington Early Music Festival is "Il re pastore," a delightfully charming early Mozart work. The simple story was originally a court entertainment performed by children. Tim Nelson’s direction captures a childlike ambience without childishness.
Stanley Ritchie conducted with the classical orchestra at the back of the Auer Hall stage and the singer/actors in front. Tim Nelson’s story setting for "Il re pastore" has the group dressed in summer whites in a day of play that begins with the morning and ends in the evening. Along with some marvelous singing of the challenging music there were plenty of gentle hijinks that helped to round out the characterizations.
Sherezade Panthaki was masterful as the shepherd king with Kathryn Aaron a perky pleaure as her love. Angelique Zuluaga played the daughter of the deposed tyrant. David Wood was the man who becomes her love and Brian Arreola was Alexander the Great.
These days with an international story like this, it’s hard not to look for parallels. Let’s see, in "Il re pastore" Alexander, the leader of world-conquering-power, invades a country. However his purpose is not conquest but an effort to find and install a legitimate leader. Alexander succeeds and even arranges for the heir of the deposed tyrant to be integratred back into society, to marry and assume leadership of a separate area. In his final speech, Alexander declares that his goal is to make everybody happy and to depart leaving no enemies.
That this is celebrated with a lovely quintet sung by all the principals lying in happy abandon on their backs, if anything adds a certain joie to the vivre.
The final performance of "Il re pastore" takes place this Friday at seven-thirty in Auer Hall. You can find an interview with conductor Stanley Ritchie and soprano Kathryn Aaron on our Arts Interviews page .