Mozart: Il re pastore

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“One must live as if it would be forever, and as if one might die at each moment. Always both at once.”
Attributed to Alexander the Great

Mozart’s Il re pastore was commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg to celebrate the royal visit of Archduke Maximilian Franz. It was premiéred on 23 April 1775. The choice of Metastasio’s popular libretto, in which Alexander the Great searches for the rightful heir and places him on the throne of Sidon, was a particularly apt one, for the ceiling of the Knights’ Hall in the Archbishop’s Palace – the room in which Mozart’s opera was first performed – features a series of paintings by the Austrian artist Johann Michael Rottmayr, all dating from 1714, which also depict scenes from the life of Alexander. It might also have appealed to the composer’s subversive sense of humour that the acts of heroism evoked on the ceiling were not entirely mirrored by Metastasio’s often ironic portrayal of Alexander’s bungling attempts at match-making as he seeks to bring peace and political harmony to the kingdom of Sidon.

Translations of the libretto into French, English and German alongside the original Italian can be read here.