Mozart’s two-act serenata Il Re Pastore was written in 1775 in response to a commission by the Archbishop of Salzburg. Metastasio’s libretto, based on a Torquato Tasso play, tells the story of Alexander the Great’s attempts at diplomatic matchmaking after his defeat of Strato, tyrant of the Phoenician city of Sidon. 

Alessandro (John Mark Ainsley) finds the true heir to the throne of Sidon in lowly shepherd Aminta (Sarah Fox), brought up in ignorance of his royal lineage. He and Elisa (Ailish Tynan) are in love, but Alessandro is unaware of this and tries to marry Aminta to Strato’s daughter, Tamiri (Anna Devin), who in turn is in love with nobleman Agenore (Benjamin Hulett). Confusion ensues, after which Alessandro cuts this particular Gordian Knot by making Aminta and Elisa rulers of Sidon and giving Agenore and Tamiri another kingdom to rule over.

This fourth volume in Classical Opera’s planned complete survey of Mozart’s operas is every bit as terrific as the first three, with dramatically fulsome singing from all five soloists. Aminta’s famous arias Aer Tranquillo and L’Amerò are of course particular highlights, while Ainsley’s Si Spande al Sole in Faccia shows he’s lost none of the eloquence and agility for which he is famous. The playing from period band Orchestra of Classical Opera under founding conductor Ian Page is stylish and gutsy throughout.