Mozart, Idomeneo, 1781

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Synopsis Libretto History of the opera This year’s Met production Full opera here.

Friday August 18th

Mozart remakes opera seria

He was 24, and needed this commission. But it carried a

requirement that he should ‘produce an opera more or

less in the elevated classicist vein of Gluck.’ He did, while

making that “opera seria” style his own. He pruned the

libretto drastically to enhance the dramatic pacing, and

wrote complex music that plumbs the emotional turmoil

of the characters.’ More

Departing baroque, this is a much more modern serious

opera. More suspense, tighter plot, more variety of music.

Mozart's seemingly effortless brilliance can make us forget that

he was also one of music's greatest innovators, especially when

it comes to opera. … In Idomeneo, the set-piece arias, dry

recitatives and familiar, mythical characters are all

there. But so are deeply emotional ensembles, lyrical

and inventive arias, and music and characters so

fresh, that in this new example of an old style, the

familiar conventions burst wide. (NPR

The challenge for tenors

Gregory Leong calls the role of Idomeneo  the

“most taxing of Mozart tenor roles. The

character is not limp wristed wimp like Ottavio

(Don Giovanni) or an idiot (like Fernando in

Cosi). Mozart was not that interested in tenors

(the two main male parts are baritones in Le

Nozze, and both Sarastro and Papageno in their

opposite ways far more interesting than boring

Tamino in Magic Flute). So Idomeneo is a

great gift to a tenor who can conquer both

the technical difficulties as well as the

acting challenges of Greek tragic


There are two versions of the amazing

"Fuor del Mar", where the king rails at the

price Neptune has placed on his escape

from the storm. Nicolai Gedda does the

‘bravura’ version here, and there’s a poor

recording of Domingo, plus of course


Our Production

Glyndebourne, 1983, Dir. Trevor Nunn, Glyndebourne Chorus & London Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Bernard Haitink. Philip Langridge (tenor) Idomeneo, Jerry Hadley (tenor) Idamante,  Yvonne Kenny (soprano) Ilia,  Carol Vaness (soprano) Elettra.  Gramophone DVD review.