Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Idomeneo, re di Creta
25 February 2011
In the last two decades of the 19th century
and the first two decades of the 20th, the major opera houses of the world tossed
Mozart operas into the wastebasket. In that time opera was dominated by the
concepts of music drama and verismo. Mozart wrote for singers, not conductors,
and the tyranny of the conductor, which Verdi despised, dominated the era. The
earliest revival of Mozart operas was at the Salzburg Festival in 1922 when Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, and Le Nozze di Figaro were performed, but sung in German. Idomeneo was not performed until 1951and was sung in
Italian. The revival of Mozart at Glyndebourne took place in 1934, and Idomeneo was first performed there in 1951.
The history and evaluation of this opera was
written by James Camner in his review of the recording conducted by John Eliot
Gardiner in Fanfare 15:3. I would agree that is one of the best
recordings of the opera, the other being conducted by Charles Mackerras on EMI.
Actually there are several good performances on CD of this opera. This
recording has the virtue of being complete. Mozart, himself, made many changes
in the opera, notably cutting arias and simplifying the tenor aria Fuor del
mar. Adam Fischer, the conductor, is one who understands that Mozart's music should be elegant.
Many conductors use
fast tempos that often destroy the elegance. This performance includes the
ballet music on the fourth CD. The cast is quite adequate. Kristina Hammarström's
bright mezzo is a good Idamante, Henriette Bonde-Hansen's lyric soprano sings a
good Ilia, Raffaella Milanesi's dramatic soprano is fine as Elettra, and
Christoph Strehl's lyric tenor produces a fine Arbace. Fortunately Arbace's
arias are not cut. Unfortunately the principal role of Idomeneo is sung by Christian
Elsner, whose nasal tenor is disturbing. He does manage to get through the original
version of Fuor del mar but only with what is obviously a great deal of difficulty. The finest recordings of this
opera are the Harmonia Mundi release featuring René Jacobs as conductor, which
was reviewed in Fanfare
33:1; the Gardiner set
mentioned above; and also a wonderful recording on EMI conducted by Sir Charles
Mackerras that was reviewed by George Jellinek in Fanfare 26:2.
The sound on this Dacapo release is excellent,
the packaging quite fine. A large booklet contains notes in Danish, German, and
English by Claus Johansen with many of the letters about the composition of the
opera written by Mozart to his father. There is also a section with notes about
the conductor and the singers as well as a list of the tracks, and a complete libretto
with an English translation. On the whole this is a good release, but there are too many better ones available.