The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Season 7, Episode 3

Idomeneo (6 Nov. 1982)
"Live from the Metropolitan Opera" Idomeneo (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Music
8.2
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Returning home from the Trojan Wars during a storm, Idomeneo, the king of Crete, vows to sacrifice to Neptune (the Greek god Poseidon) the first living creature he meets ashore in return ... See full summary »

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Title: Idomeneo (06 Nov 1982)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Ileana Cotrubas ...
Frederica von Stade ...
Loretta di Franco ...
Women of Crete (as Loretta Di Franco)
Batyah Godfrey Ben-David ...
Women of Crete
Charles Anthony ...
Trojan Soldiers
James Courtney ...
Trojan Soldiers
Hildegard Behrens ...
John Alexander ...
...
Timothy Jenkins ...
Richard J. Clark ...
Voice of Neptune
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Metropolitan Opera Ballet ...
Dancers
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Himself - Conducted by
Metropolitan Opera Chorus ...
People
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra ...
Themselves - Orchestra
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Returning home from the Trojan Wars during a storm, Idomeneo, the king of Crete, vows to sacrifice to Neptune (the Greek god Poseidon) the first living creature he meets ashore in return for his own safety. The first person he sees turns out to be his own son Idamante, and Idomeneo attempts to escape from fulfilling his vow. Idamante, meanwhile, is loved by orphaned prisoner Ilia and by the jealous Electra. Who will be sacrificed, and who will stay with Idamante? Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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6 November 1982 (USA)  »

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Outstanding performance of a Mozart masterpiece
19 December 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

For as long as I can remember I have been an opera enthusiast, and the operas of Mozart are among my favourites. When it comes to his operas, I do prefer Don Giovanni, Le Nozze Di Figaro, Die Zauberflote and Cosi Fan Tutte over Idomeneo. That said Idomeneo is a Mozart masterpiece. The story is dramatic and compelling, the music is incredibly powerful and beautiful and the characters among Mozart's most-difficult-to-sing but interesting, especially Idomeneo.

As far as Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's work of Mozart goes, it is not quite as good as his films for Le Nozze Di Figaro and La Clemenza Di Tito, but I do prefer Idomeneo to his 1982 Die Zauberflote finding the cast here more consistent. And this surprises me since the cast for Die Zauberflote are generally more suited to Mozart than the cast here. His best opera film though is his 1982 Rigoletto, mainly because of the costume and set design, Ingvar Wixell's extraordinary Rigoletto and it was the best I've seen Pavarotti act as Duke of Mantua.

Back to this, this Idomeneo is outstanding. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's opera films are all stunning visually, his Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly are testament to this, and his Idomeneo is no exception. The settings are simple yet very elegant(I especially liked the omnipresent giant Neptune head), the costumes are equally sumptuous and the camera work exemplary. You do need a good orchestra, chorus, singers and conductor to do Idomeneo or any opera for that matter justice.

That is exactly the case here. There is a lot of beauty and power in the orchestral playing as well as style and clarity, and the excellent chorus(the largest chorus of any of Mozart's operas) do justice to just one of Idomeneo's most beautiful moments, Placido E Il Mar. After hearing his work here, I do think James Levine understands Mozart, his tempos particularly in the recitatives are brisk without feeling too rushed or plodding.

Until now, I never thought of Luciano Pavarotti much as a Mozart singer, in fact to be honest this is my first personal exposure to him in a Mozart role. Initially I was worried whether his voice would suit the role and whether he would bring out the dramatic elements of the most difficult by far of any of Mozart's tenor roles. I needn't have worried, for while I personally wouldn't associate Pavarotti in this role, he is superb in it.

His singing I cannot fault even in the less challenging version of his big aria. There is still the crystal-clear unique tone of his voice, his very Italianate phrasing and his beautifully articulated diction. What also surprised me was his acting. Apart from his 1977 La Boheme and his 1982 Rigoletto I never was always thrilled by Pavarotti's acting, but while restrained he does show signs of a dramatic ability.

Of the support cast, my absolute favourite was Frederica Von Stade as Idamante. I knew from watching and hearing her close to definitive Cherubino that she is wonderful in Mozart, and once again it shows. She looks very handsome, her acting you believe in every step of the way and her singing is agile and very musical. Ileana Cotrubas is equally great, in her singing you can hear a lot of lyricism and pathos and her acting is very passionate. These two are simply exquisite together.

That is not to dispute Hildegard Behrens, whose Elettra is simply bonkers, and from a performance point-of-view I mean this in a good way. She is so commanding on stage with lots of dramatic intensity and while her singing is more reminiscent of Wagner and Strauss(which is heavier repertoire, this I completely understand as this was Behrens' forte) it is nonetheless very powerful while showing an understanding of Mozart's style. Nor John Alexander in the difficult albeit static role of Arbace, singing the role with great skill.

Overall, not quite Ponnelle's best work but still outstanding, and after doubting him I had to eat my words after seeing Pavarotti here. 9/10 Bethany Cox


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