A pleasure to watch.
Mozart’s Idomeneo was recently issued
by Chandos (on CD, and in English).
Now we have the DVD incarnation of a
Glyndebourne production conducted by
Bernard Haitink. The set’s value is
further enhanced by the fact that this
represents Trevor Nunn’s debut as operatic
producer, which according to the DVD
box - there is no booklet - blends ‘Minoan
Crete with the ritualistic delicacy
of Japanese theatre’.
The lead-in to the
Overture is strange, in that one is
denied the usual privilege of watching
the conductor enter. The punchy overture
begins under pictures of Glyndebourne’s
picturesque surroundings. Still, once
underway, it certainly has plenty of
the feel of the opera house about it.
The story centres around
Idomeneo’s vow to Neptune that, if delivered
safely from a storm, he would offer
as sacrifice the first living being
he encounters when safe on home ground.
That person, unfortunately, happens
to be his own son, Idamante. At the
final desperate moment, as the axe is
about to fall, the Voice of Neptune
proclaims that Idomeneo shall lose his
kinghood, and Idamante shall reign,
with his beloved Ilia at his side.
The cast is an impressive
one, and towering above his colleagues
is the Idomeneo of the evening, Philip
Langridge. An astonishingly versatile
performer, Langridge’s Mozart ranks
with the very best. His aria, ‘Vedrommi
intorno’ in Act 1 reveals the dark side
of Mozart, and Langridge is completely
at home projecting Idomeneo’s despair.
Towards the end of the opera, when he
pleads to placate the gods, axe in hand,
ready to kill his own son, Langridge
is supremely eloquent and completely
Not in the same league
in the believability stakes is Yvonne
Kenny’s Ilia. Presumably the stock-positioned,
static depiction of this character is
at least partially directorial, but
the fact is that if it is, Kenny looks
as if she doesn’t believe it will work.
Vocally, she is fine, floating her line
well and her way with phrasing at least
helps us to believe she is in love with
Idamante. Again in Act 2 for ‘Se il
padre perdei’, there is the same stasis
but a nice legato. Here the vocal line
is joined by excellent obbligato contributions
by flute, oboe, horn and bassoon. The
LPO principals excel. This is maybe
the loveliest aria of the entire opera.
In fact Ilia seems
to grow as the opera progresses. Her
Act 3 scene (from ‘Solitudini amiche’)
is a model of beauty and how marvellous
is the setting, with hanging flowers
and a blue, late-evening(?) sky. Her
ensuing duet with Idamante is gorgeous.
A young Jerry Hadley
is Idamante, and as his aria (‘Non ho
colpa’) progresses it becomes increasingly
obvious that Haitink has his singers
well-trained. They are nicely reined
in by his conducting, and in return
he allows them space where necessary
as in Hadley’s brief flourish/cadenza
in this first aria. Hadley’s gestures
can be on the stiff side though. Here
it really does look like plain old-fashioned
Electra is taken by
Carol Vaness, who recently appeared
as Nivian in Albéniz’s opera
Merlin on DVD (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Nov04/Albeniz_Merlin.htm
). Here she is earlier in her career,
rust-haired and the very incarnation
of jealousy. She actually looks
mad here; mad in the sense of insane
rather than angry. Her first aria (‘Estinto
e Idomeneo? … Tutte nel cor vi sento’)
also brings out the best from Haitink,
who provides the tension as the music
moves from A minor to a nice dramatic
D minor. Mozart gives Electra a balancing
aria in Act 2 (‘Idol mio’), that Vaness
brings off extremely well. No surprise
that her Act 3 aria, full of spite,
The small role of Arbace
is taken rather weakly by Thomas Hemsley.
It is a bit strange including this aria
(it is sometimes cut) as he comes on,
does his bit and then basically disappears
again. It is at least nice to have it
Mozart invoked Neptune
with trombones, after Gluck who used
these forces to represent the supernatural.
Roderick Kennedy is fairly large of
voice - though off-stage.
Of course the Glyndebourne
Chorus is excellent. When is it not?
They have a fair amount to do in this
opera and acquit themselves marvellously.
Try the male chorus at the Act 1 shipwreck,
depicted with projected images of lightning
and various shadows, for example. It
may be of interest to note that the
Chorus Master (actually Mistress) was
none other than Jane Glover.
The combination of
Trevor Nunn’s conception, with John
Napier’s designs and David Hersley’s
lighting makes a powerful impact.
This is no short opera.
Haitink takes just a touch over three
hours. Including extras, Mackerras on
EMI takes 203 minutes (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Nov02/Idomeneo.htm
), and Gardiner on Archiv 211! Of course
one should also hear the Chandos Opera
in English (CHAN3103). Yet this DVD
is well worth investigating.
is no applause between acts. The end
of Act 1 presents a dark screen; similarly
the very end of the opera is freeze-framed,
then on come the credits. There is much
to be said for this approach as it lets
the music and action one has just heard
and seen resonate all the more after
the DVD has finished.