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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Idomeneo (1781)
Aldo Certocci (tenor) Idomeneo; Georg Jelden (tenor) Idamante; Agnes Giebel (soprano) Ilia; Irmgard Stadler (soprano) Elettra; Cesare Ponde de Leon (baritone) Arbace; David Ward (bass) High Priest of Neptune; Ottokar Shofer (bass) The Voice; Chorus and Orchestra of RAI Rome/Peter Maag.
rec. live, Auditorium Foro Italico, Rome, 8 October 1965. ADD
ARTS ARCHIVES 43063-2 [78:34 + 46:46]

It is always nice to see another Idomeneo hit the shelves. The 2004 Chandos English version (CHAN 3103, with Diana Montague as Idamante and Nicolai Gedda as the High Priest of Neptune) is excellent in many respects, including recording quality, but there is the language consideration. On DVD, Philip Langridge is mightily impressive in Trevor Nunn's staging with Haitink at the helm (review ). Now here is a Roman 1965 account under the acclaimed conductor Peter Maag. Beware, it is live and there are many places where this is obvious, not least the Overture which, though bright and forceful, suffers in ensemble terms. Interestingly there are elements of anger to some string phrases, possibly emphasised by the rather dry recording quality; some might find this annoying as the performance goes on.

The orchestra is not the weakest link, however – that honour goes to the always sloppy chorus. Often messy in pure terms of just singing together, they also sound congested in this recording. The worst moment comes with the invocation of peace of the Second Act ('Placido è il mar'), marred by characteristically less-than-perfect ensemble. There is some good news, though. Idomeneo is the best singer present, as one would hope. Tenor Aldo Certocci is strong, powerful and impassioned. His Act 2 'Fuor del mar' - the only track I felt compelled to play again - is impressive and he dominates throughout.

Soprano Agnes Giebel is a nicely expressive Ilia - try, 'Se il padre perdei'. Georg Jelden is a light but firm tenor for Idamante, although he cannot match Jerry Hadley on DVD.

In contrast to the DVD, the Arbace here is rather strong: Cesare Ponce de Leon. Unusually, the 'bad girl' part of Elettra (here Irmgard Stadler) is taken rather beautifully rather than with single-sided venom. Although no match for Carol Vaness (DVD), Stadler can float a note most affectingly. In fairness, she does inject a fair measure of bile into her Act 3 aria, 'D'Oreste, d'Aiace'. David Ward, as the High Priest, carries the requisite authority.

Another characteristic of this recording that may grate is the sudden closeness of the harpsichord on occasion. It is most off-putting, and the fact that one instance occurs very near the end of the opera does not help one to forget it.

A very mixed bag, then. Danile Prefumo's notes indicate a performance of real stature, something I would find hard to agree with, although his point about Maag's performances being before their time is a fair one; accents can carry a punch that is not easily found in Mozart of the mid-1960s. The set comes with complete text, but there’s no translation. Also do bear in mind that both Parry (Chandos) and Haitink provide fuller versions of the score. The text of the opera is provided, but there are no translations.

Colin Clarke


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