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
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.