A Magnificent Production of  Mozart’s Work
By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: The Metropolitan Opera


San José, CA-- Made possible by a generous grant from its founding sponsor The NEUBAUER FAMILY FOUNDATION, with Global sponsorship provided by BLOOMBERG  PHILANTHROPIES and broadcast supported by TOLL BROTHERS, “The Metropolitan Opera HD Live” makes possible for the THE METROPOLITAN OPERA in New York, to show its operas in local movie theatres all around the world. This month, the opera was IDOMENEO,  Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e idamante    (Idomeneo king of Creta or Ilia and Idamante), the three-act  opera, based on Greek Mythology, written by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-l791) at the age of twenty four.  

MOZART composed the music for IDOMENEO, in the style of  “Opera Seria”  (also called  Drama per musica or Melodrama) which was the  style that was  used in the Italian Operas that predominated in Europe from l710 to l770. IDOMENEO is sang  in Italian,  and uses GIAMBATTISTA VARESCO’s  adaptation of  the libretto of a previous French production called  Idomenée, which used the libretto  written in French by ANTOINE DANCHET to ANDRÉ CAMPRA ‘s music in l712.  VARESCO’s adaptation of the French libretto  to Italian, may be the reason why MOZART’s IDOMENEO, which was written 69 years later, is known for its highly poetic language.

But  MOZART changed some of the “Opera Seria” rules. IDOMENEO’s  Overture in D major, in a modified sonata form, and by merges the opera’s Overture into the first recitative transforming to the aria  “Padre, germane, addio” (Goodbye, father and brothers) that is sang by Ilia at the beginning of the first act.

 NADINE SIERRA debuted  in the role of Ilia at the METROPOLITAN

MOZART also changed some of the secco recitatives (recitatives without music) from the opera, to Instrumentato Recitatives  (recitatives with music) and used the Chorus as a Greek chorus, not to tell the stories, but as participants in the stories which is the reason  why IDOMEDEO has masterful choral ensembles. MOZART’s  IDOMENEO  premiere  at the Cuvillis Theatre of the Munich Residenzo, on January 29, l781, and was conducted by its composer. Five years later, in l786 for the performance at the Palais Huersperg in Vienna, MOZART changed the range of the music sang by Idamante, from Castrato to tenor.

The opera relates the story of  Idomeneo, the King of Crete, who had been away for ten years in Troy, fighting in the Trojan War. During those years, and after her family was killed, Ilia, the Trojan princess, was transported to Crete and held captive with other Tojan prisioners. During those years, Ilia and Idamante, Idomeneo’s son, fell in love with each other, but when Idamante confesed his love to her, rejected him  because Idomeneo, his father,  has killed her family. To complicate the plot, Electra, the Princess of Argos, who also lives in Crete, has also fallen in love with Idamante.

The opera starts when Idomeneo, is returning home and a sea storm destroys his fleet  and drowns all of  his soldiers. He pleads to Neptune, (the god of the sea) to spare his life, and Neptune accepts to do it with the condition that he must kill the first person that he encounters in Crete and sacrifice the victim to  him (the god)  Idomeneo accepts to do it, unaware that when his body washes on a beach in Crete, the first person he meets is Idamante, his son, and that now he will have to kill him.

The  JEAN-PIERRE PONNELE  production of  the METropolitan Opera HD-Live  broadcast of IDOMENEO, has an all-star cast.  Conducting the orchestra was Conductor Emeritus  (he retired last year) JAMES LEVINE, who as we know, has been the music director of the METROPOLITAN OPERA since l976.  The  Role of  Idomeneo, was sang by MATTHE PLENZANI (picture above)  The role of Ilia by NADINE SIERRA, the role of IDAMANTE by ALICE COOTE, the role of Electra by ELZA VAN DEN HEEVER and the role of Arbace by ALAN OPIE.  The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD HOST, (The person during the broadcast  who introduces the artists and conducts the interviews) was MET Bass ERIC OWENS, who lent  his deep powerful voice  to the god Neptune in the production.

The Opera’s first act, gave tenor POLENZANI the oportunity to display the timbre of his marvelous voice and his dramatic prowess as an actor, by being capable to show his inner turmoil in his demeanor.  Idomeneo the King, had promised Neptune, a god,  to kill the first person he met in Crete and sacrifice him to him (the god) but that person, being his only son, makes it impossible for him to carry out his promise. His demeanor, is also heart braking for poor Idamante, as Mezzo soprano COOTE expressed convincingly, in her aria  “Non Mea colpa”  (I am not guilty) as Idamante is unable to comprehend the reason  why his father seems to hate him.

Finding himself unable to kill his own son, Idomeneo decides to  hide  him by sending him away from Crete. He decides to send Electra ( VAN DEN HEEVER) back to Argos and have his son escort her on her trip. This makes  Idamante desperate, because he is leaving Ilia, and forces her  to reveal her love for him.

    NADINE SIERRA as Ilia  and Mezzo Soprano ALICE COOTE as Idamante

In the meantime, the Cretans are in  trouble. Because Neptune, upset that Idomeneo has not yet sacrificed Idamante to him, is punishing Crete with a Monster who is decimating the population. Idomeneo, knows the reason why this is happening so he feels so guilty that he decides to tell the people about his covenant with Neptune.

Musically,  MOZART wrote beautiful arias for his opera and the Met singers displayed them well in their demeanor as actors and voices as singers. The chorus are exquisite. Some of the best arias on the HD broadcast were Arbaces (ALAN OPIE) “Se il tuo duol” in which he asks the King what is causing him pain.

Arbaces ALAN OPIE center and Idomeneo’s cast

For Ilia (SIERRA) “Si el Padre Perdei” (Since I have lost my father) which the soprano sang with lots of feeling. For Electra   (VAN DEN HEEVER)  “D’Oreste, d’Ajace ho in seno I tormenti”  (I feel Orestes’s (her brother) and Ajax’s (A trojan hero) torments in my heart) in which she combined her singing and acting to give the audience a dramatic  mad scene, and for Idomeneo  (POLENZANY)  “Fuor del mar” (Afuera del mar) that he sings when he realizes that his life was spared. This is an extremely difficult aria, for the singer because it has  many  melismatic passages, that must be heard over the heavy orchestra. In this performance, however, it served as a virtuoso showcase for the tenor.

And  being a  Greek work, MOZART decided to end IDOMENEO it with a  “Deux et Machina”  help from a god, in this case Neptune, who resolves Idomeneo’s problem by allowing love to  triumph

For the masterful production, we need to credit the orchestra. As conductor, Maestro LEVINE’s conducted it in such a way that we could feel the musical cadences in each one of the arias, and understood experience the meaning of the words. If in  composing IDOMENEO,  Mozart managed  to bring “Live” tp objects from nature, we could say that Maestro LEVINE brought life to every note on that night.

While the MET production of IDOMENEO was excellent as it was presented, it may have been better  if the the role of  Idamante had been sang by a tenor (As Mozart did when changed his Castratti to a tenor). Mezzo soprano COOTE interpreted the role well, but even whenwearing male garbo, she looked and behaved like a woman, which made it hard for the audience to see her as a man.  

“The METROPOLITAN Opera HD-live,” the  High-Definition  projection of the operas of THE METROPOLITAN OPERA, live to the screens of movie theatres, is bringing the once “exclusive”  world of  ópera  to the general audience around the world. 

For the price of a movie ticket,  these HD-Live productions, allow a person to vicariously visit the METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE in  New York City, and see an opera, exactly as the opera is being presented, from a seat of the person’s neighborhood Cinema. These operas shown as movies, even “teach” their viewers  important aspects of their productions, in segments of  “in house interviews” with the MET Opera singers, its directors, designers, conductors and even workers in their stage crew,  which are shown to the movie goers during the Opera’s  intermissions.

For those interested in serious music, The METROPOLITAN Opera H-D Live may be a place to start. The size of the projected movies onto the screen and their High Definition, give the Cinema viewers a “realistic” evening-at- the opera  experience.   

There are still two more operas in the schedule TCHAIKOSKY, EUGENE ONEGIN and STRAUSS DER ROSENKAVALIER, for information and tickets call 1800 Met.Opera