Saturday, March 25, 2017

Idomeneo in HD

Conductor...................James Levine
Production..................Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Idomeneo, King of Crete:  Matthew Polenzani
Idamante, his son:  Alice Coote
Ilia, princess from Troy:  Nadine Sierra
Elettra, princess from Argos:  Elza van den Heever
Arbace:  Alan Opie
High Priest:  Noah Baetge
Voice of Neptune:  Eric Owens

Eric Owens was also the host for the Metropolitan Opera HD presentation of Mozart's opera seria Idomeneo, composed when Mozart was only 24.  It is very much in the traditional Neapolitan style of endless da capo arias.

Idomeneo has sworn to Neptune that if he lives through a storm at sea, he will sacrifice the first person he sees on the shore to him.  He lives.  He walks down the stage already lamenting the death to come when his son Idamante approaches him.  The plot has the best possible ending.  Idomeneo does not kill his son but instead cedes his kingdom to him.  Opera seria usually has happy endings.

It was as long as Tristan and did not start early.  A lovely film of a much younger James Levine coaching Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle in Ariadne auf Naxos was inserted between acts II and III.  I miss them.  It was nice to see them, but this added to the length of the performance.

The camera showed Levine conducting the Mozart overture today, and I thought his movements looked much better than the last time I saw him.  This didn't help the draggy tempos. There needed to be cuts.  By the third act it all began to seem tedious.  I think we are in a period where people refuse to cut anything.

People have jumped on Elza van den Heever for her manic performance, but I found her refreshing and the highlight of the program.  I always love Nadine Sierra, and she was outstanding here.  There were three tenors, but none of them were in the Mozart tenor tradition.  We had big singing and intense drama from all of them, especially our hero Matthew Polenzani.  Perhaps Alan Opie is considered a baritone, but this role was on the high side.  The only disappointment was Alice Coote who seemed out of sorts.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I thought this opera was interminable and left as Act III started, then listened to the rest of the opera on the drive home (and then finished at home). Four and a half hours including intermissions is too much, especially when the best aria in the piece comes with only ten minutes remaining.

I thought the singing was generally very good -- certainly Mozart's best-ever writing for a tenor -- but I agree Coote seemed out of sorts. The chorus was excellent, as usual, but Donald Palumbo needs to shave!