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Mozart: Idomeneo / Ainsley, Breslik, Nagano

Mozart / Ainsley / Breslik / Bsop / Nagano
Release Date: 02/24/2009 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2072448  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Guy de MeyRainer TrostAnnette DaschJohn Mark Ainsley,   ... 
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera OrchestraBavarian State Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

With this wonderful production, Mozart's "Munich" opera returns to the place where it was first performed in 1781, the lovingly restored Cuvillies Theatre, a veritable jewel of Rococo architecture. In Dieter Dorn's production, the characters are real people of flesh and blood, their emotions and conflicts intelligible to every member of the audience. The cast includes some of the finest Mozart singers of our day, headed by the British tenor John Mark Ainsley in the title role, while Kent Nagano in the orchestra pit appears to unleash an elemental force of nature. - EuroArts

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Read more IDOMENEO

Idomeneo – John Mark Ainsley
Idamante – Pavol Breslik
Ilia – Juliane Banse
Elettra – Annette Dasch
Arbace – Rainer Trost
Gran Sacerdote di Nettuno – Guy de Mey
La voce – Steven Humes

Bavarian State Opera Chorus
Bavarian State Orchestra
Kent Nagano, conductor

Uwe Eric Laufenberg, stage director

Recorded live at the Cuvilliés-Theater, Munich on 11 and 14 June 2008.

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 176 mins
No. of DVDs: 2

R E V I E W:

MOZART Idomeneo Kent Nagano, cond; John Mark Ainsley ( Idomeneo ); Pavol Breslik ( Idamante ); Juliane Banse ( Ilia ); Annette Dasch ( Elettra ); Rainer Trost ( Arbace ); Steven Humes ( The Voice ); Bavarian St O &Ch and Bavarian State Opera Ch EUROARTS 2072444 (Blu-Ray disc: 176:00) Live: Munich 2008

First, a few thoughts about the opera itself. Mozart and his librettist Giambattista Varesco adapted a form of opera seria for the work, although many changes and updates from the original model can be noted. This was the young Austrian master’s first opportunity to break free of the confining provinciality of the court at Salzburg and show what he could do in the important musical form of opera. In Munich, Mozart was composing for some pretty good professional singers, and, at the time, probably the best orchestra in the world, the relocated Mannheimers. The pains he took to get the music right are manifest and clearly delineated in his frequent letters back to his father in Salzburg. Idomeneo is the first comprehensive opera score touched with Mozart’s very real genius, also the first to be firmly ensconced in the modern operatic repertoire. Despite its seeming Greek roots in the aftermath of the Trojan War, the story of Cretan king Idomeneo’s storm-fraught homecoming and terrible pact with the sea god Poseidon is thought to be taken from 4th-century Roman sources. The only true characters from the annuals of Greek antiquity are the king himself, mentioned frequently in The Iliad , and Electra, princess of troubled Argos, daughter of Menelaus and sister of Orestes. (And what is she doing on Crete?)

This video production is not new. It was recorded in Munich in 2008 on the occasion of the reopening of the magnificent Cuvilliés Theater after a three-year long renovation, a German national treasure and the original theater in which the work was first performed under Mozart’s direction in 1781. The theater has a beautiful interior, one which the viewer is given ample opportunity to admire during the course of the opera and especially during the latter parts of the ballet music at the conclusion of the video. This new release is of the Blu-Ray version, the DVD was reviewed by David L. Kirk in Fanfare 32:6. In general, Kirk reports favorably on the musical side of things but has issues with the visual show put on by stage director Dieter Dorn and assistant Jürgen Rose. I certainly agree with Kirk about the quality of the music-making. The Bavarian State Orchestra, if not quite as famous as their Mannheim predecessors, is a world-class opera ensemble, which plays the wonderful Mozart score with practiced expertise under the leadership of world-class conductor Kent Nagano. The State Opera Chorus also makes a joyful noise in this work, in which it features so prominently. Singing is ably led by British tenor John Mark Ainsley in the title role. No Pavarotti in timbre, Ainsley nevertheless has a fine voice and can do much more on stage than his famous Italian predecessor. This is the tenor version of the work Mozart revised for Vienna, and sweet-voiced young Mozartian tenor Pavol Breslik is equally fine as the son, Idamante (though I prefer a mezzo or countertenor in the role), and both Arbace’s arias are handled more than competently by tenor Rainer Trost. A similarly positive report can be filed on the ladies, Soprano Juliane Banse, treated rather harshly in these pages recently by Lynn René Bayley, starts out a bit quavery as the captive princess of Troy, but quickly rounds into form and sings quite well thereafter. Annette Dasch provides just the necessary vocal edginess to make Mozart’s Elettra come to life, and her acting in the role is terrific. The Voice, a frightening vocal personification of the god Poseidon, is handled as well here as I have ever heard it done. Perhaps it is my equipment, or the theater itself, but I continued to notice a reverberant acoustic that affects the voices, the males in particular, and washes them out. The condition can be improved but not eliminated by the controls on my receiver. Some cuts are taken, though both of Arbace’s rather unnecessary arias are included. Most of the ballet music is played without dancing at the conclusion of the video.

As for the staging, I find a bit of it distasteful, but mostly pretty innocuous stuff. During the overture the point is made in pantomime that Idomeneo has angered the gods by his bloodthirstiness in war, here seen slaying wounded and defenseless enemy soldiers on the battlefield, and is dragged to the underworld by black-clad minions. Apparently, that is why Poseidon has sent the storm that wrecks his ships and elicits the fateful vow from the king to sacrifice the first mortal he meets upon his return, which turns out to be his own son. In an opera seria that can tend to be somewhat static, director Dorn has everyone very busy and gives each of the singers something to do while singing arias and ensembles. Arbace, singing about offering himself for sacrifice rather than the royal son of Crete, pricks his arm and smears his blood all over both his arms, a bit off-putting for my taste. Sets are sparse and the back wall of the stage is left bare, for some unknown reason. Idomeneo works out of a broken wooden horse head for an act or two, more rather obvious symbolism continuing the anti-war theme. Costumes are colorful and eclectic, combining the ancient with the modern; Idamante wears a rather inappropriate sweater-vest. Much of the stage business is a bit in-your-face, but doesn’t detract seriously from the story of the king’s terrible moral dilemma, which still is harrowingly able to wrench the emotions.

There are several other video versions of Idomeneo available. If you are looking for a less provocative, more traditional staging, the 1982 Metropolitan Opera version with Luciano Pavarotti, Frederica von Stade, and Ileana Cotruba? makes a good choice, even with 30 year-old technology. This Munich set is the first Blu-Ray rendition and the hi-def video is a striking improvement over normal DVD. If you don’t mind a little pushing and pulling by director Dorn, and like to hear the music played and sung well, this may be the version for you. Recommended.

FANFARE: Bill White    
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Works on This Recording

Idomeneo, K 366 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Guy de Mey (Tenor), Rainer Trost (Tenor), Annette Dasch (Soprano),
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Pavol Breslik (Tenor), Juliane Banse (Soprano),
Steven Humes (Bass)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Munich, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/2008 
Venue:  Cuvilliés-Theater, Munich 

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