Notes and Editorial Reviews
John Pritchard was a noted Mozart conductor, and he leads this performance – from the harpsichord – with spirit and a good sense of style…the recording offers the opportunity to hear soprano Gundula Janowitz, at age 27, as Ilia, and tenor Luciano Pavarotti, age 29, singing Idamante in his only Glyndebourne appearance.
The Glyndebourne Festival’s handsomely packaged sets, bound in book form – with the CDs in the front and back covers and including full libretti – range from the familiar ("Fidelio") to the unusual (Prokofiev’s "Betrothal in a Monastery").
Glyndebourne’s new release of its 1964 "Idomeneo" falls somewhere in the middle. Although well known now,
"Idomeneo" had its British premiere – at Glyndebourne – only in 1951, in an edition still being used by the company in 1964. Assembled under postwar exigencies by Viennese composer Hans Gal, it is by modern standards inadequate, cutting several scenes...but John Pritchard was a noted Mozart conductor, and he leads this performance – from the harpsichord – with spirit and a good sense of style. And the recording offers the opportunity to hear soprano Gundula Janowitz, at age 27, as Ilia, and tenor Luciano Pavarotti, age 29, singing Idamante in his only Glyndebourne appearance. Janowitz handles her role with great spirit, giving Troy’s exiled princess character and passion – but within the strictures of opera seria. Pavarotti overplays Idamante somewhat, seeming a trifle uncomfortable with Mozart’s style and with the noble and moderate tone of the prince’s love for Ilia; but his voice rings clearly and cleanly, with a strong and attractive upper register. Richard Lewis (Idomeneo) and Enriqueta Tarrés (Elettra) are both best in their more intense arias.
The Washington Post, [05/19/2020]
John Pritchard, cond; Gundula Janowitz (
); Luciano Pavarotti (
); Neilson Taylor (
); Enriqueta Tarrés (
); Richard Lewis (
); Glyndebourne Ch; London PO
GLYNDEBOURNE GF0CD006-64 (2 CDs 141:24
Text and Translation) Live: Lewes 8/14/1964
Since Mozart did not leave us with a definitive
, organizers of performances and recordings must decide which material to include and exclude. Even for the opera’s 1781 premiere in Munich Mozart was muddying the waters with a series of cuts, revisions, deletions, and alternative material. The waters were further muddied in 1786 when Mozart prepared the opera for a concert performance with additional changes. Some arias were altered, others were replaced, some new material was added, and the role of Idamante was changed from castrato to tenor.
is one of Mozart’s most ambitious and pretentious operas. It is a large-scale work with showy arias, impressive choral contributions, and a ballet. The plot is largely presented through the recitatives, so injudicious cuts rob the work of nuanced character development, leaving the plot to lurch forward in fits and starts. I am familiar with nine recordings of
; no two are alike. In broad strokes the differences are: Idamante sung by a mezzo or a tenor; the choices of how much material to include (too numerous to include in a review of reasonable length); the orchestra playing period or modern instruments; and inclusion of the concluding ballet. The ballet is so often detached it even carries a separate Köchel number (367).
This new release on Glyndebourne’s house label has a tenor Idamante, the orchestra uses modern instruments, Arbace’s aria (No. 22) “Se colà ne’ fati è scritto” is omitted; and the ballet is not included. It was recorded during performance on August 14, 1964, with a minimum of stage noise and applause at appropriate places that is not intrusive. The sonics are exceptional for a live recording from this era, although there is no indication whether it is mono or stereo. The ambience is very spacious and clear, but I did not detect any stereo separation.
Conductor John Pritchard made two studio recordings of
, both in stereo. In 1956 he conducted the Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra and Chorus for EMI; for Decca he conducted the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Chorus in 1983. The Decca recording is much more complete than the EMI, although nips and tucks are still taken. The EMI is textually much closer to this Glyndebourne performance.
The most direct comparison can be made between Pritchard’s two recordings with Glyndebourne. They are quite similar, and I found both to be more persuasive than the more textually complete Decca. Both run about 2:20, both cut Arbace’s aria (No. 10), both feature Richard Lewis as Idomeneo, and both have a tenor Idamante. Pavarotti is Idamante in this 1964 Glyndebourne and sings Idomeneo in the 1983 Decca. Both are worth having, but I found him in better voice and more involved in the drama as Idamante. Differences between the two Pritchard/Glyndebourn recordings are the inclusions of No. 28 (a brief musical number for La voce) in the 1964 live performance and an Italian libretto with translations into English, French, and German. EMI only provides a plot synopsis with the 1956 recording.
If textual completeness is important to you, there are several recordings from which to choose. A Philips set from 1991 (Colin Davis/Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus) offers all the music, although several numbers appear out of sequence in the appendix on disc 3. A period-instrument recording (Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists) includes the alternative pieces on the same discs where they would be located in the opera, so programming is facilitated. The ballet is properly placed as the concluding number. James Levine (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus) leads a fairly complete
on Deutsche Grammophon. The ballet is missing and a few alternative versions of arias are used. All offer compelling performances. Another complete recording, in the sense that some version of all numbers is used except for the ballet, is conducted by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (EMI 1971). I have always found the performance to be rather pedestrian in spite of a cast that includes Nicolai Gedda, Anneliese Rothenberger, Edda Moser, Peter Schreier, and Theo Adam.
s of choice have been (in chronological order) the 1956 Pritchard (EMI), the 1990 Gardiner (Archiv), and the 1996 Levine (DG). This new 1964 Pritchard (Glyndebourne) gives the 1956 Pritchard interesting competition. The opportunity to hear the young Pavarotti at the beginning of his career is one of the attractive features of the 1964 live recording, but Sena Jurinac’s Ilia is a recommendation for the 1956 EMI.
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Works on This Recording
Idomeneo, K 366 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Dennis Wicks (Bass),
David Hughes (Tenor),
Richard Lewis (Tenor),
Gundula Janowitz (Soprano),
Enriqueta Tarrés (Soprano),
Neilson Taylor (Tenor),
Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor)
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Written: 1781; Munich, Germany
Date of Recording: 1964
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