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Mozart: Idomeneo / Haitink, London Philharmonic

Mozart / Haitink / Nunn
Release Date: 08/31/2004 
Label:  Kultur Video   Catalog #: 2257  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Roderick KennedyJerry HadleyCarol VanessThomas Hemsley,   ... 
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraGlyndebourne Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Coming to this Idomeneo was something of a cultural shock in a number of ways. It is a film of the Glyndebourne production that marked the operatic debut of the renowned theatre director, Trevor Nunn. Being a film there is no audience applause. The film director uses many facets of the genre and there are frequent mid and close shots. All of this makes demands upon the singers to convey the meaning of the story with bodily and facial involvement as well as vocal expression. In this there are variable results, some being more successful than others as I outline below.

The second, but not unexpected shock was musical style. Mozart composed Idomeneo between the singspiel works, Zaide and Die Entführung aus dem Serail. It is
Read more firmly an opera seria and based on Greek legend. This was a genre that the composer did not return to until his last staged work, La Clemenza di Tito ten years later when he reverted to opera seria for a prestigious commission. This reversion is explained by the background politics of the Vienna Court at the time (see review). La Clemenza di Tito was his last staged opera and composed contemporaneously with the mature singspiel Die Zauberflöte. Whereas in Clemenza the older and musically more accomplished Mozart was able to bend the traditional form of the genre to better encompass the dramatic thrust of the opera, in Idomeneo this ability is less evident. In consequence it consists of static vocal showpieces preceded by recitative. This, like the filming, has serious consequences for the singers.

My final shock, really too strong a word, was in respect of the production, sets and costumes. In 1983 Glyndebourne was a traditional house. That is not to imply that the production styles were set in old ways, certainly not with Peter Hall as Director of Productions. But there were no way out avant-garde productions of the sort that became the norm less than ten years later. It was the operatic debut of Trevor Nunn. The sets and costumes are firmly in Minoan Crete. The sets are relatively simple, realistic when needed, and wholly appropriate with lighting giving dramatic effect as when the shadows encompass the chorus and singers in the storm scene (CH.16) and the voice of Neptune (CH.24).

The name part has drawn many famous tenors to the recording studio including those not noted for their Mozart in the theatre, including Pavarotti and Domingo. Philip Langridge’s tenor is not of the same mellifluous character or vocal grace as those famous names. Although stretched vocally at times (CH.16) he gives a thoroughly convincing sung and acted portrayal of the name part. His face, in the many close-ups, always reflects the appropriate emotions, inner and external. In this respect he is matched by the Electra of Carol Vaness, whose biting diction and smooth tones are allied to considerable histrionic gifts. As Ilia, daughter of the Greek King Agamemnon, enemy of Idomeneo, Yvonne Kenny looks a little old for the lover of Idamante. She often fails to reflect the drama of the words and situations in her body language, albeit her singing leaves little to be desired with good diction and command of the florid passages (CH.2, 17). As Idamante, the spurned son of Idomeneo, Jerry Hadley is altogether more problematic in features, voice and acting. His tenor has a hard edge and his over-youthful face seem incapable of reflecting the agonies (CH.7) and ultimate exultation (CHs. 23-24) of the role.

The matter of the casting of Idamante as a tenor is problematic. The role was written for a mezzo-soprano en travesti and that better serves the musical balance. Glyndebourne staged the first British performances of the work in an earlier production in 1951, again casting a tenor. Although Mozart made many amendments to the music in 1786 to accommodate particular singers in private performances I am not aware of any being tenors. I am surprised that Bernard Haitink, who conducts the London Philharmonic in a well-paced and idiomatic account of the music, carried this tradition on.

Despite my doubts about the casting of Idamante, this traditional staging, with many felicitous details by Trevor Nunn and his team, makes for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment in a genre that even today gets little stage time elsewhere.

-- Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International

Region: 1
Picture: 4:3 full screen
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Language: Italian
Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, Japanese
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Works on This Recording

1. Idomeneo, K 366 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Roderick Kennedy (Bass), Jerry Hadley (Tenor), Carol Vaness (Soprano),
Thomas Hemsley (Baritone), Yvonne Kenny (Soprano), Philip Langridge (Tenor),
Anthony Roden (Tenor)
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781; Munich, Germany 

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