The production of “Idomeneo” at the Music Center cranks along in a rather pedestrian fashion but has the benefit of Mozart’s glorious music and Placido Domingo’s powerful portrayal in the title role. Mozart wrote the opera at the advanced age (for him) of 25 and showed that he could write a serious opera with music that gives life to the characters. Mozart glides beautifully from recitative (the bane of many operas) to arias so that the music flows impeccably.
The librettist, Giambattista Varesco, was a verbose poet who draws out a simple but beautiful, mythic tale. King Idomeneo, the king of Crete, has a rough voyage back from Troy and appeases the sea god, Neptune, by promising to sacrifice the first person he sees. That person turns out to be his son, and thereby lies the drama.
In addition, there are two maidens in love with his son, one an enslaved Trojan princess, Ilia, and the other the famous Greek heroine, here called Elettra. Guess who wins the prince.
The stage setting consists of a gray backdrop that can open to reveal a giant mask or a giant monster, take your pick. The huge stage is therefore empty and creates an enormous platform for the individual singers. The costumes are also rather confusing, more reminiscent of Egyptian priests than ancient Greeks. Unfortunately, the set design and the costumes do little to add life and movement to the proceedings.
The singing is all first-rate, starting with Domingo, whose voice is deeper and richer as he outgrows roles like Don Jose. Outstanding is the soprano Veronica Villaroel as Elettra, who chews the scenery a little but knows how to project her voice. The slave, Ilia, is Adriana Damato, also impressive. Although opera goers have generally learned to accept hefty sopranos as Carmens or Aidas, women in trouser roles can be disconcerting. Kate Aldrich, a slender woman, plays Idamante, the prince. She looks rather vulnerable as she heads off to slay the monster and you get the feeling that the monster will have him/her for lunch.
Nevertheless, her fine mezzo-soprano voice conquers all.
Others in the cast are Corey Evan Rotz as the king’s advisor, Arbace, and Gary Rideout as the high priest of Neptune.
Vera Lucia Calabria directs the production and the sets have been designed by Michael Vale. David McVicar was responsible for the costumes.
Although this production has its shortcomings, “Idomeneo” manages to shine through because of Mozart and an excellent cast of singers.