Voice of the Oracle
Friday 9th & Saturday 10th October 2015 7.30pm
Lavington School Hall
Idomeneo is an amazing work. Written when Mozart was twenty-five, it shows his operatic genius really blossoming. Although it is based on some very traditional material – a story from Greek mythology, broken up by arias and choruses – Mozart injects new life into old conventions and takes opera into new realms hitherto unexplored. This is, for example, the first time that the story is carried forward in trios and quartets, rather than just by single voices.
The Trojan War, source of so many poems and plays, has just finished when the opera starts. It is set on Crete, where the heir to the throne, Idamante, is responsible for the fate of Trojan prisoners of war. His action in sparing their lives is dictated by the fact that he has fallen in love with one of them, the Princess Ilia, much to the annoyance of the Greek Princess Electra, whom the war has also displaced to Crete and who is herself in love with Idamante.
There are fears that Idamante's father, the Cretan King Idomeneo, has been drowned in a storm at sea on his way back to his island. Idomeneo is however safe, but has paid a terrible price for his salvation. He has promised the sea-god Poseidon that in return for a calm sea he will sacrifice the first person he sees when he sets foot on dry land.
Disastrously, that person turns out to be his son Idamante.
The rest of the opera is concerned with the King's futile attempts to evade the task with which Poseidon has burdened him. Will Idamante survive? And will he be happily united with his beloved Ilia, without Electra getting in the way? These two questions keep the audience guessing until the very last minute.
Mozart's music is bold, graphic and ahead of its time. For all the beautiful and vocally brilliant arias and rousing choruses, what is chiefly impressive is Mozart's evocation of the sea as a menacing and violent force of nature.
White Horse Opera believes that Idomeneo should not be the poor relation among Mozart's mature operas and deserves to be heard and seen far more often.