Idomeneo Act II (LTNF Live 4 WERB)
Little know? Well… how about this… lesser-known Mozart. He was 25 and this opera was a very big deal for Wolfy Amadeus.
My Wednesdays at the opera got off to a big bang with Mozart’s Idomeneo. We do Idomeneo Act II on this show.
Mozart and this Greek Tragedy
Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante (Italian for Idomeneus, King of Crete, or, Ilia and Idamante; usually referred to simply as Idomeneo, K. 366) is an Italian language opera seria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, based on a 1705 play by Crébillion père, which had been set to music by André Campra as Idoménée in 1712. Mozart and Varesco were commissioned in 1780 by Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria for a court carnival. He probably chose the subject, though it may have been Mozart. The work premiered on 29 January 1781 at the Cuvilliés Theatre in Munich, Germany.
The libretto clearly draws inspiration from Metastasio in its overall layout, the type of character development, and the highly poetic language used in the various numbers and the secco and stromentato recitatives. The style of the choruses, marches, and ballets is very French, and the shipwreck scene towards the end of act I is almost identical to the structure and dramatic working-out of a similar scene in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride. The sacrifice and oracle scenes are similar to Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide and Alceste.
Kurt Kramer has suggested that Varesco was familiar with Calzabigi and therefore the work of Gluck, especially the latter’s Alceste; much of what we see in Varesco’s most dramatic passages is the latest French style, mediated by Calzabigi. It is thanks to Mozart, though, that this mixture of French styles (apart from a few choruses) moves away from Gluck and France and returns to its more Italian (opera seria) roots; the singers were all trained in the classical Italian style, after all, and the recitatives are all classically Italian.