- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: EuroArts
- Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
- List Price: $39.99
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Mozart was an accomplished composer at age 25 when he wrote Idomeneo, a classic opera seria based on Greek legend. Generally acknowledged to be his first great work for the stage, it contains the vocal and orchestral elements that were to be refined in his later successes like Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Cosi Fan Tutte.
This 2008 performance coincides with the reopening of the lovely Cuvillies Theater in Munich. Kent Nagano, a superb operatic conductor, leads the Bayerische Staatsoper orchestra and chorus, in an updated production that features a very strong cast: John Mark Ainsley as Idomeneo the King of Crete, Pavel Breslik as his son Idamante, Juliane Banse as Ilia the captured Trojan princess, Annette Dasch as Elettra the daughter of Agamemnon, and Rainer Trost as Arbace.
The story opens after the end of the Trojan War. Idamante, in love with Ilia, frees the Trojan prisoners, a move not pleasing to Elettra. Idomeneo, believed to be lost at sea, is washed up on shore and has pledged to the god Neptune to sacrifice the first living creature that he meets. Unfortunately this turns out to be his son Idamante whom he banishes from his sight. To salvage the situation, Idomeneo orders Idamante to return Elettra to her native Argos. Before they set sail, a storm appears summoning up a serpent. Idomeneo takes this as an omen and offers himself to Neptune. Idamante and Ilia confess their love only to be discovered by Elettra. Idamante is sent out to kill the sea monster while Idomeneo tells his people that he had promised to sacrifice his own son. Ilia offers her own life. Eventually Neptune intervenes and orders Idomeneo to turn over his throne to Idamante and Ilia. The opera ends with blessings on the new couple and prayers for peace.
Dieter Dorn presents a stark stage with stylized costumes and no shortage of blood on the characters. Camera work very much of the in your face approach which, in this case, effectively heightens the drama and works to the advantage of the sparse sets. Colors are quite good and, but the inexplicable grain in the hall shots (different camera most likely), spoils what is an otherwise well videographed production.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound track is very vivid and gives a good account of the stage and pit. In fact, maybe a little too good as there is more than usual amount of stage noise captured. This cavil notwithstanding, the level of vocalism is simply outstanding, as we get to hear some of the best Mozarteans on today’s stage. For me, the aha moment was Annette Dasch’s rendition of Elettra’s mad scene, riveting in its power and pathos. Here is a Mozart singer with Wagnerian chops, exactly what this role requires. It does not hurt her cause that she is an opera babe. Orchestral balances are near ideal and we get to hear the full glory of this orchestral score. The PCM 2.0 track is quite good although not nearly as atmospheric.
EuroArts gives us trailers only. Since Idomeneo will be unfamiliar to many viewers, I would have really appreciated at least a featurette on its background and this production.
The Definitive Word
Surprising as Idomeneo is less well known than the other later Mozart operas, there are eleven previous video discs of this opera, perhaps the most “notorious” being the Met version with Luciano Pavarotti. The current entry is the first BD and, from the standpoint of cast and musical direction can hold its own against the current DVD competition. Traditionalists may take issue with the minimalist sets and odd costume choices, but the quality of musicianship trumps these concerns for me. The quality of sight and sound recording is generally good and make this an enjoyable watch of what might be an unfamiliar masterpiece for many of us.
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