March 31, 2017

“Here is the Met at its best. … [James] Levine conducts, drawing a refined and affecting performance from the great Met orchestra and chorus and an impressive cast” (New York Times). Matthew Polenzani gives a “poignant, gripping performance” (New York Times) as the king torn by a rash vow; mezzo-soprano Alice Coote “exudes noble passion and dignity” (Financial Times) in the trouser role of his son Idamante; soprano Nadine Sierra sings “with expressivity and tenderness” (New York Times) as Ilia; and soprano Elza van den Heever “triumphs” (New York Times) as the volatile Elettra, who loves Idamante to the bounds of madness.

Nadine Sierra in her role debut as Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, which encores at Palace Cineplex on April 2, 2107

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed more than 600 works, and is regarded amongst the most renowned and revered of classical composers. In January 1781, his opera Idomeneo premiered with “considerable success” in Munich. Shortly thereafter, he was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. For Colloredo, this was simply a matter of wanting his musical servant to be at hand (Mozart in reality did not live lavishly in Colloredo’s establishment but had to dine with the valets and cooks.) But Mozart had a vision and an objective, and while in the archbishop’s service; shared his strategy with to his father in a letter: My main goal right now is to meet the emperor in some agreeable fashion, I am absolutely determined he should get to know me. — I would be so happy if I could whip through my opera for him and then play a fugue or two, for that’s what he likes.

Matthew Polenzani in his Met role debut as the King Idomeneo

Idomeneo is said to have given Mozart “the chance to give out all that he had learned from life and art, all he had experienced of love and suffering and pity and guilt, his comprehensive understanding of the dramatic, his consciousness of unequaled powers, in an opera that was an answer to prayer.” On its surface, Idomeneo is the story of an oath made by the title character to ensure his safe return home to Crete following the Trojan War. The tale recalls many other myths, and specifically brings to mind the story of Jephtha from the biblical Book of Judges. The larger theme, however, concerns the motivations and emotions of humans whose fates seem beyond their own control. The opera explores these issues within the framework of the opera seria genre, a stylized format favored by aristocratic courts, in which idealized noble characters function with a clear delineation between action (expressed in recitative) and reflection (expressed in arias, ensembles, and choruses). While 18th-century audiences accepted, and even celebrated, the artificial nature of this form of theater, subsequent generations sought a greater sense of realism in opera. Along with many other works from this period, Idomeneo essentially disappeared from the world’s stages until the mid-20th century. Modern audiences, familiar with works that reject realism and embrace certain artistic mannerisms, have once again returned this masterpiece to a place in the repertory

A scene from Mozart’s Idomeneo.

The March 25 matinee performance was transmitted worldwide, including Carib 5, in Jamaica as part of the 11th season of the Met’s Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 71 countries around the world. Tickets for the April 2 Encore performance at Palace Cineplex are available at the Box Office at Carib 5, or online at with a Palace Card or any major credit card.

(Sources: The Metropolitan Opera Playbill & Wikipedia)