Munich’s court theater was the venue for the premiere of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” on 29 January 1781; today, it hosts another premiere of this same work, now to celebrate the reopening of this sparkling Rococo gem of a theater, now known after its architect as the Cuvilliés-Theater. Restored at the cost of over 25 million euros, the theater provides an exultant red, gold and white setting for Mozart’s opera seria, which is considered as the first of the seven uncontested masterworks of Mozart’s dramatic oeuvre. Drama keynotes “Idomeneo,” which is drenched in endless despair, the constant threat of death, and the destructive passions of jealousy and hatred. For having saved his life, King Idomeneo promises Neptune to sacrifice the first person he encounters. Unfortunately, this happens to be his son Idamante, who is torn between two women: the Trojan Princess Ilia, whom he loves, and the Greek Princess Elettra, who desperately wants to marry him and ascend the throne. Mozart’s highly expressive music is given a passionate reading by conductor Kent Nagano, who leads his singers and players with brisk energy. The dark, full sound of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester provides lush underpinnings for the bravura arias and glittering coloraturas. In the title role, John Mark Ainsley tackles his demanding lines with impressive firmness. Idamante, a role usually sung by a contralto, is rivetingly portrayed by the tenor Pavol Breslik. As Ilia, Juliane Banse glows with tenderness, the opposite of Annette Dasch’s darkly simmering Elettra, who, in Dieter Dorn’s paired-down staging, is dragged away to her doom at the close of the work. Though Mozart did not foresee this end for the wrathful princess, he “would surely have been pleased with the first-rate singers” (The New York Times) in this Munich production.




Associated Collections

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Mozart in Salzburg

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Bayerisches Staatsorchester