Idomeneo [Munich version; concert performance]

Idomeneo – Ian Bostridge
Elettra – Emma Bell
Idamante – Jurgita Adamonyte
Ilia – Kate Royal
Arbace – Benjamin Hulett
High Priest – Paul Badley
A Voice – Charles Pott

Opera Seria Chorus

Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi (violin)

Reviewed by: Kadir Hussein

Reviewed: 14 May, 2008
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

This performance of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” was very much on a small scale with ‘period’ instruments and a chorus of 16 members including ‘High Priest’ and ‘A Voice’. Fabio Biondi played the violin as well as directed! The result was clear textures with every detail of Mozart’s wonderful opera on display. The tempos were sometimes too jaunty and I missed the emotional seriousness of the work. Perhaps it was the strings: without vibrato and bloodless.

Kate Royal. ©EMI ClassicsThank heavens, the singers did not sound like they were on a diet! In fact, Kate Royal’s rich tones in her opening scene were almost too robust for poor captive Ilia, but the conflict in her heart (here love for Idamante) and doing her duty for her country was put across with conviction. Later on, when love triumphs, Royal successfully modulated her tone to become softer, rounder and sweeter. ‘Se il padre’ was a highlight of the evening – sung with glorious tone, exemplary line and great depth of feeling.

The object of her affections, Idamante, was originally to be sung by Christine Rice. Instead we had the Lithuanian mezzo Jurgita Adamonyte. I am not complaining! Hers is a light voice with beauty of tone and smoothness of line paramount (sometimes at the expense of forceful expression) and projected with great clarity. Her poise and phrasing was admirable reflecting Idamante’s confidence in his love for Ilia.

Ilia’s rival for Idamante’s affections – Elettra – was sung by Emma Bell with great drama and great projection. Her vengeful aria (‘D’Oreste, d’Aiace’ – added here to the Munich Version) was put across with great accuracy and considerable temperament; and she refused to be hurried by the conductor in the middle of ‘Placido e il mar’ and concentrated on producing glorious sounds.

The ‘white’ tone of Ian Bostridge is very much an acquired taste. This time, as Idomeneo, there was thankfully little squeezing of tone and ‘Fuor del mar’ was sung with accuracy, even runs and suitably kingly tone. It was good hear Arbace sung by a young tenor, but Charles Pott is hardly a bass! If the chorus did not start well, these singers improved. Despite some criticisms, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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