Idomeneo is a masterpiece of Mozart’s choral music and the dramatic situations he composed for the choir are among the most extraordinary, for their strength and emotion. These masses of people, who act and react with one voice, further reinforce the conflicts and individual passions of the characters. The complex, painful and tense relationship between father and son, which beats throughout the opera, is often compared to the one that lived then Mozart himself, who at age 25 had left Salzburg and his father’s house, composing a large part in Munich, away from the protection of his father.
Bringing together ancient myth music with current problems
Robert Carsen locates the action of Idomeneo at the present time, on a Greek island in the Mediterranean. The prolonged Homeric conflict between Trojans and Greeks is evoked in a modern version with a large army, refugees, deportees and victims of war. “When the opera begins, the Trojans are a defeated and expatriate people: they are refugees taken prisoner by the Greeks in Crete. Idamante, son of the victorious General Idomeneo, frees the defeated inmates and tries to unite the two enemy factions. But my impression is that neither side wants it: the nationalist Greeks, victors, do not want strangers in their land; Trojans, defeated and humiliated, are unable to trust their eternal enemies.
The love story of the two protagonist women, Ilia and Elettra, who love the same man, Idamante, is situated in a context of war, in which Elettra represents the victors and Ilia the vanquished. Apart from the obvious parallels with the theme of Romeo and Juliet – two young lovers who come from opposite sides – there is also an opposition of ideologies. Ilia is in a tremendous conflict: in love with the son of the enemy king, she wants peace and is prepared to forgive the Greeks, but at the same time she feels that if she does she will be betraying her dead father, Priam, and his land, Troy. Elettra feels that Idamante, falling in love with Illia, the enemy of the Greeks, has betrayed her and her people. Both Ilia and Elettra have lost everything – the homeland, the house and the family – and are in similar circumstances, even if they belong to opposing sides. Carsen without any doubt is in love with this masterpiece of Mozart:
For us Idomeneo is a potent anti-war statement, with a conclusion based on hope. At the end of the opera, when the voice of Neptune declares that love has overcome, it also dictates that Idomeneo must abandon the crown and Idamante must reign in his place. Here arises the possibility that a new generation, bringing love and peace, can transform a world destroyed by power, and war. Will the human being be able to stop making the same mistakes? I firmly believe that Mozart’s Idomeneo is one of the most important works ever written, a warning, a challenge and a beacon since it premiered. I hope we hear it with hope, hopefully love can succeed …
150 person on stage: the business of singing
The titular choir of the Teatro Real, has in Idomeneo a role of great dramaturgical and musical importance, interpreting some of the most beautiful Mozartian compositions.