08 Jan 2006

MOZART: Idomeneo

Idomeneo, rè di Creta. Dramma per musica in tre atti (K. 366).

Music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco after Idomenée by Antoine Danchet.

First performance: 29 January 1781 at the Hoftheater, Munich
Revised version, 13 March 1786 at the palace of Prince Johan Adam Auersperg, Vienna

Principal Characters:

Idomeneo, King of CreteTenor
Idamante, his sonSoprano or Tenor
Ilia, Trojan princess, daughter of Priam, King of TroySoprano
Elettra, princess, daughter of Agamemnon, King of ArgosSoprano
Arbace, the King's confidantTenor
High Priest of NeptuneTenor
Voice of NeptuneBass

Time and Place: Sidone, capital of Crete, after the Trojan War.


Act I

Ilia, a Trojan prisoner in Crete, is in love with Idamante, son of Idomeneo, who, it seems, may have perished with the Greek fleet. Ilia imagines that the Greek princess Elettra may fare better with Idamante, who enters, bringing news of the sighting of the Greek fleet and the decision to release the Trojan prisoners, while he remains captive to the charms of Ilia. Elettra objects to this act of clemency, and Arbaces enters with the news that the fleet has sunk. Idomeneo, however, has survived, thanks to the vow he has made to Neptune to sacrifice the first living being he meets on his return. Idamante approaches him, neither of them recognising the other. When Idomeneo learns that the other is his son, he rushes away.

Act II

Idomeneo confides in Arbace, who suggests that Idamante should go away, escorting Elettra back to Argos, until some other solution may be found. As they are about to board ship, a storm arises and a sea- monster emerges. Idomeneo admits the vow he has made, but does not give the name of his son.


Ilia and Idamante are together in the palace gardens, joined there by Idomeneo and Elettra, all expressing their conflicting feelings. The sea-monster meanwhile has been causing devastation and Idomeneo admits to the High Priest of Neptune that the sacrificial victim should be his son Idamante. He, however, has killed the monster and now offers himself as a victim. Ilia tries to take his place, but the voice of Neptune bids Idomeneo abdicate in favour of his son, who should marry Ilia, a command that allows Elettra a final expression of jealousy and anger. Idomeneo is grateful for the rest that retirement will bring.

[Source: Naxos]

Click here for the complete libretto.