13 Jul 2008

MOZART: Idomeneo (Britten ed.)

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.

Synopsis:

Act I

Scene 1. A room in the royal palace

Idomeneo, King of Crete, is expected home after the Trojan War. He has been preceded by his Trojan captives, including Ilia, one of the daughters of King Priam.

On arrival in Crete she had been rescued from a shipwreck by Idamante, son of Idomeneo, and the two have fallen in love, though not yet admitted this to one another. Ilia bemoans her fate as a captive deprived of her home and family, a slave in love with the son of her captor. She also fears that Idamante's affections have been won by Elettra (Electra), daughter of Agamemnon, who has fled from her home after the murder of her mother Clytemnestra and sought refuge in Crete.

Idamante tells Ilia that his father's ships have been sighted and announces his intention of setting free the Trojan prisoners. He confesses his love, but she rejects him, refusing to admit her own love and reminding him of the gulf which separates them. Elettra reproaches Idamante for freeing the Trojans. Arbace, Idomeneo's counsellor, reports that Idomeneo's ships have been wrecked in a storm and he has been drowned. All rush out except Elettra, who has perceived Idamante's love for Ilia and gives vent to her own jealous love for him.

Scene 2. A rocky part of the coast

Idomeneo has not been drowned. Washed ashore on the coast of Crete, he laments a vow he made to Neptune, God of the Sea, that if he was spared he would sacrifice to Neptune the first person he met on land. The first person he meets is his son, who is searching for him. Having been separated for 10 years they do not recognise one another at first. When recognition comes, Idamante tries to embrace his father, but Idomeneo rushes away in horror, leaving his son thinking he has angered his father. Joined by their wives and families, Idomeneo's troops rejoice at their safe homecoming.

Act II

Scene 1. The royal apartments

Idomeneo confides his predicament to Arbace and begs him to find some way of saving Idamante from the consequences of his rash vow. Arbace can only suggest sending Idamante away and Idomeneo seizes on the hope thus offered and decides to send his son to escort Elettra on her journey home. Ilia congratulates Idomeneo on his safe arrival. He begs her to shake off her sadness and confirms Idamante's action of setting the Trojans free. Ilia is comforted and feels that she has gained a new father in Idomeneo. He realises that she is in love with Idamante and grieves that his rash vow will prove the death of three people, as he and Ilia will die of grief at the death of Idamante.

Elettra is delighted when Idomeneo tells her that Idamante is to escort her, as she hopes he will learn to love her when he is parted from Ilia.

Scene 2. The port of Sidon

Preparing to embark, Elettra bids farewell to Crete. Idamante grieves at having to leave his new-found father and his beloved. They are prevented from embarking when a storm springs up and a monster emerges from the sea, a sign of Neptune's anger. When the people wonder who can have aroused the god's wrath, Idomeneo confesses that he is the guilty one, without explaining the details of his sin.

Act III

Scene 1. The palace gardens

Idamante tells Ilia that he now seeks death since his father has rejected him and she does not love him. She confesses that she does love him, even though her honor advises against it.

They are interrupted by Idomeneo and Elettra, both distressed, for different reasons, by the love between Idamante and Ilia. Idamante again begs his father to explain the reason for his sternness, but Idomeneo is still unwilling to reveal his vow. Arbace tells Idomeneo that the people are waiting to hear his intentions.

Scene 2. A public square

The high priest of Neptune begs Idomeneo to do somthing about the monster, which is killing innocent people. Idomeneo confesses his vow, explains that the victim is his son and promises to carry it out.

Scene 3. In front of the temple of Neptune

Preparations for the sacrifice are interrupted by Arbace, who announces that Idamante, seeking death, has killed the monster. Arbace feels that they are saved, but Idomeneo fears that the wrath of Neptune will be even greater.

Idamante appears, ready to undergo the sacrifice, glad that his father's apparent severity was only distress at the consequences of his vow. He tells his father not to hesitate to carry out the sacrifice, and commends Ilia to him, but she wishes to take Idamante's place as the victim. The voice of Neptune is heard, announcing that love has triumphed. He frees Idomeneo from his vow, but demands that he abdicate and yield the throne to Idamante and Ilia. All rejoice except Elettra.

[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]

Click here for the complete libretto.