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Mozart – Idomeneo

Idomeneo Paul Nilon; Idamante Robert Murray; Elettra Emma Bell; Illia Sarah Tynan; Voice of Neptune Pauls Putniņš
Conductor Edward Gardner; Director Katie Mitchell; Set Designers Vicki Mortimer, Alex Eales; Costume Designer Vicki Mortimer; Lighting Designer Paule Constable; Video Design Fifty Nine

ENO at The Coliseum, London 19 June 2010

Beware of this latest ENO make-over of a famous opera, in its commercially successful drive to attract new audiences. It is a travesty to a degree beyond belief or comprehension.

We are not fixed in hostility to modern opera productions, and indeed had enjoyed parts of Katie Mitchell's ENO/WNO co-production of Jephtha.

We tried to endure her latest recreation, first in a contemporary Cretan "palace" (?), with Mozart's arias dominated by the distraction of servants incessantly processing to and fro filling wine glasses for the high-class alcohlics. Later, we stuck out Act 2, set with improbable cliffs and in a ferry departure lounge, some thought it was.

We sacrificed Mitchell's anticipated destruction of the third act in favour of a quick return (quiet before the likely eruption of drink-fired England supporters after another World Cup failure) to a home viewing of Idomeneo's last act on the great Salzburg 2006 DVD.

I leave it to my National Press colleagues to describe in detail the inanities, which in interval chat had them seething...

Let it suffice to say that we had enjoyed the singing of Emma Bell, Robert Murray, Paul Nilon and Sarah Tynan (who improved in Act 2 after a weak start at the beginning). But this was in the context of numerous experiences of Idomeneo, one of my favourites of Mozart's operas ever since Glyndebourne 1951 (Fritz Busch/Carl Ebert, Lewis, Simoneau, Nilsson, & Sena Jurinac's Ilia there one of my all-time indelible memories of perfection). *

For a "modern" Idomeneo, instead of ENO's at up to c. £150 for a pair of seats, treat yourselves to the marvellous Salzburg double-DVD [Decca/Unitel 074 3169] directed by Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann, available from £16 at Amazon, with two five-star reviews... In comparison with Roger Norrington's sharp historically-informed musical direction of the score at Salzburg, ENO's orchestra under Gardner (as heard from the Circle) was overblown and unfocussed (we had previously admired him in Tito etc).

ENO programmes are expensive; I feel that it should be axiomatic for directors to offer their production credos to help give audiences gain their bearings; as does WNO for theirs, and so do many directors on DVD "extras"? Why should it all be a guessing game for opera house paying audiences?

Our review of the Salzburg DVD is at MozartM22Idomeneo

Peter Grahame Woolf

* Hear Jurinac singing Ilia's first aria on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/comment_servlet?all_comments=1&v=zSkOdBSLQYM

P.S. The reviews in the "Nationals" have been slow to appear; two "blogs" worth seeing are at theartsdesk , boulezian
and opera-britannia : "as puerile, boring and tacky a trivialisation as you would hope never to encounter on a professional stage" - -

Images: Stephen Cumminskey & Tristram Kenton