January 20, 2018
Saturday, July 19, 2014

Idomeneo returns to the Colón

A scene from Idomeneo as staged by Jorge Lavelli at the Teatro Colón.
A scene from Idomeneo as staged by Jorge Lavelli at the Teatro Colón.
A scene from Idomeneo as staged by Jorge Lavelli at the Teatro Colón.
By Alfredo Cernadas
For The Herald

King of Troy makes his way to the local stage in Lavelli’s production

Considering that Idomeneo is not one of Mozart’s best-known operas, it has been produced at the Teatro Colón quite a number of times since its local premiere in 1963. This is far earlier than the Met’s, which staged it in 1980. Other versions at the Colón were produced a year later and then in 2003.

For all its virtues, Mozart’s score has never equalled the success of several of his other stage works. In fact, this opera bloomed in the 20th and 21st centuries, both on stage and on records. The work was the object of several arrangements and was finally premiered in Munich on January 19, 1781 at the request of the Duke of Bavaria. Idomeneo was a huge success and it is considered Mozart’s first mature opera.

As many other operas at the time, it deals with a mythological subject. This time it’s the war of Troy, the source of many other stories about the heroes and gods involved in it, such as Idomeneus, the King of Crete who, on his trip home after the fall of Troy, invokes Poseidon, the god of the seas, to placate him for the terrible storm his ship has been caught in. So he promises to sacrifice the first person he sees as soon he arrives safely to Crete. Sure enough, the victim to be sacrificed is his only son, Idamante. After many comings and goings, all is well that ends well, as Shakespeare would have put it.

The new production at the Colón has been entrusted to Jorge Lavelli, a versatile régisseur and overall man of the stage who has a brilliant international career in both prose works and opera. Simplicity has been the guiding concept of this production. Or, rather, minimalism, for the stage, designed by Ricardo Sánchez Cuerda, was practically empty most of the time. The only exceptions were Electra’s stunning gowns, and Idomeneo’s outfit, which made me think of Bayreuth in the 60s, and the priest’s black clothes, which surely would be not unfit in Boris Godunov. The costumes, designed by Francesco Zito, matched the stage’s bareness. Zito clothed most of the chorus in large gray capes worn by different groups who looked like they were wearing ponchos with several head holes.

It must be no easy task to move about in them, given the many movements they had to perform. Quite well, quite well, in fact.

In the version I attended the title role was rather stiffly acted and well sung by the rather undervoiced Idomeneo of Richard Croft, who did well in his fiendish Four del mar aria. Jurgita Adamonité was a fine Idamante.

As his lady loves, Emma Bell was fearful as the mean, rejected Electra, who acquitted herself brilliantly in her furious aria. Verónica Cangemi was just splendid as the moving Illia, which she sang and acted memorably. Most of the other solo roles — smaller— were tackled by tenors Santiago Ballerini and Iván Maier. Bass Mario de Salvo sounded most impressive in the brief but important voice of Poseidon.

The orchestra , under the alert and experienced baton of Ira Levin, sounded fine. All in all, a satisfactory evening.

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