Source: 1956 studio version of tried-and-tested Glyndebourne Festival production.
Edition: Some cuts, but only of interest to a completist. The part of Idamante is sung by a tenor rather than a mezzo-soprano.
Documentation: No libretto. Track list. Keyed summary of plot. Nothing on the production. Nothing on cast.
Sound quality: Not perfect, but very good.
This is not one of Mozart's greatest operas. It is not remotely on a plane with the three transcendent works based on da Ponte's libretti, or with "Die Zauberfloete" or even "Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail". That said, it is a great 18th Century opera, easily matching the very best of Gluck or Handel.
"Idomeneo" is unfortunately lumbered with an opera seria libretto. That is to say, it desperately lacks a Leporello, a Despina, the Three Ladies of the Queen of the Night or, indeed, any character with a vestige of humanity.
The plot is an old crock about the "nostoi" or the returns of the victors of the Trojan War. Idomeneo (Homer's Idomeneus), the king of Crete, caught in a storm, has offered Neptune the life of the first person he sees on dry land if he survives. Naturally, he meets his son, Idamante, who is, naturally, in love with Ilias, a captive Trojan princess and, naturally, that has annoyed Elletra (Aeshylus' Elektra), a visiting princess from a famously dysunctional family. More than two hours later, the creaky old plot ends with Neptune relenting, Idomeneo retiring and a frustrated Elletra storming off the stage in search of her own opera.
From a singer's point of view, all the music in "Idomeneo" is both exposed and fiendishly difficult. Mozart demands pefect vocal technique, leaving little or no room for flash or artful vocal dodging. Imagine "Don Giovanni" with a cast composed exclusively of Don Ottavios and Donna Annas and you have the flavor of "Idomeneo".
The cast on this recording is superb. The excellent Richard Lewis is Idomeneo. The even better Leopold Simoneau is Idamante. The radiant Sena Jurinac is Ilias and Lucille Udovick (a name otherwise unknown to me) is a very impressive Elletra. They make the musical lines sound easy, flowing and natural. (Singers will appreciate just how high that praise is!)
John Pritchard conducts very intelligently and gives the impression that this is a production in which all the kinks have been worked out in successful stage performances.
This is an excellent addition to any opera collection.