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on 11 April 2007
This is the best Idomeneo DVD on the market, imho. Ursel & Karl-Ernst Herrmann's staging is minimalistic & conceptual, but works very well in story telling. Stage-front is extended forward to enclose the Orchestra Pit, so the singers can walk all the way round to be between the pit and the audience. Quite effective in reducing staticity of the show (tho I haven't a clue how Sir Roger Norrington keeps track of them in his conducting).

The version performed is the original Munich version. So we are musically deprived of Idomeneo's 'Torna la pace' and Idamante's 'No la morte', but are treated to an spectacular rendition of the difficult version of 'Fuor del mar' by Ramon Vargas, who also proves to be a better actor than I expected. He really shines in the title role.

They have the actor Andreas Schlager plays the silent and convincingly sinister Nettuno hovering in every scene and maliciously observing the humans he's toying with. Idamante is very well sung by Magdalena Kozena... though I don't quite like her portrayal of him as something of a bipolar mental case who is either in a manic mode or a depressive one. Ekaterina Siurina has a beautiful and very strong voice for Ilia.. and is a good actress (but the acting doesn't get into the voice much... Her 'Zeffiretti lusinghieri leaves me cold). Jeff Francis is a good Arbace and Robin Leggate is a good High Priest.

The show is; however, stolen in plain sight by the deliciously demented Elettra of Anja Harteros. This isn't a one dimensionally batty Elettra, but one that actually shows concern for Idamante -- though her wishes still come before his. She steals practically every scene she appears in. A magnetic stage presence.. Love the Herrmanns' use of lighting to simulate lightnings during her Act I rage aria... and she sings every syllable of the spectacularly insane 'D'Oreste, d'ajace'! Never shouts.. not even once! If you've seen Hildegard Behren in this role, this one is just as theatrically convincing while vocally superior in every way.

Guenther Groissboeck sings from off stage as La Voce... apparently of Zeus, interfering in the end. Not quite keen on the rather silly ending with Idamante and Ilia running around and breaking into childish dancing instead of the ballet. But on the whole this production is wonderfully effective.

Sir Roger Norrington conducts mostly on the brisk side and his Camerata Salzburg responds lively with a lot of character. The Salzburg Bachchor sing AND act very well. A stellar performance! One of the few gems of the M22 Project pieces.

2 DVDs. Extras on the 2nd disc ('Making of' documentary, clips of Sellars' Mozart productions and of other M22 project operas).
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Elettra (as she is called in the Italian Libretto) has some superb numbers in this Opera, and she lives up to it in this production. A definite show stealer and highly enjoyable to listen to as well. I think the Italianate tenor style also works very well in this opera and Ramon Vargas' Idomeneo is amazing. He looks the part too. There is in fact nothing to complain about regarding the production, it is modernist but not to the detriment of the plot and other than Idamante holding a hand gun (instead of a dagger) during one of the arias, I think we can forgive it just that once.

The orchestra and dramatic accompaniment from the pit is excellent. The only reason why I give this 4 instead of 5 stars however is the annoying tinkle of the ever present harpsichord. A bit over amplified and detracts from some of the orchestral colours that Mozart gifts us in his ingenious score. We know that he loved the piano (or fortepiano in his day) and there isn't even a harpsichord in the score (I checked) but Norringon does love having them but to me it is a mistake here. Mozart was very much up with progress and he preferred to have the piano wherever he could, and it would have been better to do away with the harpsichord if they couldn't get their hands in a decent fortepiano, at least omit the "optional" keyboard for the orchestral passages (keep it in for recitatives by all means). I have heard period performances or Mozart opera (eg Rene Jacobs with magic flute) using the fortepiano with much more wit and charm than a harpsichord can ever bring. If it weren't for the otherwise superb performance all round, I think the costant ching chung of the harpsichord through some of the amazing musical passages would have put me off this DVD and it would have been straight back on the selling second hand like new list.
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on 6 April 2017
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on 17 December 2007
This Idomeneo, part of the M22 project to stage and record all Mozart's operas at the Salzburg Festival in 2006 to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, has a stellar cast, all of whom put in exceptional performances. The chorus - which plays a major role in this particular opera - is excellent musically but is also effectively choreographed to represent, say, the Cretans' response to the catastrophes that confront them, or their pleas to Idomeneo to save them from the marauding sea monster (a particularly striking moment, when Idomeneo finally admits to the people that he himself has brought Neptune's wrath down on the island.)

The staging is minimalist and modern but usually entirely convincing (there are occasional effects that don't really work for me, like the billowing blue sheets to represent the storm-tossed sea, and the essentially non-staged appearance of the sea monster, but these are minor criticisms). The presence more-or-less throughout of the brooding Neptune is, however, effective in showing that he is calling the shots and playing games with these Cretans. There is also a clever use of the stage space, with an acting area built out from the main stage and surrounding the orchestra, allowing for moments when characters are brought closer to the audience, used to reinforce the psychological interiorisation of the dynamics between, for example, Idomeneo and Idamante, or Idomeneo's own guilt. It also brings added movement to scenes which would otherwise be static. The main stage area (which can be separated off by a plain white wall) can therefore be used for more `public' elements of the opera.

The cast is excellent. In particular, Magdalena Kozená's Idamante is beautifully sung and his uncomprehending sadness at his father's treatment of him strikingly conveyed. Her acting is at times rather mannered. Some have suggested it's a manic-depressive reading of the role, but Idamante has gone through a huge emotional trauma: told his father is dead he then finds him alive only to be - apparently - disowned by him. I found her overall performance deeply moving. And the final `dance' with Ilia is an affecting touch (it's a happy ending. It's allowed to be fun). Ekaterina Siurina's Ilia is quite gorgeous and combines particularly well with Kozená in their duets. Ramón Vargas is a compelling and well-acted Idomeneo. The most remarkable vocal performance, however - combined with an extraordinarily nuanced and detailed embodiment of Elettra's progressive decline from anger and a desire for revenge to pitiful and self-destructive madness - is that of Anja Harteros who dominates virtually every scene in which she appears (even at the end of the opera - where she is usually absent - following her failed suicide attempt, she wanders absently to the back of the stage where she sits redundantly to the end of the production). Hers is a hugely enjoyable performance and her lyrico spinto voice has real dramatic power, a combination which suits the role perfectly. (This staging mainly uses the original Munich version of the score so we get the technically more difficult version of "Fuor del mar" for Idomeneo, but they keep Elettra's final rage aria - "D'Orests e d'Ajace" - rather than the Munich recitative.)

This DVD must now be a contender for first choice amongst Idomeneos for all but the traditionalists, an utterly compelling production with outstanding coloratura singing.
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on 16 April 2012
It is hard to imagine how this production could be improved.
Picture quality 5
Sound 5
Sets and stage 5 - The stage is in two parts. There is a walk way round the orchestra pit where all the intimate scenes take place. The main stage behind is for the big scenes. Minimal sets used. Both these stages are separated by a large paper screen which allows silhouettes to be seen behind.
Storytelling 5 - Greek myth story clearly explained.
Music making 5 - period style performance. Excellent conducting by Norrington.
Acting 5
Direction (camera work) 5
Singing 5
Costumes 5 - modern clothing with futuristic modifications.
Overall, highly recommended if you enjoy opera updated.
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on 27 October 2007
First, what Amazon should tell you but does not: Idomeneo is sung in the original Italian, with subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Chinese.
Musically, this is an excellent performance, especially Anja Harteros as Elektra. Idamante (originally a castrato role) is played by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena - there can be no complaint about her singing, but her acting is poor, especially in Act 1. She is not helped by the staging, which can most charitably be described as eccentric. Nothing on the stage has any relevance to either the story, or the period in which it is set. Idamante, contemplating suicide, brandishes a handgun ... this is set in the Ancient world?
By Act 3, the viewer has learned to more or less ignore what happens on stage, and concentrate on Mozart's wonderful music. If this were a sound-only version, I would give it five stars. But then it would not need to come on 2 DVDs. It should be judged as what it is: excellent singing, first-rate orchestral performance, marred by what must surely be one of the worst stage productions ever devised.
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