This is supposed to have been Mozart's favourite amongst his opera compositions but, unfortunately, only got one airing during his life and then with some fairly drastic cuts - he almost certainly never heard parts of what he had composed. This recording has been carried out with such attention to detail (the included DVD gives a good insight - they even had a new and complete version of the score printed that takes into account the very latest scholarship) that I cannot imagine a better version. I like to imagine what Mozart would think if we could transport him so that he could hear this recording (storyline for Dr Who??) and I am sure he would be astounded. The casting is ideal, although I am not usually a fan of the lead male role being sung by a woman I very quickly put that aside in light of Bernarda Finks' beautiful singing; the orchestra and chorus are also ideal. I was not familiar with this opera - his later ones with Da Ponte get most plays - but this is truly beautiful, breathtaking music and at an unbelievable price.
Idomeneo is one of Mozarts finest operas. I think we're all agreed on that one. I brought this copy because I was laboring under the impression I liked Rene Jacobs. There is much drama to be had here, certainly. But. The singers here perfidiously let it down. We can't blame Rene for that. I cherish my older recordings greatly. The singers of today just lack that certain something. All the singers in this recording can sing, absolutely. They have probably got their pieces of paper from a college which says as much. They always just seem a bit hollow. Some of the singers here have recorded other Mozart operas with Rene. These same old singers floating around Jacobs, like flies around the proverbial, gives me the impression they could find no other singers of merit to partake in Monsieur Jacobs little operation. The most offending of them all, is someone called Alexandrina Pendatchanska. A pretty face, granted, but that's about it. Too much shriek. But this isn't Renes' fault either. When I close my eyes, you can here the drive of this mans orchestra and suddenly all of Alexandrinas warbling makes sense. It does work. To a degree. I'm rather boring, really, and prefer my Mozart, great drama or not, to be performed with some gravitas and solemnity. But Rene has pulled out all the stops. It is a bit fast, and the singers, except though for Richard Croft who certainly knows what he is doing, are to light and airy fairy (See Sunhae Im). I say all of these things, and yet will be drawn back to it tomorrow given the chance, because for all its flaws, it does command respect, sort of. Rene himself, of course, believes he is right in every way. I suppose a good conductor must be absolutely convinced of his own magnificence, however deluded they may be. There is also a DVD included: The making of DVD. This is rather interesting, although most of it is just Rene telling people off.
A conclusion then. Is it worth the money? Yes. They certainly know how to package an opera. Big thick libretto in a large card box and a sort of gatefold for the CDs. Very impressive it looks on my shelf. On the CD player, however, it does stack up, as a drama, seen through the rose tinted spectacles of Mr Jacobs, and, if I am so inclined, I can appreciate this new angle on a classic too. Although i still prefer a classic version, but still proudly cling to this copy, if no one is looking.