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Mozart Idomeneo

Idomeneo Ramon Vargas
Idamante Magdalena Kozena
Ilia Ekaterina Siurina
Elettra Anja Harteros
Arbace Jeffrey Francis
High Priest Robin Leggate
La Voce Gunther Groissbock
Nettuno Andreas Schlager

Conductor Sir Roger Norrington
Stage Director Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann
Stage and Costume Design Karl-Ernst Herrmann
Video Director Thomas Grimm

Deutsche Grammophon 074 3169 dH2
[2 DVDs 165 minutes; Salzburg Festival 2006]

Here at last is a recording from the M22 (Mozart's complete operatic output) series that is satisfactory in every way.  

The Herrmanns started with the text and everything leads outwards from that point no gimmicks for the sake of doing something different.     But having said that, their's is a highly innovative approach, shedding new light and imagery on what is a relatively simple story.  

The first strategy is to have two quite separate and clearly defined stage spaces.     A narrow silver walkway surrounds the perimeter the orchestra pit, which brings the action very close to the audience, and is ideal for the more intimate moments in the opera.   Behind this a larger more conventional raked platform which can be hidden or exposed, or just allow silhouettes to be revealed.   It opens up a wide perspective and provides plenty of space for the chorus.

Scenery is completely absent, and props are minimal.

The costumes manage to combine modern high fashion with the simplicity of ancient Greek robes.   Colours merge subtly and are complimented by the extraordinarily beautiful lighting.  

The singing is equally gorgeous I note that David Syrus is credited with the musical direction, and it certainly bears all the hallmarks of his penetrating and meticulous work.  

Ramon Vargas sings Idomeneo perfectly, a rather puzzled and world weary king, deeply worried for the safety of his son, giving Fuor del mar all his pent up fury.   Magdalena Kozena , in a pepper-red wig, plays the impulsive Idamante , ever ready to rush into headlong confrontation of the latest threat, and not afraid to show a little tautness in her voice as her character comes under pressure .   Ekaterina Siurina gives us very a very sweetly sung Ilia , full of trusting charm.  

Top honours go to Anja Harteros ( Elettra ), magnificent in her dressed to kill scarlet frock, in turn ingratiating and vengeful, with vocal fireworks to match.   

The Chorus sings well, and the directors know how to move them on stage.   It all adds up to a performance that is stunning visually and musically, one which will reveal yet further pleasure with repeated viewing.

Serena Fenwick

Photo credit Bernd Uhlig