METROPOLITAN OPERA HD Live
A Magnificent Production of Mozart’s Work
By Iride Aparicio
Photos Courtesy: The Metropolitan Opera
Teno MATTHEW POLENZANI as Idomeneo
San José, CA-- Made possible by a generous grant from its founding sponsor The NEUBAUER FAMILY FOUNDATION, with Global sponsorship provided by BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES and broadcast supported by TOLL BROTHERS, “The Metropolitan Opera HD Live” makes possible for the THE METROPOLITAN OPERA in New York, to show its operas in local movie theatres all around the world. This month, the opera was IDOMENEO, Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e idamante (Idomeneo king of Creta or Ilia and Idamante), the three-act opera, based on Greek Mythology, written by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-l791) at the age of twenty four.
MOZART composed the music for IDOMENEO, in the style of “Opera Seria” (also called Drama per musica or Melodrama) which was the style that was used in the Italian Operas that predominated in Europe from l710 to l770. IDOMENEO is sang in Italian, and uses GIAMBATTISTA VARESCO’s adaptation of the libretto of a previous French production called Idomenée, which used the libretto written in French by ANTOINE DANCHET to ANDRÉ CAMPRA ‘s music in l712. VARESCO’s adaptation of the French libretto to Italian, may be the reason why MOZART’s IDOMENEO, which was written 69 years later, is known for its highly poetic language.
But MOZART changed some of the “Opera Seria” rules. IDOMENEO’s Overture in D major, in a modified sonata form, and by merges the opera’s Overture into the first recitative transforming to the aria “Padre, germane, addio” (Goodbye, father and brothers) that is sang by Ilia at the beginning of the first act.
NADINE SIERRA debuted in the role of Ilia at the METROPOLITAN
MOZART also changed some of the secco recitatives (recitatives without music) from the opera, to Instrumentato Recitatives (recitatives with music) and used the Chorus as a Greek chorus, not to tell the stories, but as participants in the stories which is the reason why IDOMEDEO has masterful choral ensembles. MOZART’s IDOMENEO premiere at the Cuvillis Theatre of the Munich Residenzo, on January 29, l781, and was conducted by its composer. Five years later, in l786 for the performance at the Palais Huersperg in Vienna, MOZART changed the range of the music sang by Idamante, from Castrato to tenor.
The opera relates the story of Idomeneo, the King of Crete, who had been away for ten years in Troy, fighting in the Trojan War. During those years, and after her family was killed, Ilia, the Trojan princess, was transported to Crete and held captive with other Tojan prisioners. During those years, Ilia and Idamante, Idomeneo’s son, fell in love with each other, but when Idamante confesed his love to her, rejected him because Idomeneo, his father, has killed her family. To complicate the plot, Electra, the Princess of Argos, who also lives in Crete, has also fallen in love with Idamante.
The opera starts when Idomeneo, is returning home and a sea storm destroys his fleet and drowns all of his soldiers. He pleads to Neptune, (the god of the sea) to spare his life, and Neptune accepts to do it with the condition that he must kill the first person that he encounters in Crete and sacrifice the victim to him (the god) Idomeneo accepts to do it, unaware that when his body washes on a beach in Crete, the first person he meets is Idamante, his son, and that now he will have to kill him.
The JEAN-PIERRE PONNELE production of the METropolitan Opera HD-Live broadcast of IDOMENEO, has an all-star cast. Conducting the orchestra was Conductor Emeritus (he retired last year) JAMES LEVINE, who as we know, has been the music director of the METROPOLITAN OPERA since l976. The Role of Idomeneo, was sang by MATTHE PLENZANI (picture above) The role of Ilia by NADINE SIERRA, the role of IDAMANTE by ALICE COOTE, the role of Electra by ELZA VAN DEN HEEVER and the role of Arbace by ALAN OPIE. The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD HOST, (The person during the broadcast who introduces the artists and conducts the interviews) was MET Bass ERIC OWENS, who lent his deep powerful voice to the god Neptune in the production.
The Opera’s first act, gave tenor POLENZANI the oportunity to display the timbre of his marvelous voice and his dramatic prowess as an actor, by being capable to show his inner turmoil in his demeanor. Idomeneo the King, had promised Neptune, a god, to kill the first person he met in Crete and sacrifice him to him (the god) but that person, being his only son, makes it impossible for him to carry out his promise. His demeanor, is also heart braking for poor Idamante, as Mezzo soprano COOTE expressed convincingly, in her aria “Non Mea colpa” (I am not guilty) as Idamante is unable to comprehend the reason why his father seems to hate him.
Finding himself unable to kill his own son, Idomeneo decides to hide him by sending him away from Crete. He decides to send Electra ( VAN DEN HEEVER) back to Argos and have his son escort her on her trip. This makes Idamante desperate, because he is leaving Ilia, and forces her to reveal her love for him.
NADINE SIERRA as Ilia and Mezzo Soprano ALICE COOTE as Idamante
In the meantime, the Cretans are in trouble. Because Neptune, upset that Idomeneo has not yet sacrificed Idamante to him, is punishing Crete with a Monster who is decimating the population. Idomeneo, knows the reason why this is happening so he feels so guilty that he decides to tell the people about his covenant with Neptune.
Musically, MOZART wrote beautiful arias for his opera and the Met singers displayed them well in their demeanor as actors and voices as singers. The chorus are exquisite. Some of the best arias on the HD broadcast were Arbaces (ALAN OPIE) “Se il tuo duol” in which he asks the King what is causing him pain.
Arbaces ALAN OPIE center and Idomeneo’s cast
For Ilia (SIERRA) “Si el Padre Perdei” (Since I have lost my father) which the soprano sang with lots of feeling. For Electra (VAN DEN HEEVER) “D’Oreste, d’Ajace ho in seno I tormenti” (I feel Orestes’s (her brother) and Ajax’s (A trojan hero) torments in my heart) in which she combined her singing and acting to give the audience a dramatic mad scene, and for Idomeneo (POLENZANY) “Fuor del mar” (Afuera del mar) that he sings when he realizes that his life was spared. This is an extremely difficult aria, for the singer because it has many melismatic passages, that must be heard over the heavy orchestra. In this performance, however, it served as a virtuoso showcase for the tenor.
And being a Greek work, MOZART decided to end IDOMENEO it with a “Deux et Machina” help from a god, in this case Neptune, who resolves Idomeneo’s problem by allowing love to triumph
For the masterful production, we need to credit the orchestra. As conductor, Maestro LEVINE’s conducted it in such a way that we could feel the musical cadences in each one of the arias, and understood experience the meaning of the words. If in composing IDOMENEO, Mozart managed to bring “Live” tp objects from nature, we could say that Maestro LEVINE brought life to every note on that night.
While the MET production of IDOMENEO was excellent as it was presented, it may have been better if the the role of Idamante had been sang by a tenor (As Mozart did when changed his Castratti to a tenor). Mezzo soprano COOTE interpreted the role well, but even whenwearing male garbo, she looked and behaved like a woman, which made it hard for the audience to see her as a man.
“The METROPOLITAN Opera HD-live,” the High-Definition projection of the operas of THE METROPOLITAN OPERA, live to the screens of movie theatres, is bringing the once “exclusive” world of ópera to the general audience around the world.
For the price of a movie ticket, these HD-Live productions, allow a person to vicariously visit the METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE in New York City, and see an opera, exactly as the opera is being presented, from a seat of the person’s neighborhood Cinema. These operas shown as movies, even “teach” their viewers important aspects of their productions, in segments of “in house interviews” with the MET Opera singers, its directors, designers, conductors and even workers in their stage crew, which are shown to the movie goers during the Opera’s intermissions.
For those interested in serious music, The METROPOLITAN Opera H-D Live may be a place to start. The size of the projected movies onto the screen and their High Definition, give the Cinema viewers a “realistic” evening-at- the opera experience.
There are still two more operas in the schedule TCHAIKOSKY, EUGENE ONEGIN and STRAUSS DER ROSENKAVALIER, for information and tickets call 1800 Met.Opera