Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Friday, 27. June 2008
06:00 pm – 09:35 pm

Duration est. 3 hours 35 minutes · 1. + 2. Akt (est. 06:00 pm - 07:45 pm ) · Interval (est. 07:45 pm - 08:20 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 08:20 pm - 09:35 pm )

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Musikalische Leitung
Kent Nagano
Dieter Dorn
Choreographische Mitarbeit
Marco Santi
Mitarbeit Inszenierung
Oliver Brunner
Bühne und Kostüme
Jürgen Rose
Tobias Löffler
Hans-Joachim Rückhäberle
Peter Heilker
Andrés Máspero

John Mark Ainsley
Pavol Breslik
Juliane Banse
Annette Dasch
Rainer Trost
Oberpriester Poseidons
Guy de Mey
Die Stimme (Orakel)
Steven Humes
1. Kreterin
2. Kreterin
1. Trojaner
2. Trojaner
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Mozart’s “Munich” opera is finally back where it was first performed in 1781! For the reopening of Munich’s Cuvilliés-Theater, there is no more beautiful gift for this unique rococo jewel of a theatre and its audience. Idomeneo, a work with a gruesome conflict as its content: in case he is rescued from an emergency at sea, Idomeneo promises the god Poseidon to sacrifice the first person he encounters on shore. But the first one he sees, of all people, is his own son Idamante. Will the father really sacrifice his son to Poseidon? Is there a way out of this conflict? Dieter Dorn, who has left a telling mark on the Mozart repertoire of the Bavarian State Opera with his productions of Figaro and Così now stages Mozart’s early, musically trail blazing opera. On the podium: Kent Nagano.


The scene of the action is the port of Kytonia on the island of Crete, the town of Idomeneo, the king of Crete. The time: after the end of the Trojan War, during which Troy was destroyed by the united Greek army.
The return of Idomeneo, who left home for Troy with a fleet of 80 ships and has killed many people in the war, is now eagerly awaited by his son, Idamante, by Elettra, the daughter of the king of Mycenae, by Ilia, a Trojan princess and by the people of Crete.
Elettra has fled to Crete seeking help after her family has, to a large extent, destroyed each other: first of all her mother, Clytemnestra, killed her father, Agamemnon, then her brother Oreste killed their mother. Ilia is a prisoner of war on Crete, along with other Trojans. Both Elettra and Ilia are in love with Idamante – Elettra openly and imperiously, Ilia initially in secret. News about the return of the Cretan fleet is contradictory – will it return soon or has it been lost at sea?

Ilia is beset by raging passions: hate for the victorious Greeks, love for Idamante, „the enemy“. Idamante saved Ilia’s life during a storm at sea and she has been in love with him since she first set eyes on him and he with her. In addition to the conflict of conscience between love and hate comes the knowledge that it is actually the Greek princess Elettra who is meant for Idamante. In honour of his father’s imminent return to Crete, Idamante announces that the Trojan prisoners are to be set free as a sign of peace, although Elettra tries to prevent this.
The rejoicing is interrupted by the sudden announcement of Idomeneo’s death, which causes
general consternation- mourning on the part of Idamante, who hurries to the shore, sympathy on the part of Ilia and anger and despair in the case of Elettra.

Thanks to the intervention of Poseidon, Idomeneo is rescued from the storm. He is, however, bound by a vow he made to secure his rescue: he has promised that he will sacrifice the first living creature he meets on land in return for deliverence from death. His son, Idamante, is the first person he meets; Idomeneo is horrified and regrets his vow. Only the people of Crete are able to rejoice at the return of the survivors, they celebrate in honour of Poseidon, ignorant of the fact that he could bring disaster on them.

Idomeneo consults with his counsellor Arbace about how the sacrifice of his son can be avoided. They plan to send Idamante and Elettra to Mycenae, far away from Crete. Idomeneo realizes that Ilia is in love with Idamante and he with her, which he sees as a further source of guilt: „You were too zealous, Idamante, in your determination to loosen those chains... That is the offence for which the heavens are punishing you... Oh, yes, the father, the son and Ilia, all three of us will be sacrificed on Neptune’s altar, bowed by the same misfortune, one pierced by the sword and two by pain.“
Elettra is the only one who draws hope from the situation. She sees the prospect of requited love when she is alone with Idamante.
Their departure is prevented by a storm breaking over the harbour – Neptune’s vengeance at this attempt to break the vow made to him. A dreadful monster poses a further threat to their safety. „Who is to blame?“, the people ask. Idomeneo offers himself as a sacrifice.

Ilia openly admits her love for Idamante. He explains to her that he seeks death in order to escape the conflict between his love for her, the Trojan, and his „patriotic duty“ towards the Greeks. He will fight the monster. Ilia and Idamante confess their love for each other; Idomeneo and Elettra come upon the scene and interrupt the lovers. Elettra wants revenge, Idomeneo wants Idamante to leave in order to save him, whereby he also holds Idamante partly responsible for what has happened: „If it wasn’t for you, the god would probably have been appeased again!“
Death and disaster caused by the monster bring pandemonium to the town, the people exhort the king to make the sacrifice. Only now does Idomeneo announce to the people that it is Idamante who is to be sacrificed. In spite of the general consternation and sadness the people gather to witness the sacrifice of Idamante.
Idamante is celebrated as a hero, he has killed the monster,  and led to the sacrificial altar. At the last minute Ilia demands to be sacrificed in Idamante’s place. The situation is resolved by the voice of the god announcing that Idomeneo is to renounce the throne in favour of his son, who is to rule with Ilia in his stead.

Hans-Joachim Ruckhäberle
© Bayerische Staatsoper

Dieter Dorn, General Director of the Bavarian State Drama Theatre, on his productions of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” and the world première of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s play “Idomeneus” at the Cuvilliès-Theater.

What are your feelings on returning to the house where you staged Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” in 1993?
It was a tremendous experience to be able to direct there. The overwhelming ambience of the auditorium, which brought back the atmosphere of Mozart’s own time, forced us, both with “Così” and “Idomeneo”, to set a decisive contrast against it. Then as now, Jürgen Rose and I started off with an empty stage unit. We wanted to use the rehearsal situation as a starting point to create both a version for the Cuvilliès Theater and a representative version to take over into the big theatre. The new stage sets for the latter – a kind of counter-production– failed because of a lack of time and money. So we brought over the situation of the empty stage area, which had originally begun in the Cuvilliès-Theater, to the larger theatre. What Rose and I cannot do is stage something for two houses concurrently. You have to concentrate on just one. “Idomeneo” will also move over into the big theatre. For the re-opening of the Cuvilliès.Theater, however, we will be taking advantage of the opportunity to enter into Mozart’s view of “Idomeneo” and then witness the unfolding of the myth in Roland Schimmelpfennig’s text.

You are using Mozart’s ballet music and casting Idamante, as in the later Viennese version, with a tenor instead of a mezzo-soprano. Why?
This gigantic work was written in a very specific music-theatrical situation. It was a commission from the court. We can read all about it in Mozart’s correspondence with his father. Here, the young genius tried out everything possible, such as experimenting with the chorus, running the full gamut from the grand theatre of stage movement all the way to oratorio approaches. We didn’t want to excise any of these concepts, but rather take on the work as a whole, and to do this you must take the characters, the human element, as your point of departure. The basic conflicts are between two nations, victors and vanquished, son and father as well as the one between the son and two women. This is more theatrically correct and more credible with a man as Idamante. Mozart himself changed the castrato role to a tenor part in Vienna. He must have suffered like a dog under the Munich Idamante, a castrato who enjoyed great favor at court, and he really came down hard on him in his letters for both musical and theatrical reasons. Mozart had the best of all imaginable orchestras with the orchestra Karl Theodor brought along from Mannheim and a ballet master, who, as I imagine him, supported the choruses with a kind of expressive dance style. We wanted to take on this extraordinary ballet music as well. We show a couple of scenic actions with it, which are then transmuted into the dedication of the house on its re-opening. Here we follow the spirit of the piece, which is a great song of praise to peace and friendship among the nations. Here a king is made into a human being: as a warrior life and death were his handiwork. And suddenly, in the storm, he trembles for his own life. He promises Neptune that if he manages to get out of this alive, he will sacrifice the first person he encounters on this island. You don’t have to say this twice to a god: he demands his son. The god Neptune punishes Idomeneo for his hubris, his exaggerated self-assurance.

Among the operas you have staged, many were by Mozart. Is he your favorite composer?
I have two favorite authors: Shakespeare and Mozart – and I consciously say “authors” – because both of them observe real human beings in the creation of their characters and never make them into dramaturgical marionettes in order to pin down intentions or opinions. It is exciting to note the attitudes they both reveal.

Mozart is said to have regarded “Idomeneo” as his best opera. Do you agree?
In any case he kept on trying to promote it – note his work on a Vienna version – and he kept on referring back to it in his later works. “Idomeneo” contains musical activity of extraordinary force. There is not one single character, who just smoothly takes us along, and with whom the spectator can easily and directly identify. This may be highly modern from a dramaturgical point of view, but it does have its pitfalls. This is the only explanation I can find for the reticence toward “Idomeneo”. It really is time for this piece to assume the place in Mozart’s creative canon that it deserves.

Christine Diller
English translation: Donald Arthur
© Bayerische Staatsoper

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Kent Nagano, geboren in Kalifornien, ist seit der Spielzeit 2015/16 Generalmusikdirektor der Staatsoper sowie Chefdirigent des Philharmonischen Staatsorchesters Hamburg. Er war von 2006 bis 2020 Musikalischer Leiter des Orchestre symphonique de Montréal und wurde im Februar 2021 zu dessen Ehrendirigent ernannt. Seit 2006 ist er Ehrendirigent des Deutschen Symphonie-Orchesters Berlin sowie seit 2019 Ehrendirigent von Concerto Köln. Von 2006 bis 2013 war er Generalmusikdirektor der Bayerischen Staatsoper. In dieser Funktion leitete er zahlreiche Neuproduktionen, darunter Billy Budd, Chowanschtschina, Eugen Onegin, Idomeneo, Ariadne auf Naxos, Wozzeck, Lohengrin, Die schweigsame Frau, Saint François d’Assise sowie die Uraufführungen von Wolfgang Rihms Das Gehege, Unsuk Chins Alice in Wonderland, Minas Borboudakis’ liebe.nur liebe und Jörg Widmanns Babylon. (Stand: 2021)

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