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”The singers are really outstanding” – GP


The breakthrough of a new era.

Idomeneo, trailer

Idomeneo contains some of Mozart’s absolute best music: magnificent chorus pieces, exciting storm scenes, as well as arias and duets which take the breath away from both the audience and the singers. It is a blood-soaked opera about a struggle between generations, the power of hope and the birth of a new era. But to accept the new and bidding farewell to the old is always a painful process.

Mozart’s first great operatic masterpiece (1781) in a spectacular production of the highest musical quality. World renowned director Graham Vick has placed this cruel and blood soaked, epic Greek story in our time. Idomeneo is an opera about great mythic events – sacrifice, war, plague – but it is also about love, hope, and the reconciliation that the world so desperately needs.

Laurence Cummings, conductor
Photo: Sheila Rock

We are delighted to be able to present a quartet of considerable international standing, led by conductor Laurence Cummings, who is now into his fourth opera production for The Göteborg Opera.

The duo of Graham Vick and Paul Brown focuses on hope as a crucial theme in Idomeneo – the hope that the ancient rituals of revenge and retribution will give way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This theme is as relevant today as it was when the opera was written.

Your baby sitter gets a ticket!

If you have organised a baby sitter so that you can come to see Idomeneo – we will give the baby sitter a free ticket! Just follow these steps: 

  • Save your ticket from the show
  • On the ticket, write: ”[Baby sitter's name] looked after my children while I was at the opera”
  • Give this ticket to your baby sitter
  • Your baby sitter now just needs to show this ticket at our box office in the foyer to get 1 free ticket for an upcoming performance of Idomeneo

(Note that this offer does not apply for those of you who watch the last performance of Idomeneo for obvious practical reasons.)

Paul Nilon, who plays Idomeneo, rehearses an aria while buckets of water are thrown at him

The sensational breakthrough of a dramatic masterpiece


Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg, the son of Leopold Mozart, a violinist in the ruling Prince-Archbishop's Kapelle. His musical gift was discovered early and he toured the courts of Europe as a child prodigy, leaving the nobility stunned at his talents – he composed his first opera before his twelfth birthday. Many of his first operas were serious pieces, fulfilling the the time’s expectations for coloratura and equilibristics. They were derivative works that rigidly conformed to the rulebook, overflowing with long coloratura da capo arias and overbearing lyrics on conflicts between love and honour. Although it is no doubt impressive for a young teenager to achieve such a thing, they are not especially interesting from a musical drama standpoint. 

Mozart’s relationship with Aloysia Weber was particularly important. Aloysia was one of the daughters in a musical family and had an exceptional singing voice. Mozart was besotted and wrote numerous concerto arias for her. They became enamoured, but while Mozart was away on his travels Aloysia was employed by the Court Theatre in Munich and began moving in higher social circles. When Mozart returned to Munich, Aloysia rejected his proposal, which he took as a crushing humiliation. 

He had his revenge on the same stage in Munich, by premiering Idomeneo there in 1781. It was an enormous success and represented another breakthrough – it is now considered to be his first significant opera. He had matured as a composer and his ability to write ensembles with individual characterisation was beginning to emerge, with the magnificent quartett in the third act being the highlight.

Idomeneo features much of Mozart’s very best music, with grandiose choruses, powerful storm scenes and arias and duets that frequently take the audience’s breath away, not to mention the singers’

After being saved at sea, King Idomeneo of Crete is ordered by Neptune to sacrifice the first living creature he meets after arriving safely on land. That person turns out to be his own son, Idamante. Idomeneo goes to great lengths to avoid fulfilling his vow, banishing his son from the island. Idamante and the princess Ilia are in love, while Electra also has an unrequited love for Idamante.

These four characters are all drawn together, each paralleled in their unhappiness, when Idomeneo decides to exile his son from Crete. Idamante begins with an oddly wistful melody and his love shows him her support. Those two are soon followed in different strands with intervals of a third (Idamante was written for a castrato), as Electra and Idomeneo interrupt with their own impassioned lamentations: Idomeneo demands to know when Neptune will finally show him some mercy and the spurned Electra asks when she will be granted her revenge. Their interjections, full of emphasis and angry implications, stand in stark contrast to Ilia’s and Idamante’s gentle tirades, before all four simultaneously bemoan “No-one ever suffered a harsher fate than I”. The roles are perhaps not fully individually realised, but rather presented in two groups of two – Giambattista Varesco's lyrics are also lacking the scope to do so – but it remains a beautiful attempt and a major step towards the characterisation in ensembles at which Mozart would become the undisputed master within a few short years. 

Aging tenor 

Anton Raaff as Idomeneo

Idomeneo features much of Mozart’s very best music, with grandiose choruses, powerful storm scenes and arias and duets that frequently take the audience’s breath away, not to mention the singers’. Mozart wrote the title role for the tenor Anton Raaff. As age was beginning to get the better of him, he was not able to manage all of the coloraturas in the demanding aria “Fuor del mar”, so Mozart also wrote a simplified version. The original, more difficult variant was performed on other stages though – it is this version that Paul Nilon sings in our production. Mozart also created a version in which Idamante is sung by a tenor instead of a castrato. In later years, the role has often been sung by a female mezzo-soprano, but the tenor Luciano Botelho will interpret the character in the Göteborg Opera's adaptation. 

Göran Gademan


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