The opera premiered at the Court Theater (now the Cuvilliés Theater) in Munich in 1781. Like many stories from Greek myth, Idomeneo explores the motivations and emotions of humans whose fates seem beyond their own control. The opera casts these issues within the framework of the opera seria genre, a stylized format popular in the 18th century that is characterized by a succession of arias and recitatives and a cast of noble characters. Long neglected along with other works of this era, Idomeneo now holds a firm place in the repertoire as the first of Mozart’s operatic masterpieces.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was the son of a Salzburg court musician who exhibited him as a musical prodigy throughout Europe. His achievements in opera, in terms of beauty, vocal challenge, and dramatic insight, remain unsurpassed. Giovanni Battista Varesco (1735–1805) was a poet and the court chaplain of the Principality of Salzburg, Mozart’s place of employment at the time of Idomeneo.
The opera is set on the island of Crete in the aftermath of the Trojan War. The tales of this time have provided fertile grounds for creators of opera, from Monteverdi (Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, 1640) to Berlioz (Les Troyens, 1863), to Richard Strauss (Die Ägyptische Helena, 1928), to Martin David Levy (Mourning Becomes Electra, 1967). The era is evocative, reflecting the confusion of a post-traumatic historical moment.
The New York Times proclaimed the production as “The Met Opera at its best. A high point of the season,” and observed that “Mr. Levine conducted, drawing a refined and affecting performance from the great Met orchestra.” The Financial Times, in its five-star review, proclaimed that “Alice Coote exudes noble passion” and “Polenzani emerges utterly compelling in the royal title role.” The Huffington Post opined that this was “(a) richly rewarding night of opera. Magnificent.”
Bass-baritone Eric Owens hosts the broadcast.
Production: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Set Designer: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Costume Designer: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler. Revival Stage Director: David Kneuss.
Idomeneo was originally seen live in movie theaters on March 25 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The Live in HD series has reached a record-breaking 22 million viewers since its inception in 2006.
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.
Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®. Major funding for the Met Opera presentation is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. This Great Performances presentation is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, The Agnes Varis Trust, and public television viewers.
For the Met, Barbara Willis Sweete directs the telecast. David Frost is Music Producer. Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.
Visit Great Performances online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information on this and other Great Performances programs.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (KidsThirteen, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.
About the Met
THE METROPOLITAN OPERA is America’s leading performing arts organization and a vibrant home for the world’s most creative and talented artists, including singers, conductors, composers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers, and dancers. The company presents more than 200 performances each season of a wide variety of operas, ranging from early masterpieces to contemporary works. In recent years, the Met has launched many initiatives designed to make opera more accessible, most prominently the Live in HD series of cinema transmissions, which dramatically expands the Met audience by allowing select performances to be seen in more than 2,000 theaters in more than 70 countries around the world.
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