Idomeneo: Love conquers fate

Idomeneo © J Berger

This less performed Mozart opera returns to Opera Royal de Wallonie, Liege, after a nearly 40 year gap.

On his victorious return to his homeland, Idomeneo (Ian Koziara), King of Crete, promises Neptune that if he survives a terrible storm, he will sacrifice the first person he meets on reaching his homeland. You may have guessed already, but unfortunately, he is met by his son Idamante (Annalisa Stroppa). In Mozart’s telling, love saves the day. Idomeneo calls on the Gods to renounce the incessant violence arising from their struggles and to put the happiness of the innocent Idamante and his love Ilia (Maria Grazia Schiavo), the daughter of the vanquished King Priam of Troy, first. It all ends well, more or less, unless you’re Elettra (Nino Machaidze), Princess of Argos, who gets a rather raw deal, but you might argue that she deserves her comeuppance. 

Mozart was commissioned to write the ‘opera seria’ for the Munich carnival of 1781 based on a libretto by Varesco, inspired by Antoine Danchet’s play of the same name. It is considered to be one of his mature operas, where he has learnt from Gluck’s ‘Bella semplicità’. It was written at a turbulent time in his own life when his father Leopold was insisting he return to Salzburg following an unsuccessful trip to Mannheim and Paris. During this trip he lost his mother and suffered a breakup with the love of his life Aloysia Weber. 

For the first time, Fabio Biondi conducts at Opera Liege. He has been the guest conductor on some of the world’s most renowned opera stages and his deep knowledge of Mozart’s repertoire shines through in this production. The voices are well cast, giving a diversity of colour and texture, mezzo soprano Annalisa Stroppa ranges from filial devotion, noble leadership, to romantic love. Maria Grazia Schiavo’s Ilia is both sweetly lyrical and poised – at times the hairs stand up, while Elettra, sung by Nino Machaidze, sings with brio and fiery rage – frankly, one wouldn’t want to mess with this woman. Korean bass Inho Jeong, who sings the role of ‘La Voce‘, recently won fifth place in the Queen Elisabeth Competition song competition (2023) was given a particularly warm round of applause from the Liege audience. The tormented king is performed by Ian Koziara and Arbace by Riccardo Della Sciucca who has beautifully rounded voice that makes him a reassuring confidant.

The director of the opera is Jean-Louis Grinda is much sought after. He has a long history of working with Liege Opera, having been its Director General and artistic director between 1996 – 2007; in 2015 he founded the Musicians du Prince Monaco with the Cecilia Bartoli, but has worked all over the world, from Parma to Tokyo. Laurent Castaingt’s stage setting is simple, but very effective and vitally enhanced with video of the sea and sky provided by Arnaud Pottier. Mythical figures of centaurs and a minotaur are present, while the gods look down from on high observing the turns of events and eventually preferring reason and justice over godly fiat. 

There are two remaining performances. This evening 26 September and 28 September.