Mozart – Idomeneo

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Idomeneo
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley, Pavol Breslik, Juliane Banse, Annette Dasch, Rainer Trost, Guy de Mey, Steven Humes; Bavarian State Opera/Kent Nagano; dir. Dieter Dorn (Munich, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 2072448 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)


It strikes me as extraordinary when directors still feel they need to ‘re-humanise’ what they fear to be the dried-out formality of opera seria in general, and Mozartean opera seria in particular. Dieter Dorn certainly works on it strenuously in his production of Idomeneo for Bavarian State Opera, recorded live in 2008.

From the Overture, through to Elettra’s final demented surrender to the Furies, every emotion lived through within some of the most intensely expressive music Mozart ever wrote, has to be spelled out and represented visually here, be it in dumbshow or, worse, in restless stage business during every second of every aria.

The clutter of costumes and upturned chairs, together with the messy staging (with ‘choreographic assistance’) of Mozart’s integral intermezzos and ballets, actually drains the drama of its emotive power.

Brian Large, directing for screen, tries hard to focus eye and ear – but even he is reduced to an architectural tour of the newly restored Cuvilliés Theatre during the cop-out of the final non-Ballet.

This DVD almost deserves a third star simply because of the strength of the production’s double-act between father and son. John Mark Ainsley’s towering and beautifully sung Idomeneo, and Pavol Breslik’s tenderly yet robustly shaped Idamante, close-focus the dramatist in Mozart.

Juliane Banse is a small-voiced but touching Ilia, Annette Dasch a feisty if vulgar Elettra, and Rainer Trost a valiant, somewhat strained Arbace.


Kent Nagano’s conducting doesn’t quite have the measure of this opera’s inner rhythms: his pacing is lively, but can lack poise and ballast when needed. There are no extras, either in booklet or on film. Hilary Finch