Mozart: Idomeneo

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Idomeneo
PERFORMER: Waldemar Kmentt, Ernst Haefliger, Elisabeth Grümmer, Pilar Lorengar, Renato Capecchi; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Ferenc Fricsay
CATALOGUE NO: 447 662-2 ADD mono
Idomeneo was elevated to join the core Mozart repertoire as recently as the Fifties, perhaps because it sat uneasily with a view of the composer as primarily a genius of the operatic comedy of manners – after all, it deals with despair, terror, rage and madness, albeit within the elegant constraints of Classical opera seria. With Karl Böhm, one of the early champions of the work was the Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay, and this recording is taken from the 1961 Salzburg Festival. As the accompanying notes apologetically mention, this is a very live recording, in which audience coughing is the least of the problems: Elettra makes a startling early entry, the prompter is clearly audible and the stage floorboards seem to have been miked up. Not for the faint-hearted, then, especially as the soloists’ singing is largely unpolished, but the drama of the event and the opera is tangible, mainly thanks to Fricsay’s dignified and measured conducting. For a lighter touch and an exhaustively complete version, one should look to John Eliot Gardiner’s recent recording, but John Pritchardaccount, stunningly (and surprisingly) dominated by Pavarotti, goes far to reveal the opera’s melancholy and sumptuous beauty. William Humphreys-Jones