Idomeneo – review

Summed up, Buxton International Festival’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo is a total triumph.

There were some niggling instances which can be put down to first night gremlins otherwise, it’s almost impossible to find fault in its three-hour duration, including an interval which couldn’t have been better placed.

Perhaps how Idamante manages to kill Neptune’s monster while he is patently on stage can be described as anomalous, while the interval is roughly mid-way through act two.

It follows Idomeneo’s scene and aria Fuor del mar, stunningly sung and acted by Paul Nilon with an intensity worthy of being witnessed on any opera stage in the world.

A break after it thus allowed the audience to recover its equilibrium and, the tenor, his composure!

Glitches aside, the whole opera is magnificently played and sung from beginning to end with Nilon, approaching the twilight of his distinguished career, simply tremendous and tireless as the tortured king in a show-stealing performance.

Not that he can be said to entirely achieve the accolade with three other singers on stage as contenders for it.

Madeleine Pierard is terrific as Elletra, a role regularly given to a dramatic soprano and she certainly has the vocal fireworks D’Oreste, D’Ajace at the end, but her softer grained singing earlier makes the character a trifle more believable.

Then there is the reason for Idomeneo’s woes, his son Idamante in a thoroughly engaging performance from fast-emerging mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe and possessor of a lovely, gently burnished chest register.

And there is Elletra’s rival in love with Idamante, Ilia, in what has to be one of Rebecca Bottone’s best role assumptions to date, the ultimate highlight here being her account of Zefferetti lusinghieri followed by the duet with Idamante in act three.

Nicholas Kok’s musical direction is a little lumpy at times while Stephen Medcalf’s stage direction round a simple uncluttered set by Isabella Bywater again proves that can convincingly stage opera without recourse to ego trips and gimmicks.

It is virtually all enacted in bright daylight, too – no fashionable dingy, dark scenes!

Wonder who sweeps the oceans of sand off the stage after curtain down!

Further performances: 11th, 14th, 21st and 19th of July

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