Spain Mozart, Idomeneo; Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana, Fabio Biondi (conductor), Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia, 1.5.2016. (JMI)
Direction & Sets: Davide Livermore
Costumes: Mariana Fracasso
Lighting: Antonio Castro
Idomeneo: Gregory Kunde
Idamante: Monica Bacelli
Ilia: Lina Mendes
Elettra: Carmen Romeu
Arbace: Emmanuel Faraldo
High Priest: Michael Borth
Oracle: Alejandro López
In this new production Davide Livermore has moved the action to the 1970s and what appears to be a world at war, with Idomeneo cast as an astronaut and king, as if from Star Wars. The stage recreates a beach with sand at the front and water behind, which is more appropriate in some scenes than in others. At the back of the stage is a screen upon which images with beautiful marine motifs are projected, and the superb video projections are a key element of the production. A bridge is the only scenic element, and it serves the action well. The costumes are attractive, as is the lighting.
The stage direction is quite good, and the production is always respectful to libretto and score. As in the London staging of a couple of years ago, there is ballet music, which I still consider to be anticlimactic.
The music was in the hands of Fabio Biondi, Music Director of Palau de Les Arts together with Roberto Abbado. His conducting did not respond to my expectations. Biondi is one of the great conductors of Baroque opera, as we have seen on numerous occasions both in Valencia and elsewhere, but his Mozart was not on the same level. His conducting was thoughtful, careful and delicate, but it was somewhat lifeless. The excellent orchestra gave a fine performance, but shone more in the final ballet than during the opera itself; we’ve certainly heard more brilliant performances from them. The chorus was splendid, as usual.
The great draw of this Idomeneo was the presence of Gregory Kunde in the title role, and his performance was impressive. All opera lovers know that the highlight for Idomeneo is the aria “Fuor del Mar,” which was particularly brilliant in this case. Mr. Kunde chose the initial version of the aria, which is loaded with agilities and therefore much harder to sing than what famous tenors like Pavarotti or Domingo have offered in the past. He added, as he always does, personal variations in the da capo.
Italian mezzo-soprano Monica Bacelli was Idamante, replacing Varduhy Abrahamyan. Her performance was correct, but she has a rather modest voice that is not particularly attractive at the top.
Portuguese soprano Lina Mendes, until recently a student of the Centre Placido Domingo, was Ilia, and she demonstrated good qualities in some aspects and deficiencies in others. She’s a light soprano and no more than a soubrette in vocal terms. Ms. Mendes is an interesting singer, but she would be better suited to lighter roles.
Valencia soprano Carmen Romeu offered a well-suited middle range as Elettra, but her high notes were not convincing. She was somewhat uncontrolled in the aria “D’Oreste è d’Ajace.”
Emmanuel Faraldo was a disappointing Arbace, and rather immature vocally. For once I thought it was a good decision to cut Arbace’s second aria.
José M. Irurzun