MOZART: Idomeneo

Surely this fate derives from the disfavor that any work in
the “opera seria” form faced, with the greater popularity of
earthy, vital Italian opera, especially verismo. Recent decades have
seen a renewed appreciation for all of Mozart’s work, and a blossoming
of singers who shine in early Classical repertory.

Thus today Idomeneo makes frequent appearances on opera stages,
usually with a musical performance sensitive to the orchestral and vocal
practices of Mozart’s era. This Ponto CD, however, from a Vienna Opera
staging in 1971, offers a bold, passionate, unashamedly Romantic take on the
score. Many passages call to mind the darker edges and fuller sound of later
Mozart, especially the final symphonies, and the final choral outburst sounds
as if came from an early draft of the Requiem.

Purists may balk, but this Idomeneo may make many a listener who
had never warmed to the opera feel the heat radiated from a truly exciting
performance. Jarosloav Krombholc may not be a household name, but his
conducting is expertly paced and committed. Unfortunately, the recorded sound
tends to approach distortion at loud climaxes, but those who appreciate the
excitement of a good in-house recording will know that allowances must be
made. And for once the inclusion of applause, quite lengthy at times, adds to
the atmosphere rather than detracts from the musical impetus.

The male voices triumph, though once again, what might be called
“inauthenticity”rears its handsome, if you will, head. In the title
role, Waldemar Kmentt sings with the grand authority and furious power of a
Verdi Otello, while still managing an admirable agility in the great
show piece “Fuor del mar.”Andrew Palmer’s informative
booklet essay confusingly claims that this performance features a soprano in
the role of Idamante, almost always sung by a mezzo these days. Well, the
biographical note after the short essay correctly identifies Werner Krenn as
a tenor, and as Idamante. He does sound like a younger Kmentt, and yet he is
distinctive enough to have his own vocal identity.

Though far more well-known that the two tenors, the two name female voices
on this set make troublesome contributions. Caught late in her career for the
role of the princess Ilia, Lisa della Casa sings laboriously much of the
time, with frequent lapses in intonation at the top of her range. Moments
recall the greatness she had possessed, but that may not mitigate the overall
weakness of her singing for many listeners. Sena Jurinac, by comparison,
sings better in the fiery role of Elettra, and the role can lend itself to a
certain amount of less than beautiful singing. Jurinac makes some unpleasant
sounds as the tessitura rises and the coloratura gets more ornate. Those raw
moments aside, hers is an exciting performance.

Is this an Idomeneo for those who don’t really care for
Idomeneo? Possibly. But anyone who enjoys full-bodied Mozart and
strong tenor singing should find this set most enjoyable listening.

Chris Mullins

image_description=W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo
product_title=W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo
product_by=Waldemar Kmentt, Werner Krenn, Lisa della Casa, Sena Jurinac, Reid Bunger, Manfred Jungwirth, Orchester und Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Jaroslav Krombholc (cond.)
product_id= Ponto PO-1044 [2CDs]