Metropolitan Opera 2016-17 Season Preview: ‘Idomeneo’s’ Rich History At Met Opera Features Pavarotti & Plácido Domingo

By David Salazar

This Monday, March 6, Mozart’s “Idomeneo” returns to the Metropolitan Opera for a run featuring some of the world’s greatest singers.

“Idomeneo” is one of the rare Mozart operas that only gets a look every once in a while. It was the composer’s 13th work for the operatic stage and came right before the ever popular “Abduction from the Seraglio.”

The work, which had its premiere on Jan. 29, 1781 in Munich and was written by Giambattista Varesco, is set during the Trojan Wars, featuring such mythological characters as Cretan king Idomeneo, his son Idamante and Elettra among others.

Pavarotti and the 80s

The opera’s history at the Met is actually rather short, though in recent decades it has practically been a Met staple. The work got its first look with the company back on Oct. 14, 1982 with a cast that included Luciano Pavarotti in the title role, Ileana Cortrubas, Frederica von Stade, John Alexander and Hildegard Behrens. James Levine conducted the premiere. The production was by Jean-Pierre Ponelle which stands to this day and will be featured in this upcoming run. Pavarotti was the biggest attraction for that run, his first and only foray into Mozart at the house. But it was the female cast that managed the biggest spotlight, particularly von Stade who earned raves for her turn as Idamante.

That run lasted a total of 13 performances that season, though Pavarotti only sang the first seven. Other casts would include William Lewis and Herman Malawood in the title role with Levine in the pit.

Mozart’s 13th opera would return to the Met in 1986 with a cast featuring David Rendall, Linda Zoghby, Von Stade and Carol Vaness. That run featured the Met debut of tenor Gary Lakes, who would become a prominent piece of Levine’s Ring Cycle.

Siegfried Jerusalem would become the next high profile Idomeneo in 1989 when he took on the role in a cast that included Marvis Martin, Susan Quittmeyer and Vaness. He would get eight performances of the role at the Met.

In 1991, the opera would make yet another return with Anthony Rolfe Johnson making his Met debut as the titular character. Hei-Kyung Hong, Anne Sofie von otter and Cheryl Studer would round out the main cast for eight performances.

Domingo Dominates Mozart at the Met

In 1994, Plácido Domingo took his turn in this opera in a cast that included Dawn Upshaw, Susanne Mentzer and Lucianna Serra. Domingo would perform four shows in the fall before returning in the spring for another four in the title role. This time he sang with Vaness and von Otter alongside Upshaw.

The Met would put on a concert performance of this opera in Frankfurt in 1996 with Domingo, Renée Fleming, Mentzer and Vaness in starring roles. Levine conducted.

Five years later in 2001, Domingo would continue performing the role with Upshaw, Susan Graham and Vaness in the starring roles. Domingo sang a whopping 11 performances of the title role during that season.

A New Century With a New Cast

In 2006, the opera would return for its final iteration to this point.  The cast on that occasion featured Ben Heppner as the Cretan monarch, Dorothea Roschmann as Ilia, Kristine Jepson as Idamante and Olga Makarina as Elettra. Kobie van Rensburg was the last tenor to sing the role at the Met with Madalena Kozená also performing in the very last show on Dec. 9, 2006.

11 Years Later We Get a Revival

Now the show will reopen with a cast starring Matthew Polenzani in the title role. Elza van den Heever stars as Elettra, Alice Coote takes on Idamante and Nadine Sierra shares the role of Ilia with Ying Fang. James Levine conducts.

Polenzani is no stranger to the opera, singing the title role in London in 2014. The same goes for van den Heever who took it on in Frankfurt in 2013. Sierra and Coote are newcomers to the opera.

This run of performances will last six shows on March 6, 10, 13, 17, 21 and 25 with a live in HD recording on the final date.

A DVD is available featuring the original cast in the production.