- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Dramma per musica in three acts. 1781.
- Libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco, after Antoine Danchet's libretto of 1712 for André Campra.
- First performance at the Residenztheater, Munich, on 29th January 1781.
|Idomeneo (Idomeneus), King of Crete ||tenor|
|Idamante (Idamantes), his son ||male soprano|
|Ilia, daughter of King Priam of Troy ||soprano|
|Elettra, daughter of King Agamemnon of Argos ||soprano|
|Arbace (Arbaces), Idomeneo's confidant ||tenor|
|High Priest of Neptune ||tenor|
|La Voce, the voice of Neptune ||bass|
Ilia, a Trojan prisoner in Crete, is in love with Idamantes, son of Idomeneus, who, it seems, may
have perished with the Greek fleet. Ilia imagines that the Greek princess Electra may fare better with
Idamantes, who enters, bringing news of the sighting of the Greek fleet and the decision to release
the Trojan prisoners, while he remains captive to the charms of Ilia. Electra objects to this act of
clemency, and Arbaces enters with the news that the fleet has sunk. Idomeneus, however, has
survived, thanks to the vow he has made to Neptune to sacrifice the first living being he meets on his
return. Idamantes approaches him, neither of them recognising the other. When Idomeneus learns
that the other is his son, he rushes away. In the second act Idomeneus confides in Arbaces, who
suggests that Idamantes should go away, escorting Electra back to Argos, until some other solution
may be found. As they are about to board ship, a storm arises and a sea- monster emerges.
Idomeneus admits the vow he has made, but does not give the name of his son. In the third act Ilia
and Idamantes are together in the palace gardens, joined there by Idomeneus and Electra, all
expressing their conflicting feelings. The sea-monster meanwhile has been causing devastation and
Idomeneus admits to the High Priest of Neptune that the sacrificial victim should be his son
Idamantes. He, however, has killed the monster and now offers himself as a victim. Ilia tries to take
his place, but the voice of Neptune bids Idomeneus abdicate in favour of his son, who should marry
Ilia, a command that allows Electra a final expression of jealousy and anger. Idomeneus is grateful
for the rest that retirement will bring.
The overture to Idomeneo, re di Creta (Idomeneus, King of Crete) is closely reflected in the opera
itself, a fine reworking of a traditional opera seria subject. The Munich orchestra, formed
principally from players who had followed the Elector from Mannheim to his new capital, included
a larger string section and a pair of clarinets, an important instrument that was only now finding its
proper place in the orchestra. There is ballet music and a chaconne for chorus to end the first act.
Ilia, in an additional aria for 1786, opens the second act by seeking reassurance from Idamantes,
whose Non temer, amato bene (Do not fear, well beloved) later served as a concert aria. Her third act
Zeffiretti lusinghieri (Pleasant breezes) asks the winds to take her messages of love to Idamantes.
Electra has a very notable and dramatic angry aria in her D'Oreste, d'Ajace (Of Orestes, of Ajax), a
contrast with the resigned Torna la pace (Peace returns) of Idomeneus, which follows. The second
of the arias of Idomeneus, Fuor del mar (Out of the sea) celebrates his survival after ship- wreck in
floridly ornamented music that also exists in a simplified version. His first aria, Vedrommi intorno
(I shall see around me), had expressed his fears at the rashness of his vow to Neptune, whose voice,
from his stone statue, prefigures that of the Commendatore's statue in Don Giovanni.