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David Vickers
Gramophone, January 2011

Marco Guidarini’s 2004 performance was recorded live, warts and all, at Naples’s historic Teatro di San Carlo. This performance was issued on DVD by Dynamic a few years ago and it seems like a decent memento of a vivid experience in the theatre (apparently Naxos has made the libretto available online but this is no substitute for having a book in one’s hands). Guidarini’s conducting is usually neat, light and sensible; the San Carlo orchestra plays accurately but does not often threaten to become interesting; the strings play with only a little vibrato but the woodwind timbres are old-fashioned and woolier than one might expect in the post-period-instrument age. Style and poise seem all right but vanish rapidly whenever the wobbly chorus lumbers out for its Verdian contributions; it is difficult to be certain that all of the chorus members have got the notes and words are correct and in the right order during “Qual nuovo terrore”; the murky effect of the competing gentlemen in “Pietà! Numi, pietà” makes one yearn for the discipline and quality of Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir. Sonia Ganassi makes hard work of Idamante but Àngeles Blancas Gulín is an engaging Ilia: “Se il padre perdei” is sung tenderly but with a hint of steel. Iano Tamar’s Elettra is nothing if not industrious but rarely cuts through the orchestra in her more hysterical scenes. Kurt Streit is an elegant Mozartian tenor, albeit a little more effortful than usual on this occasion—he pulls out all the stops for “Fuor del mar”, which is not far off the platinum standard of Gardiner’s Anthony Rolfe Johnson. Notwithstanding the patchy sound quality, onstage bumps and bangs, coughing audience and inconsistent cast, this performance comes to the boil effectively.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, December 2010

With Idomeneo Mozart created his first great opera. It stands out from the rest of his operatic production as a solitaire in more than one respect. On the surface it is an opera seria, which was a genre that in Mozart’s time was beginning to lose its appeal. But it’s not a slavish copy of an established structure; it’s rather brave and innovative and filled with drama of a kind that not even Mozart himself was able to create later in life. Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così are comedies—more or less—and Entführung and Zauberflöte are Singspiele so the only direct competitor is La clemenza di Tito and, although a musically wonderful opera, it is more retrospective.

Idomeneo is outstanding in its dramatic use of the chorus—here Gluck is the godfather—and also the first great example of what was to be Mozart’s hallmark as an opera composer: the ensembles. I am talking about the quartet in act III. To Mozart this was not just a blueprint of what was to be during the next few years. He regarded Idomeneo as his favourite opera and it is more daring, more modern than his later masterpieces, pointing forward to the 19th century.

The present issue, recorded six years ago at San Carlo in Naples before an audience that wasn’t always the most discreet and further adorned with some substantial helpings of stage noises, has some advantages but there are also drawbacks.

Marco Guidarini generally chooses sensible tempos and he is excellent in the choruses, drawing committed singing from his choristers. Qual nuovo terrore in act II, O voto tremendo in act III and the short final chorus are among the best things in this recording. The orchestral playing is also up to scratch, occasional patches of shaky ensemble notwithstanding, but that happens in almost every live performance. The recorded sound is good.

The singers are a mixed bag. Kurt Streit in the title role has been a leading Mozart tenor around the world for almost 25 years and he is booked several years ahead but his busy schedule—including many roles besides his Mozart signatures—has no doubt taken its toll. As reproduced here the tone, even six years ago, is worn and the mellifluousness has been replaced by a certain hardness and also a widened vibrato. That he is an expressive and dramatic singer is never in doubt. Fuor del mar, his big aria in act II, is sung with appropriate temperament and in the last resort I have to admit that his reading of the role is very convincing, in spite of the deficiencies. Jörg Schneider, who sings Arbace, delivers full-throated singing but very little of nuance and interpretative insight.

The Idamante, Sonia Ganassi, instantly became a great favourite when Naxos in 1992 issued Il barbiere di Siviglia, a recording that has been hailed by an almost unanimous body of reviewers. Her Rosina may not be quite in the Berganza class but not far behind. Also for her the years haven’t passed unnoticed and here she sings with a widened vibrato. As an interpreter she is, like Streit, deeply satisfying.

Angeles Blancas Gulin, who sings Ilia, has a beautiful voice but even she has a somewhat annoying vibrato and the tone is rather fluttery. Stylistically she is good and she sings the best-known aria in this opera, Zeffiretti. lusinghieri in act III neatly but occasionally with hesitant intonation.

Quite the best singing on this set comes from Georgian soprano Iano Tamar. Elettra is one of the most formidable soprano roles in all Mozart, surpassing even Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. The biography in the booklet reveals that she also sings Lady Macbeth and Norma, which says something about her voice type. And it is a grand dramatic voice. Listen to Tutte nel cor in act I (CD 1 tr. 9) and even more impressive is her Idol mio in act II (CD 2, tr. 6). Not only has she got all the power needed but it is also a well focused voice and it has that thrill that makes the hair stand on end when she engages the turbo. In the third act she again impresses in D’Oreste, d’Ajace (CD 3, tr. 18). This is a singer I long to hear more of.

Streit and Ganassi give deeply committed performances, Gulin has her moments but the really great singing comes from Tamar. Readers wanting a cheap set can still find a lot to enjoy and the recording gives a fairly good picture of the strength of this opera, which still hasn’t been quite established as a Masterpiece in the Mozart canon.

Ralph V Lucano
American Record Guide, November 2010

Conductor Guidarini keeps the music flowing and the drama taut without rushing his singers.

To read complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Stephen Eddins, September 2010

Idomeneo, which Mozart wrote when he was 25, is not as well known as the Da Ponte operas and Die Zauberflöte, but it undeniably deserves a place in the pantheon of his greatest operas. The Da Ponte operas are unrivalled in their humanity and the musical astuteness and economy of their setting, but Idomeneo stands out for the prodigality of its inspired inventiveness, and it includes some of the loveliest and most glorious music Mozart ever wrote...Some of the performances are stellar...the Orchestra of the San Carlo Theatre, Naples, plays the notes well enough, and observes Mozart’s expressive markings...Marco Guidarini keeps things moving with good momentum...Soprano Ángeles Blancas Gulín stands out as Ilia; her voice is consistently warm and velvety, and her “Zeffiretti lusinghiera” is ravishing. Soprano Iano Tamar is very strong as Elettra, and conveys her fury powerfully...As Idamante, Sonia Ganassi is very fine in a role originally written for male soprano, but her voice has a little bit of an edge.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2010

Direct from the stage of the San Carlo Theatre, Italy’s oldest opera house built before Mozart composed his dramatic story of Idomeneo. Cuts had been made to the score before its first performance to accept the limitations of the cast, and then a ballet had to be inserted to meet the conventions of the time. The sleeve note tells us that the present performance is ‘based on the original 1781 Munich version without the extended ballet, but including some music cut by Mozart before the premiere’. I will take that at face value, though at under 160 minutes it is around 50 minutes shorter than alternative recordings. Today it is difficult to stage an opera as implausible as this, but it is basically a love story shattered by the promise of a father to make a sacrifice in repayment for having been saved from a storm by the mythological Neptune. A turn of events and he finds that it is his son who he must kill. The recording from 2004 had the good fortune of Kurt Streit in the name role. One of the most sought after Mozart tenors, he has sung Idomeneo in many major opera houses including London, Vienna, Hamburg and Madrid. A light and flexible voice that sets out its credentials with a beautiful opening aria, Ecco ci salvi alfin. Today’s second problem comes with the need of a castrato to sing his son, Idamente. It is a part now taken by a female mezzo. With suitable clothing on stage it is a possible, but with the voice of a delectable female, Sonia Ganassi, the duet between father and son, Cieli! Che veggo, sounds like a tiff between lovers, rather than father and son. Put the silly story out of your mind and delight in very good singing, my attention focussing on the sumptuous voice of the much experienced Spanish soprano, Angeles Blancas Gulin.She takes the part of Ilia, the female at the centre of the story, but is almost upstaged by Iano Tamar in the lesser role of Elettra. Already well established on the international circuit, the Georgian soprano has that ‘tingle’ factor. The remainder of the cast and the chorus do all that is asked of them. Stage noises are not obtrusive, and the audience is generally silent. Rather boxy orchestral sound for the overture, but the engineers look after the singers to good effect.

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