This concert performance of Idomeneo, re di Creta at the Accademia S. Cecilia in Rome (16-19 Oct) epitomized everything for which the Rome musical public has to thank Myung Whun Chung and Bruno Cagli; young and attractive singers of the first quality, an orchestra whose rhythms were fleet and unerring, and a chorus tutored by Roberto Gabbiani, which sang those vehement pages magnificently.
Idomeneo, the first opera of Mozarts maturity, is opera seria at its most intense, and, with the exception of the tender passage between Ilia and Idamante, one relentlessly dramatic aria follows another. In addition, in the original cast a castrato, del Prato, was Idamante, and the parts reflect the conventions of vocal virtuosity associated with voices of that type. The singing, therefore, is demanding.
The four principal singers would hold their place on any world stage, both for technical preparation and beauty of voice, Giuseppe Filianoti in particular, as Idomeneo, allying vocal assurance to a rounded, golden tone. What more can one ask? The Czech mezzosoprano, Magdalena Kozen, as Idamante, could well be criticized for her diction; it was impossible to distinguish one word that she sang, but so glorious was the sound, to say nothing of her stage presence, that this fault was more than compensated for. After all, Joan Sutherland sang for years with almost no consonants, and who ever minded? Eva Mei brought sweetness, effortless virtuosity and refinement to the role of Ilia, while Carmela Remigio, as Elettra, thrilled with her powerful (though at times almost squally) and flexible voice, particularly in her last aria, in which she almost exploded in rage and despair. Vittorio Grigolo was gallant in the minor role of Arbace.