Idomeneo, the King of Crete, is returning home after the Trojan War. When a violent storm erupts, he promises Neptune, god of the sea, that he’ll sacrifice the first thing he sees when he gets home. The seas calm, and Idomeneo arrives on the shores of Crete – only to see his beloved son coming to greet him. Of course, Idomeneo could never sacrifice his child and heir, so Neptune sends a sea monster to avenge the slight. This being an opera, there’s also a love triangle between Idamante (the son), Ilia (princess of the defeated Troy) and Electra (daughter of Priam).
The show has a massive cast, with many chorus members and ballet dancers prancing across the stage. (This was actually very well timed for the dancers; Ballet San Jose has mysteriously vanished from the fine arts scene, so many of these dancers probably need the work provided by the show.) It’s also a brand new show for Opera San Jose, so new costumes and sets had to be designed and made up. This was largely financed by philanthropist David Packard, in part because he is a huge Mozart fan and very much wanted to see a live performance of this opera.
It’s a very intense opera, rather long at over three hours. Yes, Mozart is a genius and yes, one goes to the opera to listen to wonderful music, but darned if I don’t just get squirmy at the end of each act because it feels like I’ve been sitting still FOREVER.
This truly is a visual spectacle. The murals on the set walls and the costumes were heavily influenced by Minoan archaeology; indeed, watching this show was like watching some of those frescoes come to life. It was stunning, so I’ll just finish off with some photos:
Crete soldiers return home.
All Mozart operas end with a wedding.