Misfortunes of War

The basic premise of Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, recorded at the Vienna State Opera in 2019, seems to be that Idomeneo and Elettra are so damaged by their experiences that they must yield limelight and power to Idamante and Ilia.  It’s an interesting idea though one wonders why Ilia is considered to be less traumatized given that her parents and siblings have been slaughtered and her home razed to the ground.  What’s really weird though is that Holten seems to show no sympathy for Idomeneo or Elettra.  Not only are they haunted throughout by particularly grizzly corpses but at the end Elettra goes down to Hades; a trench in the stage inhabited by said grizzly corpses, but she’s followed by Idomeneo.  He is visibly disintegrating mentally in Act 3 and by the time of his resignation speech the crowd is actually laughing at him then, as he goes to embrace Idamante he is intercepted by two men who hustle him off to the grizzly trench.  I’m not sure what Holten is getting at here but, for me, it undermines the sense of resolution that the music implies, as well as its essential humanity.

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