English Touring Opera – Idomeneo Review

York Theatre Royal – 30 March 2019

Reviewed by Sara Garner


Written at the age of 25, Idomeneo is considered Mozart’s first operatic masterpiece.

There have been countless incarnations of this opera and the English Touring Operas production, directed by James Conway is a paired down version which allows Mozart’s score and the performances to take ‘centre stage’. Some cuts to the production were more obvious such as combining the role of the Kings adviser Arbace and the High Priest. This isn’t detrimental to the performance.

The orchestra conducted by Jonathan Kenny, were fantastic and received justified rapturous applause at the end.

The use of a simple but effective set means we are always focused on the performers who in turn have to be constantly involved even when they are not singing. The chorus of Trojans and Greek manage this through out and as a result are able to convey the emotions of the story very well.

The story itself is set on Crete after the Trojan war and we are introduced to the captured Llia, daughter of the defeated Trojan King Priam, performed beautifully by Galina Averina who manages to demonstrate elegant prowess but also despair, passion and strength wonderfully well. Despite her despair because of her loss she falls for Idamante the son of the King of Crete (Idomeneo).

Idamante is played by Catherine Carby. Again a wonderful vocal performance, at times I didn’t feel convinced by the relationship between Idamante and Llia. This did improve by the final act though.

This blossoming relationship enraged Elettra played by Paula Sides, daughter of the Greek King Agamemnon, she herself is also in love with Idamante. Hers is one of the stand out performances in the opera with her display of maddening rage in the final scene was just brilliant.

The other stand out performance was by Christopher Turner who plays Idomeneo himself who has made a sacrificial promise to the gods for safe passage during a storm. A promise to sacrifice the first person he sees turns out to be his own son Idamante.

The conflict and emotional turmoil Idomeneo experiences is conveyed fabulously. He sends his son away to safety with Elettra and this new opportunity with Idamante pleases her. This is not to be as the gods are angry because of Idomeneo broken promise.

The climax of the final act sees all the main protagonists perform at their best. We see the resigned despair of Idomeneo, the heroic sacrifice of Idamante, the loving altruism of Llia and the madanning rage of Elettra.

This was a memorable first opera for myself but not perfect. The slightly unconvincing bond between Llia and Idamante, the slightly inconsistent translation screen (only one was working so I felt for some of the audience who had no translation), and we were slightly distracted by the two orchestra members who insisted on coming in and out throughout the performance.

The English Touring Opera are touring extensively till June 1st.