In three acts by W. A. MOZART.
Text by ABBATE GIANBATTISTA VARESCO.
This opera, which Mozart composed in his twenty-fifth year for the
Opera-seria in Munich, was represented in the year 1781, and won
It is the most remarkable composition of Mozart's youthful age, and
though he wrote it under Gluck's influence, there is many a spark of
his own original genius, and often he breaks the bonds of conventional
form and rises to heights hitherto unanticipated. The public in
general does not estimate the opera very highly, in consequence
Idomeneus was only represented in Dresden, after the long interval of
21 years, to find the house empty and the applause lukewarm. But the
true connoisseur of music ought not to be influenced by public opinion,
for though the action does not warm the hearer, the music is at once
divinely sweet and harmonious; no wild excitement, no ecstatic
feelings, but music pure and simple, filling the soul with sweet
The scene takes place in Cydonia, on the isle of Crete soon after the
end of the Trojan war.--
In the first act Ilia, daughter of Priam, bewails her unhappy fate, but
won by the magnanimity of Idamantes, son of Idomeneus, King of Crete,
who relieves the captive Trojans from their fetters, she begins to love
him, much against her own will. Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, who
also loves Idamantes perceives with fury his predilection for the
captive princess and endeavours to regain his heart.
Arbaces, the High-Priest enters, to announce that Idomeneus has
perished at sea in a tempest. All bewail this misfortune and hasten to
the strand to pray to the gods for safety.
But Idomeneus is not dead. Poseidon, whose help he invoked in his
direst need, has saved him, Idomeneus vowing to sacrifice to the God
the first mortal whom he should encounter on landing.--Unfortunately it
is his own son, who comes to the strand to mourn for his beloved
father.--Idomeneus, having been absent during the siege of Troy for ten
years, at first fails to recognize his son. But when the truth dawns
on both, the son's joy is as great as the father's misery. Terrified
the latter turns from the aggrieved and bewildered Idamantes.
Meanwhile the King's escort has also safely landed and all thank
Poseidon for their delivery.
In the second act Idomeneus takes counsel with Arbaces, and resolves to
send his son away, in order to save him from the impending evil. The
King speaks to Ilia, whose love for Idamantes he soon divines. This
only adds to his poignant distress.--Electra, hearing that she is to
accompany Idamantes to Argos is radiant, hoping that her former lover
may then forget Ilia. They take a tender farewell from Idomeneus, but
just when they are about to embark, a dreadful tempest arises, and a
monster emerges from the waves, filling all present with awe and terror.
In the third act Idamantes seeks Ilia to bid her farewell. Not
anticipating the reason of his father's grief, which he takes for hate,
he is resolved to die for his country, by either vanquishing the
dreadful monster, sent by Poseidon's wrath, or by perishing in the
Ilia, unable to conceal her love for him any longer, bids him live,
live for her. In his new-found happiness Idamantes forgets his grief,
and when his father surprises the lovers, he implores him to calm his
wrath, and rushes away, firmly resolved to destroy the monster.--
With terrible misgivings Idomeneus sees Arbaces approach, who announces
that the people are in open rebellion against him. The King hastens to
the temple, where he is received with remonstrances by the High-Priest,
who shows him the horrid ravages, which Poseidon's wrath has achieved
through the monster; he entreats him to name the victim for the
sacrifice and to satisfy the wishes of the God. Rent by remorse and
pain Idomeneus finally names his son.
All are horror-stricken, and falling on their knees, they crave
Poseidon's pardon.--While they yet kneel, loud songs of triumph are
heard, and Idamantes returns victorious from his fight with the monster.
With noble courage he throws himself at his father's feet, imploring
his benediction and--his death. For having heard of his father's
unhappy vow, he now comprehends his sorrow, and endeavours to lessen
Idomeneus, torn by conflicting feelings at last is about to grant his
son's wish, but when he lifts his sword, Ilia throws herself between,
imploring him to let her be the victim. A touching scene ensues
between the lovers, but Ilia gains her point. Just when she is
about to receive her death-stroke, Poseidon's pity is at last aroused.
In thunder and lightning he decrees, that Idomeneus is to renounce his
throne in favor of Idamantes, for whose spouse he chooses Ilia.
In a concluding scene we see Electra tormented by the furies of hate
and jealousy. Idomeneus fulfils Poseidon's request, and all invoke the
God's benediction on the happy Royal house of Crete.
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