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Many times we see a story of love told and sung in the opera and it seems too romantic, awkwardly syrupy or implausible. Others are offered a comedy and their humor seems naive or implausible. The characters of the genre known as it would be serious often they are made of cardboard, deities or historical figures fossilized in the past and alien to our current concerns. However, musical director and stage director, with the complicity of the singers, can make the impossible love of a couple shake us, that the simple comicity of a situation takes us away, while we smile, of reality and that the ruminations, oaths to the gods or rivalries of kings and princes seem to us, mutatis mutandis, relevant, meaningful and transferable to our own world, here and now. The message of great works of art remains, no matter how much it changes its meaning or, better, acquires sensibilities very different from those that saw them being born.

Idomeneo it is - no doubt about it - a great work of art, an opera extremely valued by Mozart himself, who did not stop polishing it, adding, removing and revamping elements until the last moment, both in its premiere in Munich and in its unique replenishment (private) in Vienna five years later. In Madrid it has been decided to take the best of both versions, as perhaps the composer himself, who did not leave his last word on his final configuration because reality did not give him the opportunity to express it. Hence, it is not unreasonable to have it by a kind of work in progress in which any option seems admissible depending on the type of production proposed and the characteristics of the singers involved, although the most important decision is, as has been done here, to entrust the role of Idamante to a tenor (instead of a mezzo-soprano) or a countertenor), since this results in the most immediate credibility of the character, both in the crucial scene of the anagnorism with his father on the beach and in his encounters with Ilia, although it is always questionable whether the groups in which he participates ( trio of the second act and the formidable quartet of the third) win or lose with the change, or if it is a good idea to trust Idomeneo and Idamante with the same vocal typology. It is not easy to compose an entire opera for two sopranos and two tenors, although Mozart overcame the challenge because he was seriously involved in the endeavor, aware that he was lighting his first great masterpiece in the genre and his first fully personal operatic attempt, with voice and vote, it is possible to venture that because a central aspect of the argument (the father-son relationship between Idomeneo and Idamante) touched him very closely. When it premiered in Munich, Wolfgang had just turned 25 and would marry Constanze only a year later, which symbolically and definitely freed him from the yoke of Leopold, a ubiquitous vampire father and always lurking on his back.

Idomeneo

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Eric Cutler, David Portillo, Anett Fritsch and Eleonora Buratto, among others. Orchestra Holder of the Royal Theater. Musical direction: Ivor Bolton. Stage direction: Robert Carsen. Teatro Real, until March 1.

Robert Carsen, in his first montage premiered and released at the Teatro Real, faces this Idomeneo from the same postulates with which he served as artistic director of The exhibition Opera. Passion, power and politics, inaugurated in September 2017 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The three nouns that summarized then the history of the genre converge strongly in this production, where the Homeric Crete is transmuted into a modern island. A metal fence separates at first winners (military) and defeated (refugees) in the Trojan War (or, put to it, in any other war), not unlike other boundaries or artificial barriers that arise today in many locations Mediterranean countries to put on the one hand and on the other side the owners of already dispossessed rights, not necessarily enemies or rivals, but in some way, opponents.

Carsen populates the stage of a host of extras, who move, along with the choir, with a choreography of perfectly designed movements and synchronized to a thousand wonders with music and text. The decision could be justified by his desire to show clearly that the actions of the powerful - be they monarchs or politicians - have an immediate and direct impact, active or passive, on the lives of many people. It does not just understand, yes, that the chorus "Godiam la pace, trionfi Amore"Only the Cretan soldiers sing it while the supposed Trojans remain surprisingly mute. And the final chorus, "Scenda Amor, scenda Imeneo"I would also have gained in strength and congruence if I had laid a symbolic bridge with the beginning, distributing choir and extras (and, much better, intermixed) between soldiers and refugees, until the final stripping of the uniforms could have been more effective finally equalizing both groups.

Apart from power and politics, there are also passions at stake, of course, with two women who dispute the love of the same man, but Carsen then clears the stage, always naked and with a sea and sky, clear or ominous, projected at background, so that this other confrontation, as well as the meetings between father and son, are elucidated in private, without witnesses. It is the great virtue of its assembly, which, as is characteristic of the Canadian, is diaphanous, lavish in small symbols (impossible not to match, by allusions, the body of Elettra stretched out long on the ground after her last aria and the body of Fasolt presiding almost the entire final stretch of The gold of the Rhine) and never intrude on music. Subtle nuances of the text also often have their visual correlate, as when Idomeneo becomes a shadow cut on an illuminated background as soon as he begins to sing his aria of the first act, "Vedrommi intorno l'ombra dolente". All this while Carsen appeals to the past to put his finger on the wound of the present. And few wounds ooze so much now as that of refugees who seek a better life away from their country and, in their flight, they fall on their faces against a barbed wire or an insurmountable fence and protected militarily or police. The Cretan soldiers, tools at the service of power, are so many that fill at times the immense theater of the Royal Theater.

Eric Cutler (Idomeneo), Eleonora Buratto (Elettra), David Portillo (Idamante) and Anett Fritsch (Ilia) in the quartet of the third act of 'Idomeneo'.
Eric Cutler (Idomeneo), Eleonora Buratto (Elettra), David Portillo (Idamante) and Anett Fritsch (Ilia) in the quartet of the third act of 'Idomeneo'.

Robert Carsen expresses himself here more clearly than in the most recent Gold of the Rhine (waiting for future deliveries of the tetralogy to clarify his point of view, too vague in the prologue) in this same theater, although his work was partly booed in the final greetings. He has been fortunate to have Ivor Bolton, an excellent lawyer of his cause, because the Briton, with a solid track record in this repertoire and very knowledgeable about Gluck's operas, does an extraordinary job in the pit. With wood flutes, horns and natural trumpets, or historical trombones in the scene of the voice of the oracle, the orchestra gives a lesson in style, articulation and transparency. From the model and very well contrasted overture it was clear that, musically at least, the representation was in excellent hands. Making good his condition of musical director of the Real Theater, Bolton has confirmed that, after his punctual incursion in the contemporary repertoire with Only the sound remains, this is, with the baroque, one of its natural territories and where its virtues shine with special brilliance. He made the most of all his instrumentalists, magnificent in all sections: no one manages to sound the string section better than he and all the wind (with an obligatory mention for the soloist interventions of the flutist Aniela Frey) rayed at high altitude. Any numbers, from the most delicate passages, like the aria of Ilia of the second act (with the string playing with mute), to the most dramatic ones (the imposing chorus)Oh tremendous vote!", In which also the trumpets have to put mutes in their pavilions), or even a seemingly minor moment, as the march after this last chorus, which is to be played"always sotto voce"And that is a very powerful omen of The magic Flute, they are enough to consecrate Bolton as a Mozartian of the first rank. His interventions to the key in large sections of the unaccompanied recitatives clinched his status as a complete musician and always attentive to follow the inflections of the singers and to leave them a wide margin of freedom.

He had on the stage a very well chosen cast, although he triumphed who risked more and who has a higher quality raw material, which was the Italian soprano Eleonora Buratto. That young Norina of 2013, directed by Riccardo Muti, has matured not a little and her voice has gained in wealth and expressive possibilities. His best aria was the second act, "My Idol, it was", But there are very few buts for those of the first (here it was perhaps a little shy at the start) and the third, the latter the colossal"D'Oreste, d'Aiace", One of the great jewels of the score, where he preferred to be sure to jump on a trampoline of uncertain end: what was lost in rage and outrage was won in technical perfection. Buratto took the warmest and longest applause of the night, despite being the first to come out to say hello, and it is very fair that his very complete performance was rewarded.

Anett Fritsch, the unforgettable Fiordiligi in the Così fan tutte by Michael Haneke, it was a delicate and fragile Ilia, that gave the best of itself in the duo with Idamante at the beginning of the third act, "Spiegarti non poss'io"(One of the two great additions of the Vienna version) and the colossal quartet, of which Mozart himself wrote that" there is nothing in my opera that I feel as satisfied as this quartet ". He could expect something more from the German soprano, a singer of innate communicativeness and powerful stage presence, but his has also been a contribution of great height. David Portillo is an excellent singer, and this was demonstrated last summer, also under the direction of Ivor Bolton, in the Orlando Paladino by Haydn released in Munich, but its voice, small and ductile, of easy highs, seems to better agree to comic and character roles than to a character like Idamante, which requires multiple expressive and dramatic resources. Eric Cutler, with the most deficient Italian of the four protagonists, sings very well, although he does not quite convey the emotion and authority that should come from an Idomeneo. In spite of closing the group of soloists, it did not receive great applause, but neither it caused them. He was as musical and integrated in the collective work as his colleagues and plays in favor of all of them who, one by one, are absolutely credible, in regard to their physical presence, as the characters they embody.

In his brief but meaty recitative accompagnato, Benjamin Hulett was an Arbace of great vocal entity (his two arias were suppressed with good judgment). And it has been a luxury to have Alexander Tsymbalyuk (the outstanding Fafner of The gold of the Rhine) to sing the brief but capital intervention of the voice of the oracle, located with great success next to trombones and horns on top of the amphitheater. Final mandatory mention for the Royal Theater Choir: when it is required, and this is an opera more than committed for the choir, it responds better. With a very complete vocal and scenic performance, and without losing a moment of concentration, he has earned an unconditional bravery and at the same level that the orchestra should be dispensed with.

Crete or, pointing higher, Greece (like Teruel among us), and fortunately, it exists. It continues to exist, even when there is no news - always discouraging in recent years - that will take her to the front page of the newspapers. Mozart in the eighteenth century, and Carsen in the XXI, lead us to an optimistic ending, in which forgiveness triumphs over resentment, compassion is imposed on hatred and intimidating weapons fall to the ground, unnecessary. A deus ex machina It facilitates things in the Mozartian opera but, as we read in a poem by Wilhelm Müller to which Schubert put music in his Winter trip, "If there is no god on this earth, we are the gods!" Hopefully, in this case, reality imitates art, and not vice versa.

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