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Lyric Opera of Chicago: Mozart's IDOMENEO, a Must-Sea
Source: Lyric Opera of Chicago


The Big Picture
An extremely awkward love triangle among royals, a profound moral dilemma and family drama, an angry god and a sea monster to appease...all are bound together by Mozart’s brilliant, sublime music -- composed when he was just 24. This epic masterpiece is set in ancient Crete following the Trojan War. 

The Story

King Idomeneo is returning home to Crete after a decade of battle, having rallied his army to aid his ally King Agamemnon in the siege of Troy. Idomeneo promises the sea god Neptune that, if his ship can land safely, he’ll sacrifice the first person he sees. To his horror, this turns out to be Idamante, his son. 

Prince Idamante loves the captive Trojan Princess Ilia, who returns his love even while mourning the loss of her family and kingdom in the war. Meanwhile, the traumatized Princess Elettra of Argos, a refugee in Crete after her mother Clytëmnestra and her mother’s lover Aegisth murdered her father King Agamemnon and after her brother Orest has killed the adulterous pair...covets Idamante’s affections. It’s complicated.

To save his son, Idomeneo arranges for Idamante to escort Elettra back to her homeland, but a sea monster sent by Neptune prevents their departure and wreaks havoc in Crete. Knowing that Neptune’s power is too great to defy, Idomeneo prepares to sacrifice his son, but Ilia intervenes, begging to be sacrificed instead. Neptune then proclaims the triumph of love: Idomeneo will abdicate and Idamante will rule, with Ilia as his consort. Elettra is beside herself with rage and despair, but everyone else rejoices with the happy couple.

Grand Spectacle, Intimate Expression, Dazzling Artists
Lyric’s always-impressive musical and dramatic forces bring Idomeneo to life, with 60 chorus members prepared by chorus master Michael Black and 50 musicians in the orchestra pit plus eight stage band musicians, all led by Lyric’s music director Sir Andrew Davis. The choral highlight is the ravishingly beautiful "Placido è il mar" sung by the people of Crete in Act Two.

The individual characters express their dilemmas and desires in arias and ensembles that will variously make your heart sink and soar.

  • North-shore native son and internationally celebrated tenor Matthew Polenzani/title role calls Idomeneo his favorite Mozart opera and ranks it as the composer’s greatest (in an interview with OperaWire), declaring that it’s "like his Requiem times 50. You don’t get consistent quality like that in any of his other operas. And harmonically it’s really forward looking." His character’s virtuoso aria, "Fuor del mar," comes in Act Two as he grapples with how to save his son without incurring the wrath of the sea god.


  • Mezzo-soprano Angela Brower, originally from Arizona, will make her role debut and company debut as Prince Idamante. (Mozart frequently wrote young male characters to be sung by women.) She has excelled in several international portrayals of male and female characters, from the Composer/Ariadne auf Naxos, Octavian/Der Rosenkavalier, Prince Orlofsky/Die Fledermaus, and Annio/La clemenza di Tito to Dorabella/Così fan tutte, Adalgisa/Norma, and the title role/La Cenerentola. Idamante’s big arias come in Acts One and Three.


  • Chicago native and internationally acclaimed soprano Janai Brugger first portrayed the captive Princess Ilia at DePaul University, and adores the opera. "It’s shocking to me that it’s not done more often," she declares. "It’s got love, jealousy and revenge plots, gorgeous music, politics -- all that stuff!"  (Read more of her thoughts on the role and the opera in Lyric Notes). Listen for her exquisite aria of longing, "Zeffiretti lusinghieri," in Act Three.


  • The internationally heralded Canadian soprano Erin Wall is excited to return to Lyric in a role debut as Elettra after portraying several of Mozart’s "nice-girl" heroines here previously (Donna Anna/Don Giovanni, Pamina/The Magic Flute, Fiordiligi/Così fan tutte, Konstanze/Abduction from the Seraglio). "Elettra is dramatic and very focused on vengeance. Audiences really enjoy Elettra’s histrionics, especially in Act Three," when she lets loose with her rage aria, "D’Oreste, d’Ajace."


  • Texas-born tenor David Portillo returns to Lyric, having triumphed internationally as Mozart’s Ferrando/Così fan tutte, Tamino/The Magic Flute,Don Ottavio/Don Giovanni,  and Pedrillo/Abduction from the Seraglio; Rossini’s Count Almaviva/The Barber of Seville and Prince Ramiro/La Cenerentola;  Donizetti’s Tonio/ La fille du régiment, Ernesto/Don Pasquale, and Lord Percy/Anna Bolena; and many others. His portrayal of Arbace, Idomeneo’s confidant, is a role debut.

The Ryan Opera Center Connection
Erin Wall, Matthew Polenzani, and David Portillo are all proud alumni of   
The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera. 

To Know Before You Go

  • Idomeneo is sung in Italian with projected English translations above the stage.
  • Approximate running time is 3 hours 50 minutes, including two intermissions.
  • New earlier curtain time for weekday performances, Monday through Friday  -- 7pm.
  • Before every performance, ticket-holders can come to the theater an hour before the curtain rises for a free pre-opera talk about the composer, the themes within the music and story, and overall production.
  • This is only the third time that Lyric is presenting Idomeneo -- and the last time was more than 20 years ago. It’s a rare chance to get to know an unfamiliar Mozart masterpiece. 

Classic Production for a Classic Opera 
This Metropolitan Opera production was designed and originally directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The revival director is David Kneuss (Lyric debut), with lighting designed by Chris Maravich.


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